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Destination focus: Liverpool

There are few cities that have transformed quite so much as Liverpool for events. CN takes a look at the Smart Factory Expo, and examines the city as a case study.



Smart Factory Expo is the UK’s largest manufacturing show with professionals from technology, finance and manufacturing sectors attending the event.

The expo, in partnership with government and world-class industry professionals, provides attendees and exhibitors a platform to discuss, collaborate and grow in the age of industrial digitalisation.

The 2018 event focused on the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (4IR), a revolution in the manufacturing agility, innovation and thinking.



Smart Factory Expo consists of a series of different elements and events - The Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit, The Manufacturers' Top 100 and The Manufacturer MX Awards. They all form part of Digital Manufacturing Week, organised by The Manufacturer magazine.

The exhibition element of Smart Factory Expo took place in two halls of Exhibition Centre Liverpool, with a total of 250 exhibitors ranging from new start-ups to industry leading establishments. The expo was divided into six visitor zones - Industrial Automation, Internet of Things, Digital Transformation, Smart Factory, Manufacturing Innovation and Industrial Data. Visitors were able to engage in more than 200 presentations sessions and seminars.

An Innovation Alley – a showcase for manufacturing tech start-ups – ran through the exhibition.

Meanwhile, a STEM afternoon was held to identify skills requirements and raise awareness of manufacturing career options for young people.


A Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit, the biggest conference in UK manufacturing, took place in Hall A for 1,000 delegates.  The hall was then transformed in the evening for The Manufacturer MX Awards dinner.  Award categories included Young Manufacturer of the Year and Sustainability.

In addition, a drinks reception was held during the expo to launch the Top 100 project – an initiative which aims to raise the profile of industry role models by creating a platform to publicise their achievements.

Women in Digital Manufacturing Day, which took place during the event, celebrated the role that women play in growing British manufacturing with a day of talks, mentoring and role models.

Full production was provided by the ACC Liverpool in-house team including set up for the main plenary; awards ceremony and dinner; exhibition rigging; AV for 11 seminar spaces – using a combination of live sound and silent headsets to eliminate sound clashes - as well as exhibition AV.

Liverpool Convention Bureau was part of the local organising committee ahead of and during the event. The Bureau provided a variety of services including negotiating special accommodation rates for attendees and exhibitors through an exclusive booking portal; sourcing the venues for a welcome reception and for the awards dinner after party at the Royal Albert Dock; delivering briefings to Virgin Trains and Transpennine Express so that attendees were provided with a warm welcome during their journey and on arrival at Lime Street train station.

Staff also co-ordinated City Star volunteers to give a personal welcome to delegates arriving by train and to provide directions. In addition, the Bureau designed the exhibition stand promoting Liverpool City Region’s advanced manufacturing and engineering offer.

Jennifer Jensen, head of business tourism at Liverpool Convention Bureau, said: “Advanced manufacturing and engineering are two of the city region’s greatest sector strengths, so we were delighted to work closely with the Hennik Group and ACC Liverpool to organise the events from conception to delivery.

“The organisers reported a record year, seeing a significant growth in numbers as well as an overwhelmingly positive response from the attendees. Liverpool is a perfect fit for Digital Manufacturing Week, so we look forward to working with them again on the 2019 instalment.”



This was the second time Smart Factory Expo has taken place at Exhibition Centre Liverpool, after re-locating to the venue in 2017.

The event has grown substantially each year, with plans already underway to expand further. In order to help facilitate this expansion, the Exhibition Centre Liverpool team provided support to the Hennick Group, using its expertise in production, event management and marketing to help deliver a successful event.

The turnaround time from the
main plenary to the dinner was limited but the production team were able to set up quickly and transform the space by using a range of equipment such as additional lighting and star cloth.



Nick Hussey, CEO of Hennik Group, said: “Liverpool is leading the way in advanced manufacturing and in the digitalisation of manufacturing and engineering business. Exhibition Centre Liverpool is therefore the perfect home for our innovation and technology focused exhibition and conference.

“We were extremely impressed with the operational set up and resourcefulness of the entire venue.  Our exhibitors and visitors enjoyed superb on-site services and city amenities, with a whole host of hotel and entertainment options on offer within a short walking distance of the venue.   

“We felt like we were an extended part of Team Liverpool and are confident that its support will help us to expand further in the future.”