Since 2011, you have been the captain of the DREMA ship, which is known almost all over the world. How does it feel to control such a large project?
Andrzej Półrolniczak: It has just been 10 years since I took the helm of DREMA, although my cooperation with DREMA started much earlier. From the perspective of these years, I can say that nowadays the ship metaphor is extremely accurate. DREMA is one of the oldest trade fairs organised by MTP Poznań Expo. The beginnings date back to the end of the seventies and never in history have we experienced a period in which trade fairs were suspended or subject to specific legal rigours. You could say that we have been sailing the rough waters of reality for over a year. The relationships with our partners, exhibitors, industry organisations and the media, built over many years, help us face these challenges presented by the pandemic reality in a special way. Our motto: “We create the future of the industry” requires activity in many areas to make DREMA a litmus test for the wood and furniture industry. For these reasons, the fair is not only a meeting place for exhibitors and visitors. It also includes congresses of the wood and furniture industry, conferences, special show zones: DREMA for Children, DREMA Tools, DREMA Hobby, DREMA Design, Innovative Kitchen, Tapicernia 4.0, Skills Training Grounds, the third Meeting of Women in the Furniture Industry or the Polish Championship in Nail Hammering, which this year will be held for the twentieth time. In addition, the competition for young people “Conjured from Wood” and the presentation of the final works of the fifth edition of the competition “Build a bicycle from wood” organised by the Student Scientific Circle of Wood Technologists of the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology of the University of Life Sciences in Poznań. Each of these events can be an independently functioning project. Their proper organisation requires months of preparations and the involvement of many partners and associates in their implementation, whom I would like to thank today for their great support. Without our partners the realisation of such a large project, which is DREMA, would be impossible. I am very pleased that we have managed to gather such woodworking enthusiasts around this fair, thanks to whom we are one of the largest fair events in the woodworking industry.
The first exhibition of woodworking tools and machines was held at the end of the seventies of the last century. How DREMA changed over the years?
A.P.: The DREMA fair started as one of the first thematic showrooms, separated from the June fair, which dominated the Polish trade fair space at that time. These were typical fair events where exhibitors, mainly from Poland, presented their machines and devices. The green colour of the machines was dominant. The operation of a large number of private carpentry workshops in the 1980s favoured the sale of a large number of machines on the Polish market. Poland was also at that time a large exporter of machinery and equipment. Over the years, as our economic reality has changed, our fairs have changed. World brands that still operate on the Polish market began to appear at DREMA. The programme of events was enriched with conferences and congresses, then special spaces appeared, especially live furniture factories. Over the years, DREMA has built its brand on the international arena. Since 2007, we have been on the global list of over a dozen trade fairs, supported by the European Federation of Machine Manufacturers EUMABOIS. We are at the forefront of the global ranking of trade fairs for the woodworking machinery and tools industry. It is also an obligation for the DREMA brand to support the development of the Polish wood and furniture industry in this difficult pandemic period.
Let’s go back to last year’s edition for a moment. How was it received?
A.P.: In 2019, we adopted a new sales strategy, which allowed us to fill almost all the halls by February 2020. Furnica and Sofab have become showrooms and an integral part of DREMA. We planned a very rich programme of events and had a lot of ideas to implement. The lockdown introduced in March and prolonged uncertainty meant that the final shape of DREMA 2020 was decided in recent months. Thanks to the enormous commitment of the entire team, our partners and exhibitors, we organised a safe and valuable event, although different in size from what we were used to in previous years. Nevertheless, the last edition was unique and will always remain in our memory. On the last day of the fair, during the inauguration of the Eumabois Congress, Jürgen Köppel, President of Eumabois said: “Congratulations to DREMA for organising a safe and successful fair in this difficult period.” Throughout the fair, we collected very positive feedback from the exhibitors. I am very happy because as much as 98 percent of exhibitors declared their participation in DREMA 2021, and looking at the applications, we can see that these were not just empty promises. Moreover, many companies that withdrew at the last minute admit that they regretted the decision.
How are the preparations for DREMA 2021 going?
A.P.: The need for live meetings is undeniable, which is why we are consistently maintaining the course on September 14-17, 2021. Along with the easing of restrictions, there is a visible tendency for trade fairs to return to fixed dates in the schedule. Even Ligna starting 2023 will be held in May. I hope that − just like last year − the information about the unfreezing of the exhibition industry will be announced at the beginning of June, which will allow us to intensify our promotional activities. We are in constant contact with exhibitors. Every day we receive new reports or assurances about the participation of the largest brands. We’re working on the programme of events. However, we reckon with the fact that many final decisions will be made during the holidays. In addition to the restrictions resulting from the global policy of many international companies and the ban on their participation in fairs, the easing of restrictions, a fixed September date, moving the Ligna fair to another date, the growing number of vaccinated people and increasing collective immunity speak in favour of participation in the DREMA fair, and allow us to be optimistic about the future.
What are the biggest challenges for the wood and furniture industry today?
A.P.: The biggest challenges for the wood and furniture industry today are as follows: rising production costs, costs of materials and raw materials, rising salaries and labour costs, flexibility of production processes are challenges that − especially in this difficult pandemic period − set the basis for creating new technological processes and improving the existing ones in terms of investment and organisation. These topics will be discussed during the congresses of the wood and furniture industry taking place during DREMA.
What do exhibitors and visitors expect from the September fair?
A.P.: Meetings, exchange of knowledge, discussions, news, testing machines and technological lines, and sometimes just the proverbial touch of the machine, the pleasant noise of working machines and the smell of wood. Trade fairs are to provide everything that virtual meetings lack. DREMA’s strength was and is creating space for meetings and presentations of the latest technologies for the wood and furniture industry. Expectations are also closely related to the situation on the market, which even forces acceleration of automation and digitisation of production plants. Therefore Industry 4.0 is an inseparable topic of DREMA.
Will it be safe at the fair?
A.P.: We are in a good position because we can rely on the experience of last year’s edition. The epidemic conditions have improved significantly, but as organisers, we do not forget about special security measures. The standards set by the Chief Sanitary Inspector and state authorities, which we implemented last year on the premises of MTP Poznan Expo, i.e. online sale of tickets, non-contact temperature measurement, adequate space per participant, epidemic surveys or the limit of people staying in the room at the same time, allowed us to organise many safe events. We are prepared to meet the existing and introduce new recommendations so that exhibitors, visitors, as well as service staff feel safe in the exhibition space.
In what form will the next edition of DREMA be held?
A.P.: Listening to the voices of the national delegates present in September 2020 at the Eumabois Federation Congress, who strongly emphasised the need for face-to-face business contacts; taking into account the promotional potential of live presentations of woodworking machines and tools, and the expectations of fair participants, we have decided that the next edition of the fair in September 2021 will be held in the traditional formula, while maintaining the highest safety standards. Traditionally, the fair will be accompanied by presentations of machines and technological lines in motion, special spaces, introducing various technological processes, such as DREMA Tools, DREMA Hobby, Skills Training Grounds, demonstration factories, the Conjured from Wood competition, Polish Championship in Nail Hammering, DREMA Design zone, congresses and scientific and technical conferences. Due to the variety of events that take place simultaneously during DREMA, we would not be able to fully present everything in the online formula.
In 2021, MTP Poznan Expo celebrates its 100th anniversary. Participation in the fair that will take place this year is an opportunity that happens once in a hundred years!
A.P.: DREMA has many friends and enthusiasts, people and companies for whom the September meeting is the most important event of the wood and furniture industry of the year. A few days ago, on May 28, the entire Grupa MTP began celebrating the centenary of MTP Poznań Expo. Thus, all events taking place in 2021 and until May 2022 are an occasion to celebrate together. DREMA has been co-creating the history of MTP Poznan Expo for over 40 years, therefore the September edition will include jubilee accents. So I invite you to a business meeting and a joint celebration.