Critical Cleaning, Trade Shows and The Mall

You are off to a trade show to find a great critical cleaning process. I’ve run across a few articles about what to do to make the most of a particular show. Planning and conference apps and checklists are a start; but they won’t give you the full benefits.

Effective shopping and good science
I think trade shows activate the “shopping gene.” As one who grew up in the family retail business, was educated in science, and then went into manufacturing, I can confidently assert that activating the shopping gene is a plus. Whether you live to shop or the mere idea of shopping makes you break out in hives and puts your brain into a stupor, here are some shopping tips for a scientific, process-based approach to trade shows.

Olympic-level shopping has a lot in common with effective visits to trade shows, with meaningful tests of new processes, and with great experimental work. All involve planning, active observation, and data discrimination. For example, when I run tests to set up a new cleaning process, I may see unexpected results or make observations in addition to those I was looking for. Ignoring these observations may actually hold up process development. I have to decide how relevant the observations are to product quality and cost-effective processing.

Moving out of the test lab and over to the trade show floor can feel like going to the mall – or maybe to Vegas. It’s intimidating. At many shows I see people who I suspect are engineers hunched over their smart phones while scurrying through aisles in search of a few pre-selected suppliers. Others float along while staring glassy-eyed at displays.

Here’s a more productive approach: Think of the trade show as a really complex manufacturing process with lots of steps including a great big global supply chain. Or, look at the show the same way you would an experiment with lots of variables. Ignoring the experimental variables or the supply chain won’t solve the problem.

Observe and interact
A gold-medal shopper looks around while sorting through the flashing lights and the hype. He or she focuses on what’s on the shopping list. He or she also looks for things that might not be on the list but that might be useful, and – perhaps most important – looks at the merchandise and talks to the sales people.

Observing process equipment in person and looking at demonstrations provides far more information than screen shots or video clips. Even more important, it is worth the effort it takes to interact with the people at the trade show booths. Talking face to face with people who supply the cleaning equipment and the cleaning agents can tell you about positive and negative attributes of the product, and, just as important, about positive and negative attributes of product support. Products like cleaning agents and cleaning equipment are only as effective and reliable as the people who make them, repair them, and sell them. The interaction you get at the trade shows is much more telling than a phone conference and certainly more complete than a web search.

Unfortunately sometimes, people at trade show booths are unpleasant, intimidating, or uninformed. Resist the temptation to retreat to your smart phone. Just as with shopping, if talking with a vendor sets off screaming sirens on your B.S. detector, use your response productively. You and your company may have dodged a bullet by avoiding an inferior supplier. Smile and move on to the next booth.

Wear REALLY comfortable walking shoes
Finally, you can’t concentrate on finding a better cleaning process if your feet hurt. I’ve seen people at shows with strained expressions on their faces; they often shift from one foot to another. Sometimes they even volunteer that their shoes are tight. Wear cross-trainers! Why are conference rooms and the trade show inevitably placed at opposite ends of the convention center? With comfy shoes, you can speed-walk from one large hall to another.

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