Hillhead rocks

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The recession-hit construction industry received its fair share of publicity but the recent Hillhead event defied the economic crisis, registering positive feedback and record numbers of exhibitors…

Hillhead is the big shop window for the quarrying, recycling and heavy construction industries. Taking place at Tarmac’s Hillhead Quarry in Buxton, the countries leading plant, equipment and materials suppliers gather in a working quarry to pit their wares. But what makes an outdoor exhibition in a quarry such an appealing prospect and how does all the plant and machinery basically get into a large hole inside a hill?

The drive up toward Hillhead gives little away of what lies ahead. There’s only the sight of an occasional quarry building and the escarpments of white limestone against the green rolling hills of the White Peak. Everything becomes a little clearer and more interesting upon turning into the Tarmac facility where the parking marshals direct you towards the car parks. At this point a 4×4 would have been useful, as the road steadily climbs up the largest hill in sight, winding its way to the very top where, inside a hole in the summit, is just one of the event’s five car parks.

Hillhead 2010 attracted the highest number of exhibitors in the show’s history – 461 historically a number that has fluctuated between 400 and 432. Despite the recession, the 2010 event attracted 15,500 visitors across the three days and from around the globe. Clearly the industry was heading out of recession, as the continual buzz of helicopters dropped off visitors.

In 2009 the show was cancelled because of the effects of the credit crunch, which has seen the contraction of the quarrying sector by 30-40 per cent. In recent years the other target industries for the show – construction and recycling – have also been affected by the recession but also now seem to be emerging.

In January, organisers of the SED construction equipment exhibition decided to postpone this year’s event due to the current economic situation. And more recently, under no less unfortunate circumstances, the ban on air travel caused by the Icelandic volcanic ash impacted the final figures for visitor numbers at Bauma 2010.

Build and they will come

So, how did Hillhead 2010 fare under a climate of global economic uncertainty? With every square metre of exhibition space fully booked, the event registered an all-time high for the overall number of exhibitors and, with no less than 80 items of plant and equipment on demonstration, Hillhead once again underlined its status as the world’s biggest working quarry show.

The exhibition’s commercial manager, Richard Bradbury, recalled: “After filling the main pavilion in February, momentum continued to build into the spring with the registration pavilion doubling in size to satisfy additional indoor demand, while the last remaining outdoor plots were filled.”

Importantly, preparations for the event went smoothly and according to plan, to ensure Hillhead 2010 opened bang on schedule.

The logistics required to deliver Hillhead are challenging, pre build-up for 2010 began 19 days before the opening day, with some large exhibitors allowed to start two weeks out. And, the first item on all planning meetings is safety.

During the opening morning, 10 years of success in reducing death and injury in Great Britain’s quarries was marked in a special event on the shared Tarmac/QMJ Publishing stand, to which senior industry executives, union officials and other key stakeholders were invited.

Groundwork

With health and safety a hot topic it is no wonder that the HSE take a keen interest with the demo area being defined as a quarry so the organisers have to work within the appropriate regulations. All of this is kept in check by the organiser employing skilled, experienced and very helpful safety managers. The operations manager holds the NEBOSH certificate and the site manager has worked in the quarrying industry for many years. Risk assessments are required from all outdoor exhibitors and space only Pavilion exhibitors – there is a lot of help provided with health and safety during the build.

There are only two roads in and out of the quarry so all truck deliveries have to be carefully scheduled. The ground is very uneven so there is a lot of site work to be done before the build can commence and because of the ground conditions any holes required for temporary buildings, flagpoles etc have to be drilled with earthmoving machinery hired in to do site work.

The organisers attitude is very much “can-do” and they helped exhibitors and contractors as much as possible, allowing exhibitors to choose their own suppliers. There are no rules about having to buy food from tied outlets, or having to use any of the recommended suppliers, which reduces costs for exhibitors.

A key attraction at Hillhead is the plethora of live action that takes place in the event’s three dedicated demonstration areas. In particular, the live demonstrations at the face end of the showground benefited greatly from the creation of a new box-cut section together with a 25 per cent gradient ramp leading to a new bench. This not only provided a suitable platform for a 46-tonne crawler excavator and JCB to do their work, the latter feeding material into the latest road-going trommel screen, but also provided a new and impressive backdrop for the wide range of loaders and haulers being put through their paces in the face area.