Pandemic-compliant hybrid event concept for market launch
Netstal has introduced the new PET line with a new hybrid in-house trade fair concept. Ongoing demand from customers means that the planned three-month event has grown to nine months. We spoke to Michael Birchler, Chief of Marketing for the Netstal brand.
PETplanet: Mr Birchler, you made a virtue of necessity and developed the introduction of the new Netstal PET line in September 2020 as a hybrid event concept. You have established a showroom in Näfels that could also have been set up at an industry trade fair. Its centrepiece is your new PET line.
Birchler: The pandemic has of course affected the trade fair scene and this includes our in-house trade fair. We had planned a large customer event for September to introduce the new Netstal PET line but when we could see that the virus was going to scupper our plans, we decided to run a limited hybrid event, initially until the end of 2020. Because of its great popularity, we have extended the event to May 2021.
PETplanet: Hybrid means that both visiting the site in person and viewing it live online are possible?
Birchler: Precisely. In late summer, PETplanet also had the opportunity to travel and get an impression in person of the system and the concept. On average, we have 1 to 2 customer visits live onsite or live online each day. How did you like the concept?
PETplanet: I have to say, I found the new approach very promising (see article edition 10/2020 page 22). Compared to a normal trade fair where the next appointment is already waiting, you have the opportunity to inspect the machine quite intensively, almost “to get right inside it”. What feedback did you get from customers?
Birchler: As indicated above, we have extended the initiative again and again because of the high level of interest. We had positive feedback from our visitors for having this presentation concept during the coronavirus pandemic. But of course, the technology is always the main focus. High on the list of topics for discussion were the unit costs that are at their lowest because of the shortest cycle time and the reduced energy consumption. We can calculate these individually for each customer for the preform to be produced. Another topic mentioned frequently was the advantage given by the PETX screw, with its wide processing window for recyclate. This can be ordered for retrofitting in existing systems.
PETplanet: Surely the topic of compatibility with other sideways removal moulds was also discussed?
Birchler: Processers would naturally like to use their existing moulds for sideways removal on the new PET line, but the focus was actually more on the unit costs. In tough competition, the costs are crucial and producers must be convinced that they are making a good choice with Netstal in this regard. We also discussed many related topics like general handling, safe operation, ease and expense of maintenance and servicing options.
PETplanet: How did cooperation with your system partners work?
Birchler: There, too, we received a positive response. We set up the entire system with the mould from MHT and the periphery from Piovan and integrated the activation of these components into our aXos controls. We also integrated an inline inspection system from IMD Vista into the removal unit.
PETplanet: So, you have created a nine-month event out of an event scheduled to last three months. Will the exhibition become a permanent fixture?
Birchler: No. However brilliant the whole initiative has been, it cannot replace a face-to-face meeting. In many individual appointments, we have been able to offer comprehensive advice to interested parties. Because of the longer timespan, this has even been somewhat better than at a trade fair. However, we have missed the spontaneous networking with those visitors and interested parties that drop in unplanned for a coffee and a chat. This group is also very important to us and is hard to reach without trade fairs.
PETplanet: Does this mean you won’t repeat the concept after the pandemic?
Birchler: We use many different touchpoints and all are justified. The current situation has shown us how important trade fairs and personal contact are. However, in a comparable situation, we would do just the same, so the concept is not dying out entirely. Even when we can travel again normally, we will use the resources we have created for “digital visits” in certain situations in the future. Furthermore, we are planning a reconstruction of our technology and customer centre – and many suggestions and experiences from recent months are contributing to that.
PETplanet: Many thanks, Mr Birchler!