For 16 years, EMCON has been showcasing engineering and manufacturing excellence in the North East and beyond.

And Bignall Group, a renowned designer and developer of light engineered products, has exhibited at the event every year since 2008, when it was known as Durham Oktoberfest.

For the Shildon-based family company – which includes the SMC, Cobtec, Masterlube and ReverseAlarm divisions – EMCON is an essential part of business life in North East England.

Bignall Group – growing with EMCON

“The first event was a great success,” says John Bignall, founder of Bignall Group and a familiar face at EMCON. “It’s grown every year from that.”

John has certainly seen some changes to EMCON since its inception back in 2008, with the introduction of new zones and a maintenance forum. 2024’s EMCON, which will be held on September 12 at Rainton Arena at Houghton-le-Spring.

However, throughout the last 16 years, John says that some things have stayed the same…

“There’s a lovely, friendly culture within EMCON and you’re always talking to lots of people,” he says. “Everyone is very approachable. I’ve been to a lot of trade shows, but nothing has that sort of culture.

“It’s a great way for companies to introduce themselves to exhibiting, but just as good for the seasoned exhibitors out there to spread awareness of their products within northern supply chains.”

So how has Bignall Group benefited from EMCON?

“It’s a North East-centric show and it’s a great opportunity to meet and network within the region,” says John. “Over the years, Bignall Group has won business for our subcontract machine shop at EMCON. However, the event has also helped us to reinforce relationships with both clients and suppliers alike.”

John, who has been at the helm of Bignall Group for more than 40 years, also points to EMCON’s wider role in North East England’s engineering and manufacturing community.

He explains: “EMCON provides a forum for people to meet and exchange knowledge and skills.

“If you want to work within the North East, EMCON provides a great platform to meet with and locate businesses and opportunities.”

As well as being a regular participant in EMCON, Bignall Group has a long association with EMN, and is one of its founding companies.

John has seen the network grow over the years and is passionate about the benefits it can bring to North East England’s engineering and manufacturing sector.

Bignall Group’s founder suggests that EMN can provide businesses with operational advice and access to support that SMEs may often not have access to.

He also sees EMN as a place where companies can share insight and advice with each other.

“Many other networks end up as quite a specific or targeted organisations due to their key members or businesses,” John concludes. “However EMN – with its broad approach to engineering and manufacturing across all sectors – remains a diverse network which can open up opportunities that you may never have considered in the past.”

EMCON takes place on September 12, 2024 at Rainton Arena, Houghton-le-Spring.

To register for your free place at EMCON and for more information, visit

To join EMN and for more information on membership, visit