Fencex – the UK’s only exhibition dedicated to perimeter security, fencing and access control – returned in October for the first time since 2018. If Heras’s reaction is anything to go by, its return highlights how much it was missed and, more significantly, how well the industry is bouncing back after all the disruption caused by the pandemic. That’s the view of Internal Sales Manager Andy Bown, who headed up the Heras team at the event, and he pinpoints three themes that the company learned from Fencex.
‘Buoyant’ is the most apt word to describe this year’s Fencex – both on an exhibition level and from a wider industry perspective.
The first and most important thing to say was just how good it was to see people face to face. Yes, we all adapted overnight to video calls when the first lockdown happened, and they’re still a staple part of our day-to-day activities, but nothing replaces being able to look people in the eye and shaking hands, bumping elbows… or whatever you feel comfortable with.
And the ability to chew the fat with existing customers, prospective customers and other businesses from across the industry has been a reminder of pre-pandemic ‘normal’.
The resounding message that came across from individual conversations and the general buzz of Fencex was that the industry is booming and there are plenty of projects to be had – which is brilliant news.
When we dug a little deeper, there are a lot of projects that are either medium or high security, with infrastructure and utilities leading the way. This resonated with what we as a business are seeing. We would also add that we are seeing a boom in the amount of ‘big sheds’ that are springing up as the warehousing and logistics industry tries to cope with the demand driven by the explosion in online shopping in the last 18 months.
While the industry is rightly buoyant about the volume and scale of projects, you couldn’t escape the elephant in the room, namely material shortages, rising raw material costs, longer lead times and general supply chain issues.
The only saving grace is that everyone’s in the same boat.
Three Heras takeaways from Fencex
On reflection, there are three main themes that Heras came away with from Fencex
1. There’s a huge appetite for material supply. We went to Fencex to promote our capability to supply materials directly to third-party installers – and it didn’t disappoint, as we were able to showcase our comprehensive catalogue of fencing and entrance control products, which independent contractors can source from Heras and can easily install themselves. From our perspective, this is a win-win because not only can we supply market-leading products for use on projects but we can also support independents in boosting their businesses.
2. Accreditation and standards. It was very noticeable from conversations that there’s a growing industry groundswell for the specification of products that meet appropriate standards. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like the industry was previously like the Wild West, riding roughshod over standards. It’s more about the great work of the likes of Secured by Design and the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) in constantly banging the drum about products being tested and certified to appropriate, approved standards. The message is getting through and the rising tide of understanding is lifting the industry, ultimately benefitting all the projects that require secure perimeter protection solutions, including demarcation, entrance control and detection products and integrated systems.
3. Heras’ products were the stars of the show. Yes, of course we’re going to say that, aren’t we? But, given the constraints of our stand, we could only hero two products: Saros (our new electromechanical traffic barrier) and TR800 Tangorail. The latter is a self-raking railing system that meets the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ (RoSPA) expectations for safe systems with no head, neck or finger traps, making it ideal for schools and play areas. Quite a few visitors to our stand expressed an interest in using it for projects, as they could install it themselves. We also had presentations of Safeglide 2 (a plug-and-play sliding gate), the B700 turnstile (a full-height turnstile) and the B300 powered swing gate (an automated swing gate that is available in single- or double-leaf orientation). These went down well.
Overall, Fencex was a great event that was well organised and attracted lots of the right people whom we wanted to talk to. The next one can’t come soon enough.