The furniture and joinery manufacturing industry effectively only has one biennial UK event worth mentioning, the impressive W Exhibition, now owned by Montgomery Events, and the 2016 iteration kicks off in October at the NEC in Birmingham. But before then of course, there’s a host of events around the world to inspire and inform visitors from the furniture and joinery manufacturing communities.

This article has a dual purpose, insofar as it of course features trade events where suppliers of machinery and equipment, components, materials and fittings present their latest products and innovations to the sector. I also make mention of key events where the finished product is shown as I believe these should form part of a manufacturer’s thinking as they help to confirm or dismiss trends which helps steer product development knowledge.

So, starting in January, the equally impressive imm cologne show takes place from 18-24th January and is a cornerstone of the Cologne Interior Design Week. For those unfamiliar with Cologne’s capacious multi-level halls, the show is enormous. I would recommend two days to begin to see the breadth of product on show from top designers and brands to artisans and Far Eastern suppliers. In addition, there is a considerable live programme including lectures, talks and workshops under the Living Interiors concept which runs for the duration of the event. Off campus, the famous Passagen serves as the ideal antidote to life in the halls with a number of boutiques, galleries and designers' studios opening their doors to visitors.

The January Furniture Show at Birmingham’s NEC is the UK’s defacto event for assessing what manufacturers and suppliers are selling. Of course, to effectively supply any marketplace, it is crucial to be aware of the commercial realities of what is currently popular and where any gaps might be. Held from 24-27th January, the event is 25% bigger this year featuring around 450 exhibitors and is without doubt the leading event for UK furniture and furnishings retailers.

North of the border in Scotland is another well thought-of furniture show, North Point, which takes place in Edinburgh’s Highland Hall from 31st January to 2nd February.

From the 2-5th February, the 37th edition of Fimma-Maderalia will take place in Valencia, Spain alongside the country’s top furniture show, Habitat. Fimma Maderalia covers machinery and technology as well as fittings and components.

Another early February event to be receommended is the popular Surface Design Show held on the 10th and 11th of the month (with a preview evening on the 9th from 6-9pm). Based in London at the Business Design Centre, SDS is bright and buzzy show full of creative products and concepts for designers looking for surfacing options, techniques and ideas. One of the event highlights is the Pechakucha evening at 6pm on the Wednesday of the show - it's a speedy presentation event formed of nine presenters each showing 20 slides for so seconds each. It's a fun, informal event, and the organier's providing free beer to boot! The event has the requisite seminars and is boutique in its presentation style making it a digestable day visit.

Moving into the middle of February, a show this magazine has supported for many years, ZOW, takes place in Bad Salzuflen, Germany from 16-19th February. Whilst it is fair to say that the event last year was interesting in some ways, it lacked a little finesse compared to, say, three or four years ago. The 2016 event promises a return of the innovative products from exhibitors visitors had become attuned to. The event’s customary overview of lightweight panel technology is always a highlight, and the spectacle of a 25m table has to be witnessed.

The new organisers have promised even better conditions than normal with a completely new look this year featuring new lighting and flooring throughout. Also being promised is a special exhibition of Light&Function, showcasing the functional integration of acoustics, lighting and media technology as well as touch, sensory and sound functions.

The British Furniture Manufacturers' New London Fabric Show takes place at Chelsea Football Club's Stamford Bridge ground in London. The event features upholstery fabrics from around 30 national and international mills. According to the organiser, there will be cottons, linens, velvets, chenilles, bouclés, lining fabrics and tweeds – everything from mattress ticking to light and heavy duty jacquards will be on display. In addition, leathers, faux leathers and synthetic fabrics will be on show. The majority of the mills exhibiting have their own in-house design teams and offer buyers the opportunity to customise their fabric choices, ensuring exclusivity in designs and colour combinations. Both domestic and contract fabrics will be on show.

From 6-9th March this year KBB Birmingham returns to the NEC once again with the promise of more than 400 kitchen bedroom and bathroom suppliers from the UK and overseas. The biggest sector of the event is kitchens, with around 300 brands represented and as always, KBB is a good place for networking in what is, a fairly tight-knit group of manufacturers and suppliers.

Another German event which is particularly of interest to the woodworking and joinery communities is HolzHandwerk and Fensterbau Frontale, two co-located and concurrent events held in Nuremberg from 16-19th March. Billed as the European trade fair for machine technology, equipment and supplies for the wood craft, HolzHandwerk and Fensterbau Frontale focus on processing and working the living material wood. Of course, new trends and innovations for the woodworking and wood processing sector are promised – from sawing and grinding machines to woodworking machines or extraction systems.

In recent years, this biennial event has matured into a world-class platform attracting over 1300 exhibitors with more than 100,000 trade visitors making the pilgrimage in 2014. The organiser is attempting to avoid rush hour trafffic by changing the opening hours of the even to 10am-7pm Wednesday-Friday and 10am-5pm on the Saturday. Although Nuremberg is not particularly well served by air and the prices of the hotels are on the high side, for those in windows and doors business, or woodworkers and joinery companies expecailly, this is an event worth trying to get to.

If it’s April, it must be Milan! From 12-17th April, the Salone del Mobile, plus the accompanying International Bathroom Exhibition and EuroCucina events, takes place at Rho Pero, Milan in Italy, and it’s the biggest event of its kind in the world.

The main event at Rho is billed as the ‘global benchmark for the home furnishing sector’ and indeed in many ways the show-stopping, professional, high-end designer brands alongside the students and other creatives of SaloneSatellite, Salone del Mobile is a wonderful experience for anyone looking looking for inspiration for contemporary design.

But for many visitors, this is only the appetiser – the main course being the various zones in and around Milan which are used by various groups and cliques to present their own ideas and products to the design community at large – there is so much to experience around Tortona, Brera, Ventura and the various other districts to recommend Milan as very useful for furniture designers and manufacturers.

Another very good reason to be in Italy in April is the all-new event IDEA – Innovation Design Expo Area – to be held in Bergamo pefectly timed to be concurrent with the Milan Design Week. Launched by the ever-youthful and inspiring Romano Ugolini, describes the essence of IDEA: “One of the primary objectives of this new event is to concentrate the latest developments and new applications of the furniture industry.”

The event features machinery and materials for furntiure and joinery designers and manufacturers and there is a very well conceived programme of talks and presentations covering a wide range of topics deemed pertinent to modern-day manufacturing such as Industry 4.0, zero joint edgbanding, nesting, nano technology, robotics, lightweight panel technology and tool-less assembly.

Towards the end of the month, one of my favourite London design events, Clerkenwell Design Week, takes place in the east of the city in one of the most concentrated areas where architects and designers are located in the world. The main hub used to be at the Farmiloe Building, aka the Batman Building, so-named as it served as a popular film set for the recent Batman films and for Christopher Nolan’s Inception, and David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, but I digress. Now that the Farmiloe is being redeveloped into offices, the CDW organiser was forced to adopt a new multi-site approach to the exhibition which will continue to exist in harmony with the myriad showrooms, architectural practices and galleries which open their doors from 24-26th May.

Among the special installations and fringe events, among which Design Fields located at Spa Fields on Skinner Street, Platform in the House of Detention and Detail at the Order of St John, British Collection and Project at St James Church Garden will provide a considerable range of novelties and innovative solutions and concepts for visitors.

It is clear and present, Clerkenwell has developed into a super-impressive event, a mini-Milain in if you like – but more absorbable.

Biennially in May, the Italian industry’s established event for woodworking technology and components for the furniture industry takes place in Milan from 24-28th of the month. Xylexpo is an enduring event which has had its ups and downs in recent times following its move from its previous city-centre location. But now the show has settled down well and visitors are getting the most from the intelligent layout of the show where technology is located alongside the appropriate semi-finished products to make it a zonally organised show.

The organiser is confident that the 2016 iteration will be an excellent event, worthy of attending. Lorenzo Primultini, president of the exhibition, says: “We really feel that the 2016 Xylexpo will be an essential stage in the success story of our exhibition – we are doing all we can to create a big event, an excellent review of innovative technology featuring all the leading actors of this industry. And I am proud to say that all Italian companies will be there!”

In London in September, there is the London Design Festival which runs from 17-25th September across the capital, featuring a host of creative events that reinforce the global significance of the UK as a hub of design. Also during September, the UK’s stand-alone event for the bed industry, The Bed Show, takes place from 20th-21st at The International Centre, Telford with a good many fittings and components providers exhibiting alongside many of the top bed producing companies.

But the high point of 2016 for the furniture and joinery industry is the W16 held from 2nd-5th October at the NEC in Birmingham. Formerly known as ASFI-Woodmex, W16 continues the 40 years’ heritage with an updated event from new owner, Montgomery. W16 is the country’s biggest event for live machinery demonstrations with all the ancillary technology and products required to run a modern, efficient manufacturing premises. Alongside the machinery and equipment is the fittings and components side of the show with a raft of creative solutions with which to develop new products to take to the market. W16 is the only UK event where visitors can compare, side by side, competitors’ technology and products en masse. If readers can only afford the time to attend one show properly this year, it can only be W16, the best UK show for our sector, bar none.

New features announced so far this year include: Innovation Zone, a showcase of the newest products in the market and an opportunity to speak to the suppliers to understand them in more detail; Best Practice Zone, a series of talks providing an opportunity to get practical advice and information for SMEs straight from the industry; and Apprenticeship Competition Zone, taking a closer look at the training and education given to this industry.

For a full view of events for the furniture and joinery industry, go to our Industry Events page.

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