Tudor Hampton/ENR
Bauma 2004�s exhibit size will increase by at least 8% this year.

What do Germany and Bahrain have in common? Both nations’ top engineers and contractors will be joining together in Munich this April to exchange ideas, cash and machinery at the largest construction and mining equipment show in the world. The number of visitors expected at Bauma 2007—at least 500,000—is nearly the population of Bahrain itself. But the show’s reach will extend far beyond the booming Middle East.

Related Link:
Gearing Up for Bauma: A talk with David C.A. Phillips, Managing Director of Off-Highway Research Listen >>
Products at Bauma >>

More than 3,000 vendors from 49 countries have ponied up to sprawl out along the 5.8-million-sq-ft indoor and outdoor show floor. “And we still have a long waiting list,” says Manfred Wutzlhofer, chairman and CEO of Bauma’s owner, Messe München GmbH.

Sited on the grounds of Munich’s old airport, Bauma will host the latest machinery the world has to offer, from record-shattering hydraulic cranes and tunneling equipment to fuel-sipping earthmoving machines. “This is where the world meets up and deals are settled,” says Christof Kemmann, managing director of equipment maker BHS Sonthofen GmbH and head of the construction equipment trade group within the German Engineering Federation.

Tudor Hampton/ENR
A Progistik official shows equipment software that aids

Topics from software to safety will intertwine with the iron. France-based Progistik will display the latest version of its MéthoCAD visualization 3-D software, which will allow users to get a glimpse of the “virtual” jobsite from the equipment operator’s chair.

Across the street from the show, the International Powered Access Federation will demonstrate emergency egress techniques, like how to rappel down a manlift boom if its manual descent system fails. “Any construction site should be going through these thoughts” as part of risk analysis, says Tim Whiteman, managing director of U.K.-based IPAF.

Tudor Hampton/ENR
Whiteman previewed IPAF�s aerial safety demo lineup last month in Munich.

Bauma is truly international. Dozens of Chinese vendors will take up more than three acres, a sixfold increase since 2004. The show could be an important litmus test for them. Changsha-based SANY Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. plans to roll out an unprecedented 66-meter mobile concrete pump in its 32,000-sq-ft booth. The company says that it is gearing up to install brick and mortar in South America, Europe, India and the U.S. within two years, starting with Belgium.

Many are skeptical, though. “The great drawback for the Chinese is that they have had a bad name for product support, engineering and parts availability,” says David C.A. Phillips, a London-based equipment analyst. “Whether that is relevant or not is not always important. The market is quite unforgiving.”

China also has a reputation for mimicking designs, but SANY says that is changing. “Many people think that China is a copycat, but we are not,” says Samuel Chung, European sales manager. SANY machines are designed in-house by a team of 1,500 engineers who specify industry-common parts 80% of the time. “That’s why we don’t need to copy,” he says.

Challenging construction projects, emission changes and environmental policies have most producers bankrolling research and development. That means new technology will be everywhere at the triennial event, held April 23-29.

But contractors are still having a hard time getting their hands on the equipment they need. Demand for raw materials mined in Asia, Africa and South America, coupled with heavy construction activity across the globe has not relieved production bottlenecks. Some machines, such as large cranes and excavators, could be sold out through year’s end.

Liebherr Group
Huge 1,200-tonne, all-terrain crane from Liebherr will be on display at the 5.8-million-sq-ft show.

Amid the shortages, used equipment is highly desired. Resale prices for 135 to 250-tonne cranes can go 10% higher than new ones. “If we could double our production overnight, we would,” says Jos Verhulst, sales manager for Kobelco Cranes Europe Ltd. Kobelco’s Japan-based parent sells about 600 crawler cranes a year; its factories are running two 12-hour shifts to keep up.

Forecasts for new units in ’07 range from a 3% dip to a steady 5% rise. Analysts agree that the frenzy is starting to wane, especially for small machines used for homebuilding. “We’re pretty well saturated at the moment,” says Phillips. Hot markets this year will be Europe, China and the Middle East, Kemmann adds.

Hitachi Construction Machinery
Vendors like Hitachi are running full bore to meet global demand.

Plenty can be had at the show. Privately owned Liebherr Group plans to occupy the largest exhibit, using it to unveil a 1,200-tonne telescoping crane with a 100-meter boom costing about $6.5 million—the largest of its kind. Japan-based Hitachi says it will show a line of all-new hydraulic wheel excavators—classic European machines that are gaining traction in the U.S. Those who fly to Germany won’t be disappointed. Bauma vendors have more big surprises in store.