Bauma Review: Buy and earn in Munich

Middle East buyers were out in force defying an otherwise depressed market at this year’s Bauma

Middle East buyers were out in force in Bauma

Middle East buyers were out in force in Bauma

Middle East buyers were out in force defying an otherwise depressed market at this year’s Bauma.

“What you see here seems crazy when you think about the situation outside the show,” said one representative on its massive stand. Quite. As the global economy continues to splutter onwards and downwards, Bauma provided a picture of would could be. A world where every ageing, creaking excavator could be replaced with a gleaming new model; stronger and greener with more optional extras than ever.

Standing like a multi-coloured and mobile crane-towered city out of the Oz-like countryside surrounding Munich, this year’s show was full of wondrous new equipment and monstrous rock haulers.

Without doubt this year’s Bauma was dominated by the Liebherr stand. Guarding its gates were giant machines including its 400t rock truck (which was at the last event), its enormous mining shovel and a 300t hybrid piling rig which is able to recycle energy from its hammer blows. Elsewhere Volvo Trucks claimed it was taken a massive leap forward with the new FMX, Caterpillar unveiled its new 336E hybrid excavator and Komatsu presented a new dozer and an excavator built around what it called a “revolutionary concept of intelligent Machine Control (iMC), which can change the future of the construction business.”

While the spectacle was awe-inspiring, a closer inspection of the panorama revealed fewer tower cranes on show and a larger emphasis on flexible machines and a slant on infrastructure. The shift to rental has left its mark too. And this was an event where a lot of the business conducted on the stands was between dealer and OEM. During the Caterpilllar press conference CEO Doug Oberhelman revealed that around a third of Caterpillar assets in the field: “are now in rent to rent, and I can see that moving up 10 or 20% more in the next couple of years. We really have an opportunity to push this further. Contractors like [rental] because it removes a piece of risk from their business.”

The European market continues to be blighted by the global economic crisis, placing a greater emphasis on Bauma to deliver some payback on what has been a tough start to the year.

Revealing declines of 23% in the US and 11% in Europe Alexandre Saubot the COO of Haulotte looked for the silver lining in the Munich skies by remarking there “was nothing to worry about”.

“We have a lot of expectations with Bauma and the second quarter,” Saubot said, before adding: “The crisis is not over. People are still cautious.”

Given the battering of the previous few years it was no surprise that many companies at the show said that order levels from buyers had become piecemeal. Many said that they were now used to bit by bit sales rather than large fleet orders.
Despite sluggish spending, activity on many stands was frantic. The show presents a considerable challenge on the sales teams on the stands to sell and speak to as many people as possible.

“On Tuesday and Wednesday, I couldn’t have more than 20 minute chats. It’s three serious meetings every hour for six and seven hours,” said David Semple, Manitowoc’s regional manager, his voice sounding hoarse. “It’s a mixture of the pleasure and excitement of being able to meet them on a nice booth with great products but it frustrates me that we are rushed for everything!”
Dubai-based hire company Johnson Arabia purchased a 42m long boom RT770E rough terrain crane at the show, Semple revealed (“if I could pick one machine for the Middle East it would be that one”).

One of the region’s veterans it is difficult for Semple to meet new GCC faces at Bauma but he says the show provides a transit point to meet new African companies.

“At these kind of events, you have 20 minutes to meet a guy find his problem, note it down and then you have to follow it up. Keeping their enthusiasm is a challenge for the week after. You need to keep the energy and the drive.”

According to Messe Munich more than 530,000 visitors entered the show. To put that in context Bauma hosts more people in seven days than Big5 in 15 years. Although the vast majority of them are German with them taking up a 70% of the total. The remaining 160,000 of visitors come from across the globe. The Middle East contingent was also out in force with companies such as Doosan (CMME bumped into Raad Abduljawad of Saudi Diesel on the stand), Volvo, Caterpillar, Terex, Putzmiester all highlighting the importance of being able to bring their customers (both dealers and major contractors) to the event.

However the show remains a predominantly European-centric event and with much of the new equipment on display only suitable for high regulation countries it is difficult for the Middle East and African visitor to spot what is suitable for them on display. For example, Caterpillar’s massive stand was designed to aid the US giant’s local dealer Zeppelin foremost and cater for international customers second. Take out the HRC-only equipment, only a handful of the 70 products on display will find their way to the region.

Judging Bauma from a Middle East perspective is tricky then. On the one hand you have new launches (albeit mostly incremental changes) and the buzz of being in the Disneyland for equipment (one Russian company even turned its crane into a ride carrying passengers superman-style 30m in the air); but on the other hand it can be a frustrating and tiring experience to find suitable kit.
Near the end of CMME’s visit one person asked whether Bauma had become “too big and too important?” If the buzz fails to turn into sales, then from this region’s point of view the answer may be a yes.

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