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Trade Show Material Handling

What is Material Handling or Drayage? Are they different? The same? What exactly do they involve, and why should you as an exhibitor care about them?

To clarify, “material handling” and “drayage” are interchangeable terms. Both encapsulate the transport, safeguarding, and storage of exhibition materials from your shipping provider to your exhibit space at the venue. A simple way to think of this is as “last-mile” transportation. As such, it’s also an integral and unavoidable part of any successful exhibition experience.

Official Services Providers are contracted to offer these services to exhibitors for a certain fee. They include: 

  • Unloading shipped items at the receiving dock either at the advance warehouse or at the show site
  • Storing goods as per the show manual until the exhibitor move-in commences
  • Transporting goods from the loading area to the booth space
  • Removal and temporary storage of shipping containers during the show 
  • Returning these containers after the show concludes 
  • Transferring packed materials to the loading area
  • Loading items into your carrier's delivery vehicle for their return trip

Why Do Exhibitors Need Material Handling?
Convention centers and hotels often lack the facilities, equipment, and manpower necessary to receive and store exhibit freight. With the rigid timelines associated with move-ins and move-outs due to concurrent events at the same facility, professional material handling becomes imperative. 

Large shows resemble intricate cities that are set up within mere days and dismantled just as quickly. Such a setup requires a significant amount of logistics, labor, and skilled workers with forklifts. To ensure the seamless flow of freight, the show management engages a material handling contractor to coordinate, manage, and receive shipments related to the show.

Why Opt for Shipping to an Advance Warehouse?
Shipping to an advance warehouse, although slightly more expensive, offers several advantages.

Here are a few benefits to advance shipping and storage:

  • Weather: Regardless of the time of year, weather unpredictability could disrupt your freight shipments. Early delivery to the advance warehouse safeguards your booth and materials from unforeseen weather issues, saving you potential extra freight costs.
  • Logistics: Shipping your freight directly to the show site too far in advance can complicate your setup schedule unnecessarily. Sure, your freight may arrive during the accepted delivery window, but it could be queued behind dozens of other trucks at the loading dock. This delay could result in additional costs, potentially pushing your shipment and exhibit installation labor into overtime.

How Can You Minimize Material Handling Costs?
Exhibitors are sometimes surprised by material handling costs but by planning ahead and following a few tips, you can save significant money.

  • First, it's crucial to comply with move-in dates and times. Being mindful of specific move-in/move-out timings and advance warehouse dates can help you avoid additional fees for off-target deliveries or timings outside warehouse operational hours.
  • Second, packing your booth freight efficiently is key. Consider if your items can fit in one or two crates or if it's beneficial to ship oddly shaped items on top of your crate. Remember that shipping companies charge a 'dimensional weight' for bulky freight. Our team is well-versed in packing and arranging shipment details for your rental booth.
  • Finally, reducing the weight of your shipment where possible can also save costs. For some shows, GES offers a turnkey rental booth with custom fabric graphics called Exhibit Systems+. In other shows, GES provides flooring, furnishings, and booth accessories such as counters, shelves, hanging signs, and displays. Renting items from GES can significantly cut down your shipping and material handling costs.

Focused on Exhibitor Success 
Helping exhibitors have a successful show is our top priority.  If you’re looking for a partner to help with exhibit planning details, download the exhibitor budget worksheet and continue reading our next article in this exhibitor roadmap.

If you are exhibiting at a GES show, click here to find your show and click on "Shipping, Drayage, and Materials Handing to view specifics on deadlines and costs. Also look for discount flooring and furniture packages as well as Exhibit Systems+, trade show booth rentals with custom fabric graphics.