The ISH experience: a first-hand encounter

By: Ilana Koegelenberg – assistant editor

My ISH 2015 experience can only be described as ‘overwhelming’. Whoever says plumbing isn’t a ‘big deal’, has never spent a week in Frankfurt, exploring the seemingly endless ISH exhibition halls

After attending the Chillventa show in Germany last October, I confidently thought I knew what I was getting into when my attendance to ISH in Frankfurt was confirmed earlier this year. And sure, the visa process was a lot less stressful, but when the time finally came for me to start getting my head around the hall plans and setting up appointments, I quickly realised that this was a whole other ballgame. With a total of 2 465 exhibitors confirmed for 2015, I had more than my work cut out for me.

ISH provides the world’s biggest showcase for innovative bathroom design, energy efficient heating and air-conditioning technology and renewable energies. I was but one of more than 198 000 visitors (an increase of more than 5% over the previous event) who made their way to the Mess Fair and Exhibition Centre in Frankfurt from 10-14 March to discover the numerous technical innovations and latest trends the building services industry had on offer. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. Blown away – completely.

Day 1: 10 March (Tuesday)
My arrival in Frankfurt was chaotic (and for once I’m not being dramatic). With less than an hour between connecting flights in Zurich, I had to fit in a quick ‘jog’ into my early morning start to ensure I made it to the massive Frankfurt airport. As I dragged my suitcases around the bustling airport, following signs I assumed would lead me to the trains I needed to get to my hotel, I experienced a familiar feeling of being completely lost. At least this time around I had more success in asking for help, despite my annoying English accent.

I landed on the morning ISH started, leaving little time to regroup my life at the tucked-away Frankfurt Royal Hotel that would instil great feelings of relief every time I spotted it around the corner after another taxing day at the show. The friendly hotel keeper promptly informed me that ‘all trains go to Messe’ if I stand on the right platform, ‘in 11 minutes, every 11 minutes’.

Walking through the exhibition doors for the first time, I still had no idea just how far and wide the halls stretched. I wouldn’t know until the day I finally went in search of the faraway air conditioning halls. For now, I felt a sense of accomplishment just in making it to the well-sign-posted media lounge.

Hall plan booklet in hand, I followed the signs to Hall 4, a place I would become very familiar with over the next few days as the home of most of our local suppliers. As I nervously stood around waiting for my first appointment with the Kwikot team, I couldn’t help but notice how busy all the stands were already – massive, high-ceilinged exhibitions with alluring technologies and ready-to-help staff. It was show time!

The local Kwikot guys welcomed me to the SYR stand, a brand they’ve been importing for over 20 years and I couldn’t help but be relieved to hear a familiar South African accent in what had been a sea of seemingly-unfriendly German. Piet Malan, managing director of Kwikot, introduced me to his team, and explained how the SYR plastic body valve was a good answer to copper theft problem we have in SA.

From there, I stopped by the bright blue Valsir stand where the local team has arranged for me to meet with Sandro Bazzoni, commercial director of Valsir. Bazzoni took me around the fully-packed stand, high-lighting some of the new technology they had on show. In particular the push systems and frames stood out. Everyone was so well-dressed! I would eventually note this as the norm for exhibitors and visitors alike.

My next meeting was with Marco Cassol, managing director of ACO Systems, who proudly took me around the buzzing stand, showing me the company’s new range of aesthetically pleasing grills and its new modular systems. He explained how the company will focus on getting more into the fire side of things in future, so watch this space.

As I entered Hall 3 to find the Duravit stand where I was supposed to meet Johan van Wyk of On Tap, I quickly realised my err in agreeing to a meeting place of this size (unbeknownst to me). The stand packed with people, I searched the foreign faces for someone I’ve never met before. This would prove a challenge I would face a couple of more times over the course of the week. Note to self for next time: meet at a smaller stand (or get roaming for my phone).

When I finally get back to my hotel room, I made a firm decision to never wear the boots I put on that afternoon ever again. I had many a warnings regarding how sore my feet would be, but after Chillventa, I thought I knew what I was in for – I didn’t. I left those boots in Frankfurt.

Suddenly it was the end of the first day and still I haven’t even seen a fraction of the exhibition. ‘I’d do better tomorrow,’ I vowed. 260 000m2 was a lot of ground to cover – but, at this point, that was still just an abstract figure in my head.

Read more about this feature in Plumbing Africa May page 30.

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