World Brush Expo Roundtable: All Systems Go

Bologna skyline of medieval Two Towers Asinelli and Garisenda. Photo by istockphoto/emicristea.

Roundtable Interview with the organizers behind the launch of the Inaugural World Brush Expo

As anticipation mounts for the inaugural World Brush Expo, set to unfold from May 22-24, 2024, in the picturesque city of Bologna, Italy, I had the privilege in late January of convening a roundtable discussion via Zoom with the key leaders at the helm of this transformative event. Replacing the venerable Interbrush tradeshow, the World Brush Expo aims to fill a critical gap for the brush industry, signaling a new era of connectivity and opportunity for industry professionals worldwide. Every four years, this marquee event will serve as a nexus where visionaries and innovators in the brush sector will converge to explore cutting-edge technologies, exchange insights and forge invaluable partnerships.

As a joint partnership between three organizations, our discussion included: ABMA President Chris Monahan (President of Brush Fibers), FEIBP President Alessandro Acquaderni (CEO of SIT Brush) and Marco Momoli, from event organizer BolognaFiere.

Knowing the impact of Interbrush in the past, how important is the World Brush Expo to the brush industry overall?

ABMA President, Chris Monahan (Brush Fibers)

Chris Monahan: I think it’s immensely important. For one, it’s been quite a bit of time since we’ve all gotten together. The biggest factor was the pandemic. Obviously, that was such a global disruption. People who have been to multiple Interbrush events in the past understand how important it is from a global perspective. Especially now with today’s modern technology where we’re more connected now more than ever through Zoom and constant communication. To put a face with a name and to see people and to give them a hug and share wine and cheese is immensely important, especially in our industry where that human contact is such a big part of it. Plus, (a chance to see) all the technological advances that have happened in our industry since the last one (in 2016).

Alessandro Acquaderni: I totally agree with Chris, a global event such as the World Brush Expo is needed for our industry. There were thoughts about changing format and changing ideas and the way it was held compared to the previous edition. The most important thing is that the event will exist because it will define the center of gravity of our industries and that people will participate as active exhibitors and as active visitors. Because the industry is made of people, as companies are made of people and the interactions between the companies and industries luckily are still decided by people.

Marco Momoli: It is important to have a physical show again. Visitors say it is important because of the serendipity of the aisles, meaning that you can walk through the aisles of the show. You can find something, meet people that you didn’t expect to meet or find something that you didn’t expect to see. And that’s something that can happen only when you are physically in one place all together with all the other people of the same sector. That’s something that will be happening in Bologna. So that’s very important for us.

At the time of this roundtable, there are about 135 exhibitors signed up. Is this meeting with expectations and how are plans progressing?

Marco Momoli: For the time being we are really satisfied with the results. I think that we will go beyond expectations because 135 exhibitors is really a good number right now. But I expect more to come. So we are very happy, being the first time that we have organized this show in Bologna, we were aiming to have between 100 and 150 exhibitors. So it’s going very well. I think we will reach more than 150.

Chris Monahan: I’m pleasantly surprised by the outcome so far because in the U.S. I go to a lot of conventions that are roughly in our industry, the Hardware Show, ISSA and the Houseware show. Those are all struggling with declining attendance, and some of them are even on their last legs. So to see a show that has come back and does have good attendance kind of goes against the trend — in the U.S. at least. So that was very positive.

So that’s from an exhibitor perspective, is there any way to gauge, at this point, the number of attendees?

Marco Momoli: From our point of view, it’s always difficult to give figures about the visitors this far in advance. The thing I can tell you is that I spoke yesterday to the official travel agency of the show, and they told me the hotels in Bologna are almost sold out for the days of the show, that’s a very good sign.

We are going to open the online registration form this week, so we will see exactly how we will do. But, for the time being, we are quite satisfied with the number of reservations being made in the hotels of Bologna.

Marco Momoli, BolognaFiere

As a partnership between three entities, can you speak a little bit about how that is working and the role that each entity is playing in organizing the event?

Alessandro Acquaderni: The partnership is working very well. When we sat together, the FEIBP and the ABMA, to drive the change that was going to happen for the traditional brush show that we all wanted to redefine and redesign, we immediately agreed on the guidelines after discussing the different opinions about what was going on in our industry. FEIBP and the ABMA have always taken care of the needs of their members. So, we had been talking with people, with major potential suppliers and exhibitors of the show, listening to them, gathering the needs and then drafting together the idea of the new World Brush Expo. Then, looking for potential partners, we found that BolognaFiere immediately understood our needs and started proactively providing solutions.

That was just the beginning, though. We (then) started defining the perimeter of the show and the topics and the characteristics. And still, it’s an ongoing process because we want to achieve the most successful brush show that we can guarantee as a federation and association.

Chris Monahan: The relationship is in my opinion as strong as it’s ever been. It’s great. I was over at the FEIBP Congress in September and quite a few Americans were there. The hospitality and the welcoming that we were shown was off the charts. Our relationship is going great and I think it’s important for members to understand that we have ownership in the show. So the ABMA and FEIBP are very invested in this being a success and having our members support it as well.

In the U.S., it’s a challenge with the distance, but Alessandro’s on the ground there and he really has gone above and beyond with all the work that he’s put into the show.

Alessandro Acquaderni: Thanks Chris, but in the end, it’s always a team effort and I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t feel the full support of the FEIBP and the ABMA. But I agree with you, the relationship between the two has never been as strong as it is now. Also, we are working on a path in FEIBP. We call this path, “No Man Is an Island” from the perspective of the leader of the company and also the federation. So the active goal is to work together as a European federation and an American association.

That brings up a good point. I am not sure if Interbrush had this, but will the event be an exhibition only or will there be educational sessions, programs and keynote speakers?

Alessandro Acquaderni: Historically, it was “only a show” even if I wouldn’t define it as “only” because it’s the meeting point of the world brush industry every four years. So it was very packed with meeting opportunities without the need of building anything around it. But now we are organizing something during the days of the show. On the first day, Wednesday, we will have a brief inauguration. On that evening, we will have a closing party offered by FEIBP, ABMA and BolognaFiere.

FEIBP President Alessandro Acquaderni (SIT Brush)

We will allow exhibitors to have private events on Thursday between lunch and dinner. From Friday on, we are still organizing, but we are planning an experience to allow visitors and exhibitors to leave and have an experience around Bologna. That will be around the Bologna known as the Motor Valley and Bologna, known as a Food Valley as you can read on the World Brush Expo website. So we will offer the visitors of Bologna an opportunity to have this experience. In the next month, we will disclose the details, but what I’m recommending right now is to book your flights back from Monday on.

Marco Momoli: Just to let you know, the weekend before the show, in Imola, there will be the Formula 1 grand prix. If someone is willing to come three days before, they can attend the Formula 1 Grand Prix just 15 kilometers away from Bologna. It’s within 20 minutes by car.

That has to have an impact on travel as well, right? I mean, it’s a big event.

Marco Momoli: Yeah, it is. It is. Luckily enough, the event is taking place the weekend before the show, so the hotels will be free starting from Tuesday. But in case somebody is willing to come, that could be an occasion to see the Formula 1 Grand Prix, stay in Bologna, then visit Bologna. It’s a wonderful city full of monuments with very good food and then they can attend the show.

Are there specific trends or innovations in the brush industry that we would expect to see at this show?

Alessandro Acquaderni: I don’t know yet the trends of what will be the innovation displayed during the show. I’m curious though, as both a contributor to the organizing and as a visitor. Every edition of the show, there was something pretty new, being proudly displayed by the exhibitors, both from machinery makers and components and filaments. The trends will be around energy saving and recycled materials and reducing the carbon footprint. For sure, the environmental trend will be strong in the World Brush Expo. On the machinery side, the impact on the ergonomics and the noise as well as new production technologies to increase the overall productivity and lower costs and lower the impact on the people while increasing the amount of data that the companies will be able to gather in real time to control and improve their processes.

That’s a big topic for trade shows as well. Are there specific ways sustainability is being approached relative to the show itself?

Marco Momoli: What we are doing in Bologna, we are trying to build up shows that are more and more sustainable. Of course, we are trying to do our best in terms of recycling materials and products used to build up the show and (in) dismantling the show. At BolognaFiere, we do have a solar plant on the roof of all of our halls that produces most of the energy needed for the show. We are on our way in that respect.

That covers most of the topics we had planned, thank you all for participating and giving us a great overview of progress. Are there any final comments that you want to offer?

Marco Momoli: When we had the news that we had been chosen to host the show we were really thrilled but we also were very worried about the fact that it was a great challenge for us. Because it’s a world show, and it is the first show held in Italy in this sector, and the first show after eight years in this sector. We found two wonderful partners that helped us in all ways to give us all the suggestions, all the possible help anytime we needed it. It has been, up to now, and I’m sure will be even for the next months, a wonderful, wonderful partnership.

Alessandro Acquaderni: Yes, two closing remarks. One is just to emphasize the importance of being active in the brush industry. And as an association and federation, we are showing that we are active and strongly believe in such an important gathering event. And we invite all our members to take an active role by simply following the LinkedIn page for the show and sharing its content as well as supporting and promoting the event. Second, the show is launching innovations in the industry, edition after edition and this year it will happen in one of the oldest cities in Italy. We’re talking about a city that was started more than 1,000 years before Christ and it became of crucial importance during the Middle Ages. So there will be such a strong history that will support and sustain such an innovative event in our industry.

Chris Monahan: I would strongly encourage everyone to attend. You know, we really are a unique industry in that we truly are global. You don’t see a lot of industries that have that global emphasis and impact. And this is our one show, every four years, where it’s really people from so many different countries, so many different continents. It’s quite breathtaking to see everyone that shows up. That in itself is one reason because all it really takes is one new supplier, one new customer and it pays for your entire trip. I’ve met so many new people at all of these and so many business contacts. It’s more than paid for all of the expenses. And it only happens once every four years, so if you miss this one, you’ve got to wait another four years.

For more information about the World Brush Expo, visit