The fabric of America has been woven by exploration. We as a people are culturally attuned to seek out new land, new opportunity, new technologies. Perhaps it's this cultural imperative that leads us atPM Engineerto do all we can, with little self-interest at stake, to get people in the plumbing and hydronic heating industry to pay attention to the world's largest plumbing-heating exposition, held every other year in Frankfurt, Germany.

The so-called ISH Show (the letters derive from International Sanitation & Heating, which have the same initials in German as in English) is filled with products, technologies and techniques much different than American plumbing engineers are used to. Arguments rage about whether the various materials and merchandise displayed at ISH represent superiority over American ways. Whichever way you lean, there can be no doubt industry visitors see things there they've never seen here.

Partners in Progress

We atPMEthink this is all to the good. It's why for three out of the last four shows, we have helped to sponsor group tours to expose citizens of the U.S. plumbing-heating industry to the cosmopolitan way of life represented by ISH. Next year's tour is going to be bigger and better than ever. We are excited about the package we've put together for ISH 2001 (March 27-April 1)-and we are especially thrilled to be putting on this tour with two world-class partners, Ecoflex and the Mechanical Contractors Association of America.

Ecoflex is the Uponor subsidiary that produces preinsulated, labor-saving pipe for a variety of PHC applications. (Uponor is a Swedish company that also counts Wirsbo and Stadler among its subsidiaries.) Ecoflex's product has been put to extensive use on the other side of the Atlantic, and they have spent the last couple of years pioneering it in the American market. They collaborated with us in bringing along several dozen visitors to the 1999 ISH Show, and one could not ask for better teammates. They are a forward-thinking company that epitomizes what ISH has to offer.

This time around we're especially pleased also to be teaming up with MCAA to promote the tour to their members. MCAA is one of the classiest trade associations I've ever been around. Just about every project they undertake turns out to be a winner, and MCAA members include some of the most progressive, capable mechanical contractors in the world. With their help, I have a feeling we are going to fill next year's tour to capacity. (You don't have to be an MCAA member to attend, however.)

Business and Pleasure

Details about this tour can be found on the Ecoflex Web site at In brief, the itinerary includes a variety of daily entertainment and a side trip to one of Europe's star attractions, the city of Prague. If it's a junket you're looking for, this will be a good one.

However, one thing I've learned from our previous excursions is that the vast majority of people who accompany us to ISH find the show itself to be the main attraction. It's almost impossible to over-hype the dazzling array of product and technologies on display there. No American trade show compares. ASHRAE comes closest, but is only about a fourth the size of ISH and skewed toward warm air technology. When it comes to plumbing, hydronic heating, plumbing tools, piping and related technologies, the size and scope of ISH takes every visitor's breath away. Some 2,000 exhibitors from scores of countries occupy more than 750,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space in 20 different halls. Upwards of 230,000 visitors attend, representing almost all of the world's developed nations.

Several people on last year's PME/Ecoflex tour were so impressed with the show they skipped the final day's excursion to the fabled German city of Heidelberg just to spend an extra day touring the exhibits. Personally, I would not want to miss this year's trip to Prague, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of our travelers do just that in order to spend an extra day at the show.

Besides size and scope, the ISH exposition differs from American trade shows in the conduct of business. It's not just a bunch of pretty products on display. Most booths have areas set aside for discussing business or actually booking order-as well as refreshment areas that serve food and drink to visitors. Some large companies have display areas spanning upwards of 10,000 sq. ft. and feature sit-down restaurants. Many of the companies exhibiting at ISH would love to crack the American market but don't know how to do so. On previous tours, some of our compatriots ended up cutting deals with foreign companies to bring their products to these shores.

Even if you don't find such commercial opportunity at ISH, I've never known a visitor to walk away from the show unsatisfied. If you are a plumbing and heating professional, going to ISH is like a pilgrimage to Mecca. You owe it to yourself to attend this show. I guarantee you'll find it worthwhile.

You can check out more information on the ISH 2001 Grand Tour at the Ecoflex Web site, For registration information, contact Anne Coffelt at or (707) 939-9410.