Interview Petra Cullmann, Global Portfolio Director Plastics & Rubber at Messe Düsseldorf

Petra Cullmann The K Show maybe a few months away, but already the plastics industry is talking about what they’ll be launching and the best way to communicate their innovations.

Petra Cullmann is the Messe Dusseldorf’s Global Portfolio Director of Plastics and Rubber. We reached out to her to find out her thoughts and insights on K2019, the biggest (Plastics) Show on Earth.

In our digital age, are big trade events such as K still relevant?

Especially in times of change and challenges, it is more important than ever that all players of an industry come together, discuss current developments, get orientation and jointly set the course for the future of their industry. Trade fairs offer the ideal platform for this. The digital world is therefore by no means a substitute for trade fairs. On the contrary, it is increasingly turning trade fairs into indispensable international community meetings that provide orientation in increasingly confusing times and changing markets. In addition, there is no better place than K to see the impact and opportunities of digitalisation within the plastics and rubber industry as this is one of the hot topics of the show (Plastics Industry 4.0).


The plastic industry is under much pressure today. Can K help the industry to project a more positive image?

The plastics industry takes the debate in the media and public regarding plastic waste and microplastics in the environment very seriously. K 2019 addresses the current challenges of our era and especially of its sector, first and foremost with regard to “plastics for sustainable development” and “circular economy”. A lot of our K exhibitors are already making a significant contribution to the circular economy for polymers and this contribution will become even more significant in the future, as the companies are developing precisely the technologies and materials which enable a constantly processing circular economy.

Polymers are a material with a very high intrinsic value. They are responsive and robust, but most important of all they are highly adaptable and can be used to replace many other materials with ideal properties for many applications and the environment as well. Of course, proper and responsible way of handling of the material is very important – during production, during use and - especially - after use. This is why leading manufacturers will make their knowledge and experience regarding this responsible handling, and more specifically regarding the circular economy solutions for plastics, available to a global audience at K 2019. The supporting associations will present their knowledge at K 2019, like Plastics Europe at the K special presentation “Plastics Shape the Future” or the VDMA in their Pavilion, which this year is all about circular economy. K in Düsseldorf is not only the platform where the global plastics industry congregates every three years but also the driver for innovation on the way to a sustainable development today and tomorrow and thus also for a more positive image of the sector.

Participation at K usually represents a significant investment for exhibitors in terms of space, standbuild, advertising, travel and living costs, etc. How can exhibitors maximise the return on their investment?

Trade fairs are platforms that offer an abundance of communication and marketing possibilities. The more intensively and carefully an exhibitor prepares for the show, the more successful it will be. We offer our exhibitors numerous services to help them prepare for K 2019 in the best possible way and to make the show successful. For instance, we have put together a versatile range of effective advertising materials that can be used for visitor marketing and of course we give them support to get in touch with the international trade press. I particularly recommend our exhibitors use our new matchmaking tool. Trade visitors and all exhibitors can already search for contacts and products in the run-up to K. They will be directed straight to the right contact partners and will have the opportunity to get in touch with them and arrange appointments during the event. Access is via the web portal or with the K App for IOS and Android OS.

Major companies used to time product launches and major announcements so they would happen at K. Today there are more localised, conferences/ trade shows. Is K still the most important plastics show in the world and if so why?

Yes, it is – because K in Düsseldorf is the driving force for innovation and international business. Only at K, visitors can experience and compare such a varied range of innovations, solutions and trends and enjoy an intense discourse with experts. Round about 60 countries on the exhibitors’ side and more than 160 countries on the visitors’ are expected at K 2019, and this is unique in the world. No other trade show features such a high density of international product launches and gives such a complete overview of all topics that will dominate the global polymer industry in the next years. In terms of importance, the K plastics flagship fair leaves all other international events of this kind far behind.

A big event like K is not only costly, it also leaves an environmental footprint. What efforts are the organisers making to make the event more sustainable?

Messe Düsseldorf is intensively committed to sustainability and resource conservation. The introduction of our energy management system has made it possible to reduce specific electricity consumption at all trade fairs in Düsseldorf by up to 20% between 2010 and 2017. In addition to a tailor-made recycling programme, we try to keep waste as little as possible and encourage our exhibitors to do likewise. However, since it is not always possible to avoid waste, we provide an excellent infrastructure that guarantees collection, recycling and proper disposal. At K production waste, for example, is collected and transported in 40m³ containers at collection points on the site. All production waste is handed over to a specialized recycling and service company, Remondis and either prepared for recycling or other re-use. During K 2016 e.g., only a small part of the waste was used for thermal re-use.

The run-up to K must be a busy time for you. Can you tell us a bit more about highlights on this journey?

There is a lot to do for the K team! Personally, I am travelling a great deal right now, as we are visiting about 45 countries worldwide in this first half of 2019 so as to present K 2019, network with associations, stakeholders and the press in the respective countries and, ultimately, to attract visitors to Düsseldorf. This is exhausting but also very exciting and it very much helps us stay up-to-date with the international market developments. Here, in Düsseldorf, the focus lies on looking after our exhibitors. The over 3,000 exhibitors from all over the world have a whole host of questions about their participation – like stand construction, power supply, logistics or, to name just a few of their queries. We assist them and take care of their requirements so that the preparation for K 2019 will run as smoothly and hassle-free as possible for them. And – of course - to help to make the show a great success for them!

Petra Cullmann is Messe Düsseldorf’s Global Portfolio Director Plastics & Rubber being responsible for all events in the plastics and rubber industry organized in Düsseldorf and foreign growth markets. Petra has over 20 years of experience in the trade fair industry. During this time she also worked several years in the regional head office of Messe Düsseldorf in Singapore and project managed the First German House at the Olympic Games in Sydney 2000 which was set up in cooperation with Messe Düsseldorf.


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