If attendance at the recent ProMat 2005 show in Chicago can be taken as a leading indicator of investment in capital equipment (and capital investment as a precursor to an economic boom), this could be a very good year. But what had ProMat sponsors' and exhibitors' hearts racing wasn't only the number of attendees—36,000, according to the Material Handling Industry of America, the show's organizer—but also who they were. Not only did some of the world's largest corporations—like Wal-Mart and Target—send representatives, but many sent battalions of delegates. Daimler Chrysler, for example, brought along a contingent so large that the company reserved separate meeting rooms for discussions on the various technologies on display.
But what may have pleased exhibitors most of all was that delegates came with what they saw as serious intentions to buy. "Two years ago, it felt like they were just kicking the tires," said one veteran exhibitor at the show, which takes place in odd-numbered years. "This time, they've come with budgets and money to spend."
And those prospective buyers weren't interested only in hot new technologies like RFID. Attendees showed plenty of interest in traditional material handling equipment as well. Shankar Basu, president and CEO of Toyota Material Handling USA, said that he expected 2005 to be a good year for the lift truck industry in general, and his company in particular, after a very strong 2004. "We're getting extremely positive feedback from our customers and dealers," he said during an interview with DC VELOCITY. "There's a great deal of optimism."