EuroBLECH—It's a good thing

October 30, 2008
By: Dan Davis

Well, I"m barely alive and well after a weeklong trip to EuroBLECH in Hanover, Germany. Tell someone who doesn"t have to travel a lot that you are going to a foreign country, and it sounds exotic. Only after those same people have walked a thousand steps through slow-moving airport security; crowded airplanes; musty hotels; incredibly large exhibit halls; and damp, cold weather in a foreign country will they finally understand that a work trip is a lot of work.

Did I mention my cold? As my mom used to tell my dad, You complain about that cold like you"re giving birth. So it"s time to suck it up.

Having said all of that, the trip was an incredible sight to behold. More than 1,520 exhibitors were spread out over eight exhibition halls. That"s 943,995 square feet of exhibition space—more than twice the size of the 2007 FABTECH® International & AWS Welding Show held in Chicago.

Of course, this isn"t in one building. The exhibition halls are located on the city"s fairgrounds, which contain many other exhibition halls. In fact, while the world"s largest sheet metal exposition was under way Oct. 21-25, a German equestrian event was being held simultaneously. And there was plenty of room to spare.

The tradeshow experience in Europe is somewhat different than it is in North America. First, visitors come from all over the world, so many different languages are spoken all over the show. Surprisingly, English is well-understood by most exhibitors at the show, if not the support staff in the restaurants and information booths. Second, exhibitors aren"t just at the show to move machinery, but to celebrate relationships with customers and potential ones. Most of the larger booths have bars and plenty of tables set up so that people can come in and enjoy an espresso or a beer. It"s nice to have that chance to catch your breath after walking from the stamping hall to the flexible sheet metal working halls.

Here are some other observations that I made while at the show:

  • It"s kind of like a European auto show. If you visit, you are likely to see some metal fabricating technologies that you may eventually see in North America or never see. European shops are much more open to more advanced—and usually more expensive—technologies because they have to compete with their own version of low-cost competitors from Eastern Europe and Africa. But if you like to see new metal fabricating technology, this may be worth the trip.

  • You will never see more machine tool builders in your life than at EuroBLECH. If you think you know all the players that manufacture press brakes, for instance, think again. I counted at least eight Turkish machine tool builders that made press brakes, and I didn"t see all the Turkish companies at the show. That was only Turkish companies. It"s a big world out there, and a lot of press brake manufacturers live in it.

  • EuroBLECH is primarily a German show, but more international visitors continue to come every two years. Show organizers said they had 800 U.S. visitors at the show this year, an 8 percent increase over 2006. I even met one metal fabricator who used his vacation time to visit the show he had heard all about all of these years and do some other sightseeing around Germany. Not a bad idea.

  • Everyone in Europe has an opinion on our presidential elections. You have to appreciate their depth of knowledge and passion. Sometimes you need a thick skin as well.

I"ll have a brief write-up about the event in the January 2009 edition of The FABRICATOR. North American fabricators won"t learn any secrets to unlocking unlimited success, but they might learn that their vocation is one shared by many others around the world. We live in a global community today, and it"s good to acknowledge that truth.

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8281