The Show Must Go On
Some thoughts on AHR 2017.
Another year and another well-attended AHR event. Perhaps it was the Vegas location and the mild weather that drew a record crowd. The mood of the attendees was positive and uplifting. The energy and motivation of the industry and exhibitors was charged and optimistic.
From what I witnessed, the travel logistics were handled well, and traffic and transportation flowed smoothly. The close proximity of the airport made the trip to your hotel room quick and painless. The monorail made travel from the convention center to the far end of the strip easy and affordable. Those traveling by cab found a good pool of cars waiting. For the folks who embrace Uber and Lyft, they provided a designated spot to pick up and drop off. Walking was another great option in the mild, dry spring weather. A trip in and out of the hotel lobbies is well worth the steps. There is stunning artwork, all kinds of restaurants and top-notch people-watching. Oh, and gambling, of course. I was surprised at the handful of friends from the industry that were Vegas first-timers.
The weather cooperated and allowed for attendees and exhibitors to walk outside for a smoke or bite to eat. The barbecue and food trucks helped draw attendees out into the warm sunlight. There are plenty of choices for dining in Vegas, for all price ranges. A tip from one of our drivers took us to China Town, about 12 blocks of dining and shops across the interstate from the strip. For nearly 40 years I have been going to Vegas, and I never knew this area of town existed. The prices were extremely reasonable, and the portions were sized to please the hungriest of conventioneer. Put China Town on your list for your next Vegas trip.
The show occupied two of the three halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The conditions inside were comfortable, and traffic flowed well. The exhibitor services and logistics for setting up booths and equipment was well-managed. We were never hassled about plugging in an extension cord or making booth modifications, like some of the past shows. That’s nice, and no small thing.
The show floor had a wide variety of products on display. This show covers all the trades in our industry, and there is something for everyone. A larger global presence is obvious at each new show. Some of the global companies are partnering with U.S. manufacturers for access to our market. Other offshore brands stand on their own or with a group of companies from their country. If you take the time there is a lot to be learned from their product and the installation and design methods used in their area. Small-sized, efficient heating and cooling components seem to be more prevalent in countries outside the U.S. Fuel cost and availability drives this market, no doubt.
There is never enough time to see all the products and visit all the booths, so it helps to develop a wish list and focus on a dozen or so booth visits over the course of a day. Even with the best of plans, you find yourself engaged in a long conversation at a booth, maybe about a product, maybe because you found an old industry friend. If it throws the plan into disarray, it is usually time well spent.
The training and education schedule was diverse and timely topics were covered. It is a challenge to offer something for everyone, and I felt they did a great job with the speaker and seminar selections. It is hard to cram all the sessions into the 3-day time slot, and still allow enough time on the show. I visited or attended several seminars and the attendance was good to great at most. The session rooms were easy to find, well staffed and comfortable. The show is a good place to meet old friends and industry acquaintances, as well as meet and communicate with new friends and vendors. All sorts of industry get-togethers are going on after the show ends for the day. You should be exhausted after the day at AHR.
If I had one pet peeve, and I do, it would be booth staff. I found, for the most, part the staff at the booths I visited were friendly and helpful. However, I still come across a handful of booths every year where the staff ignored visitors, or lacked knowledge about their product. What a shame that a company would spend thousands to attend the show and have their products or services presented in such a manner.
Here’s another thought I had as we took down our booth after the show: It looks like a lot of the exhibitors that come from across the ocean leave a lot of product and material behind. The amount of brand new product that ends up in dumpsters is unbelievable at these shows. I saw entire, large booth structures pushed over, and forked to the dumpsters.
I suppose the demo is cheaper than crating and shipping it back? Wouldn’t it be nice if some of the local charities, perhaps Habitat for Humanity ReStore, could salvage some of those materials and products? Maybe next year in Chicago this could be an option. I’m sure there are liability and access issues to overcome. It seems the engineers involved in ASHRAE could make a project out of this in the name of sustainability.
I am encouraged to still see hydronics and solar thermal still have a position in the show. I have been a fan and promoter of wet heat and any energy that is transferred with fluids. The forced air industry has the major portion of the residential and commercial market, yet the hydronic player still manages to impress us with new, creative and efficient products to keep the wet side viable.
See you next year in Chicago.
Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr has been a plumbing, radiant heat and solar contractor and installer for 30 years. Rohr is a longtime RPA member. Rohr joined Caleffi North America as manager of training and education. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.