The Messe Stuttgart building is about as incongruous a location for a press briefing on window shutters as you can possibly get. As delegates for the R+T media briefing approached the conference hall on a September morning, its cream lines and the large square beyond were bathed in yellow light. It would be a crying shame for anyone to attempt, by mechanical means or otherwise, to deprive those inside of its beneficence.
Precisely how that could be achieved for all homes and offices, though, was but one of the many topics of conversation to be had at the day's press conference. For more than 50 years, manufacturers of roller shutters, sun protection systems, doors and gates have flocked to present their wares at R+T's annual trade fair. In that time, the exposition has proved to be a vital opportunity for these firms to exchange knowledge and ideas about their chosen areas of expertise. It's since become an important place to learn how, when and where the industry continues to evolve, to incorporate new innovations and concepts.
Until recently, the R+T expo was largely a European affair, but in recent years, companies from as far afield as Malaysia and the UAE have headed to Germany to present their products in Stuttgart. In 2015, there were more than 800 exhibitors, presenting to 59,057 visitors flying in from 131 countries. Supported by partners including the Federal Association for Manufacturers of Roller Shutters and Sun Protection, the Industrial Association for Technical Textiles, Roller Shutters and Sun Protection, and the National Federation of Door and Gate Manufacturers, among others, the 2018 exposition is expected to exceed these numbers comfortably.
The precise nature of what visitors would encounter at next year's trade fair was the theme of the day's press conference. Leading the presentations was Wilhem Hachtel, chairman of the Industrial Association for Roller Shutter and Sun Protection Automation, who outlined the significant challenge that global warming as a climatological effect was having on the development of insulation products and window shutters. Hachtel explained that this has proved especially pertinent when it comes to raising the temperature of individual rooms through the transparent sections of windows. According to the professor, unprotected interior spaces could heat up to 40°C, and with global temperatures on the rise, it is only logical to surmise that the addition of exterior sun guards on the exterior of homes and offices - which can reduce room temperature by up to 10°C - are set to become more popular.
Following this presentation was a talk by Professor Ulrich Sieberath, head of the ift Rosenheim Institute for Window Technology. He underscored the previous presentation's conclusions, namely that several key global forces - chief among them climate change, a rising global population and growing resource scarcity - have been driving several new trends in the doors and gates sector.
One of these has been fire safety. As more people have flocked to cities for employment and better living conditions, the danger of fire has also increased. According to Sieberath, cases like the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London have highlighted the growing need for safer, more complex doors and gates coupled with more qualified installers. However, fire protection products currently suffer from long lead times in manufacturing, with factory owners attributing delays to a lack of trained personnel. Professor Sieberath concluded that not only is the market demanding access to fire protection products of greater sophistication, but it is also demanding the provision of more training programmes to ameliorate further delays in their manufacture.
Another trend Sieberath evaluated was the growing popularity of the 'smart home' concept. In many ways, he explained, this was a confluence of the growing sophistication of smart technology and concerns among buyers.
According to a survey conducted by GfK in 2015, security was cited as a leading reason that buyers found the concept of the smart home so appealing, followed by energy efficiency and greater connectivity related to their entertainment systems.
These findings open up several opportunities for manufacturers to invest in 'smart gates' and similar products, explained Sieberath. Indeed, the professor predicted that integrated drive units, for example, would be trends to watch out for in 2018, in addition to any products that offered control and automation, with added value, and remote maintenance and diagnostics. It was incumbent on manufacturers, he said, to be smartphone-ready. "Our task should be to prepare the products so they can interact with these systems," he said.
Sieberath yielded the floor to Sebastian Schmid, department director for trade fairs at Messe Stuttgart, who guided attendees through the practicalities of R+T's next trade fair held from 27 February to 3 March 2018. The new exposition is expected to surpass previous visitor metrics, with about 60,000 people expected to attend. More than half of attendees were expected to come from outside of Germany.
Perhaps more exciting still for Schmid was the imminent completion of the new Paul Horn Hall, a new and upcoming extension to the Stuttgart Trade Fair Centre. The completion of this building will increase the size of the entire site by about 15%, to 120,000m2, significantly expanding its visitor capacity and exhibition space. Additionally, new shops, catering facilities and seminar areas will be added, along with a train stop to connect the conference to the local public transport network.
Inside the conference hall, space will be allotted not only to firms showcasing the latest in gates, doors, grilles and fences, but also to sun protection systems, awnings, textile construction products and insect screen grills.
A new 'Asian pavilion' will also be set up to reflect the dynamism of the market and the increased number of East Asian exhibitors in recent years. Guests will also be treated to a special show for restaurants and hotels titled 'Outdoor. Ambience. Living', showcasing the latest innovations pertinent to those key markets, in addition to a smart-home forum focusing on energy efficiency, interface standards, burglary protection and other issues.
And with that, the proceedings were brought to a close. Most of the attendees would move on to an extended networking session, and a tour of the construction site for the new West Entrance and Paul Horn Hall, to be followed by a relaxing evening spent in a private tent at the Klauss & Klaus Cannstatt Beer Festival. The 2018 R+T trade fair promises to be an event worth catching.