Thermoforming Report

May Thermoforming Report: Trade Shows & More

by Keith Brown, President & Owner, Siena Group.

May 2024.

It’s Friday! And I’m guessing a lot of you are tired from the great time you had at the NPE show this week. Maybe you are reading this on the plane on your way home… or catching some much-needed sleep while in the air. Either way, this month’s topic is all about industry shows and conferences and how to navigate and take advantage of them.

Have a great weekend – you are going to need it heading into “catch-up Monday”!

As usual, we have several great articles relevant to our industry and quite a few amazing All Stars to highlight! Check them out down below in the links on the right. We also have more extraordinary talent in the Featured Talent tab.

Trade Shows, Conferences, NPE… Oh My!

With the triennial NPE show having just wrapped up, we must acknowledge our absence!

Having spent 30+ years in the plastics industry – both in manufacturing and now recruiting – it would have been great to go. Attending trade shows and conferences has been a goal for the past several years, but it takes proper planning to make it happen, especially as a small business owner. The NPE show was no different and, due to a lack of upfront planning and a ton of things going on, we just weren’t able to make it happen. And I regret it!

That said, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how people and companies utilize this investment of time, energy, and resources.

Let’s dig in and see what shakes out!

So… Many… Shows!

As we’ve been thinking about the many shows and conferences available, there are the obvious few that are high on the list to attend.  A quick run-down: 

  • NPE – The Plastics Show. As already mentioned, this one only comes around once every three years. I hate I missed it this year! (Plastic News article about this year’s show: NPE Veterans Prepare for One Last Show: ‘It is a very gray industry for sure‘.) 
  • SPE Thermoforming Conference. This one hits every other year and the next one is in May 2025 in Atlanta.  And they are celebrating their 30th Anniversary Conference next year! This one is definitely on our “go” list!
  • Packaging Expo. This one hits in November and is the “international” version. There are also several others to choose from in the next 12-24 months.
  • MD&M Shows: East (in NY), South (in NC), West (in CA), “North” (in MN); though these are not exclusively plastics focused, there are a lot of exhibitors in manufacturing and packaging that are of interest. 
  • Plastics News Executive Forum. These usually occur in Florida in early spring… so plan ahead! 

There truly are so many to choose from! A CEO Magazine article from just a few months ago highlighted “19 of the Best Business Conferences in 2024” specifically for business leaders to learn and network – with events around the world.  Like that list, so many events tend to be scheduled earlier in the calendar year, so proper planning for 2025 is needed. 

What is Your Why?

Do you go as a vendor in the hopes of landing a sale? As a buyer, looking for new technologies? Just to network? What are your desired key takeaways? 

Do you believe that these shows are value-added? Or are they just a boondoggle (yes, this is a real old-school word)?!? 

Maybe a few better questions to ask are:  

  • How much business is generated during these shows? 
  • Is it worth the investment of your time? Your resources? 
  • Do you explicitly track how the shows and conferences translate to career growth or increased business revenue? 

Obviously, depending on your role, the reasons – and results – are quite varied. We can all agree that it is universally a great opportunity to network with colleagues and friends in the industry. Making those face-to-face connections is huge. Nothing compares to that personal interaction… in person! 

Leverage that Learning!

There are a lot of articles and advice on what to do after a conference or a show.   

LinkedIn has a short article on The Top 5 Things to do After a Trade Show.

Forbes has several articles on the topic: 

Here is an excerpt from a magazine article found on  

“Be proactive after the conference. Now that you’ve attended the conference, made some new connections, and gained more knowledge, it’s time to reflect and reconnect.  

  1. Utilize social media. Follow the conference hashtag and engage in discussions on Twitter or LinkedIn. This can help you connect with other attendees and extend the learning beyond the conference. 
  1. Reflect and review. Reflect on what you’ve learned and identify any actions you want to take based on the insights gained. Review your notes and organize the information for future reference. If your memory isn’t the greatest, we suggest reflecting after each day so that it’s still fresh in your mind.  
  1. Follow up. Make sure to follow up with the people you met, connect with them on LinkedIn, and continue the conversations. This will help maintain the connections you made and potentially lead to future opportunities. 
  1. Discuss your findings and new-found knowledge with your company. It’s important to hold a meeting or have a catch-up over coffee with your team or manager to discuss the key points and takeaways. The knowledge you’ve gained in those few days can have a significant impact on your business for years to come.”

And finally, a recently published Brookstone article provides a few key insights: 

  • The Good: Trade shows offer a multitude of benefits for those in the manufacturing sector. From connecting you with key industry players to getting your product seen by a larger audience, the pros of participating are substantial. 
  • The Bad: Cost, Competition, Logistics, and Time. 
  • The Ugly (common pitfalls): gauging the return on investment remains intricate, particularly when considering intangible benefits such as brand awareness and thought leadership. 

— Brookstone Creative LTD, “Manufacturing Trade Shows: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, 3/7/24 

Bringing It Home

There is no doubt that these kinds of events are powerful in several ways – why else would there be so many of them?!?

That said, with the investment of precious resources, there must be specific goals to achieve, proper, effective, and timely planning; and a strategy to leverage what you learned and pursue the leads generated.   

Though we missed several in recent years, we’re going to follow our own advice and make it happen in the near future! 

See you at the next show or conference! 

As your Thermoforming Talent Partner, we represent clients AND candidates! We’re here to help in any and every way possible! We provide hiring strategies, priority candidate searches, job searches, client & candidate introductions, interview tips, résumé facelifts, resignation strategies, and much much more. LET’S STRENGTHEN YOUR SEARCH!

Bill Murphy, technical associate at Polymers Center of Excellence, reflecting on why he keeps coming back to the NPE trade show: “Networking and seeing the many friends from the business I have made over the years. Plus, it’s a great venue to check out all the new technology coming in. It’s always been the premier show for the polymer and plastics industry.” Plastics News

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  • Illig Enters Insolvency; Will Continue Regular Operations During Restructuring. via Plastics News.
  • What Does ‘People-Centric’ Mean as Machines Get Smarter? via IndustryWeek.
  • BLS Employment Report – April 2024. via MRINetwork.
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  • The Challenge of Leaving a Long-Term Job to Start Something New
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    This article provides highlights from the recent Deloitte report on the nuanced challenges women face in the workplace beyond the well-known gender pay gap. via Forbes.

Director of Operations: Versatile Operations Leader who brings 30 years of experience and expertise in both thin gauge and heavy gauge thermoforming with broad responsibilities and a proven history of supporting strong company growth! Bonus: He’s willing to relocate!

Production Manager (Los Angeles): 30-year veteran of Production Leadership brings 20 years of experience in heavy gauge and more than 10 years in thin gauge thermoforming! With roots in Los Angeles, this bilingual leader is willing to commute.

Manufacturing Engineer: This thin-gauge Manufacturing Engineer brings a solid base of design engineering, tooling knowledge, and process engineering. He strongly desires to relocate to Texas to be closer to his family.

Director of Operations: This culturally diverse Ops Leader brings international experience and an extraordinary lean background with a history of leveraging it to drive change with private equity-run companies. Plus, he’s fluent in Mandarin Chinese and willing to relocate!

Even More Thermoforming Talent! We work with so many talented people in many different functions – all in thermoforming. Whether it’s an Operations Leader, Plant Manager, Supply Chain Leader, HR Leader, specialized Engineer, Quality Leader, Sales Leader, or pretty much any thermoforming role, we are here to help. If you have a need, please do not hesitate to reach out! 

Click for more All-Stars.

At Siena Group, we are your Thermoforming Talent Partner. With more than 30 years of experience in manufacturing, hiring & recruiting talent, we bring a greater understanding of the companies we partner with and the candidates we pursue.
Let’s Strengthen Your Search!

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