Well, we passed our visit to the industrial exhibition Blechexpo 2023, and we would like to share our experience and our impressions with you.
A little bit about the travel part
First is the small introduction: the train part from Italy was very bad, so it is better to recommend not using trains for travel now between countries (in particular cross-border trains between Switzerland and Germany). There are several reasons: Deutsche Bahn hasn’t finished its railway construction work yet and has canceled a lot of connections. Together with that, they had an accident, and all trains were stopped between Basel and Karlsruhe. The service also became worse; before, they cared about any delays and made papers if the train delay was more than 2 hours for compensation, and now it seems that nobody cares.
It seems also that Germany is completely today acting with saving energy programs. Roads even in the city are very dark, and we believe it is not good for safety or driving at all. Compared to Italy, it looks bad. And now let us start the story of the exhibition!
We can also note that the Stuttgart fair has the perfect connection for all visitors. It is situated directly near the Stuttgart airport by air and has a fast line and station near the city- and regional trains (S-Bahn) and fast trams (U-Bahn). So it is very comfortable to come from the city, and you cannot be preoccupied with having the hotel directly near the exhibition. Travel time is nearly 30 minutes if you have a hotel somewhere near the city center and a maximum of 50 minutes if you have accommodation somewhere in the north of the city (the exhibition is located in the south).
Introduction into BlechExpo
For researchers, marketing and promotion specialists, and those studying competitions, it is useful to compare participants in BlechExpo 2021 and BlechExpo 2023 by names and companies. We met several Italian companies that are today coming only as visitors to see any new things and to look for competitors. The reasons could be different; some of them didn’t feel positive about the previous exhibitions and were not ready to make new investments. Some of them do not want to participate without a good German dealer.
In the German market (and it is the main one for this exhibition), it is quite important: a lot of people don’t speak English and cannot establish good business communication with you if you do not speak German. For sure, we consider that the salesperson should be German-speaking (and it is better not to speak a second but a native language), so the translator for the exhibition will not be enough. It is an interesting story today that even a lot of big Italian reputable and famous companies with sales worldwide have problems selling on the German market because of language.
The first day and main view of the exhibition look less busy than they were last time. The reasons are different: companies’ participation, visitors, and the main economic situation of the German market. The industry has seen big growth and boosts based on the finalization of COVID restrictions and expectations. Today, the main picture shows that the market is in a declining stage. The biggest player in the German industrial sector is the automotive field, and we all know that it is not in a perfect situation today. In general, people are saying that the companies made all their investments in 2021–2022, and today the request for new machine tools is decreasing more and more.
Exhibition and participants
For us, as bending tooling suppliers, and for our competitors’ participation at the exhibition, it’s always a tricky thing. The actual and valuable customer could only come with the actual request; otherwise, he will forget you after the month of communication and will search the Internet next time he has the necessity. The same is true for our competitors; we see that a lot of them do not participate at all. For sure, we can just suggest and imagine the reasons, but we suppose we can understand them.
We also note the representation of press brake machines, mainly at the exhibition. In our personal opinion, the number of exhibits was also lower than at the previous exhibition.
Before, we wrote an article about our expectations for the exhibition. We suppose that we were correct—we do not see real things that were missing before. Usually all the companies have the same booths and the same machine tools. Moreover, for some big companies, probably the exhibition activity, and this Blechexpo show in particular, is only the show for status. They put fewer machines on the booth and more spaces for visitors, customers, and friends to drink and talk.
All big companies and their possibilities are well known and visible, so they are just participating now, not to pay attention to new products but just to show one more time their name and brand. The world has become more and more digital. There is no more even paper catalog of the exhibition show with the list of participants; it is available online only.
Exhibition for visitors
Now, the things we didn’t note in our articles before. We can tell that Blechexpo is a good opportunity for small companies to pass all the processes they use or want to use. So, for example, the owner, general manager of the company, or engineers can proceed with the full production process of sheet metal, from supplying raw products to the technologies of coating and welding.
There are also exhibitors who supply the sheet metal in sheets or rolls for fabrication. The companies and halls are structured very well and much better than in other exhibitions. It is very bad for exhibitors; they stay around their competitors. But it is very good for all visitors because they can pass everybody based on the technology and equipment they want. So to give you some details, if you own the workshop, you can establish contacts with suppliers of raw materials (or even prefabricated ones like already perforated steel in coils), manufacturers of necessary machine tools, tool production companies, and many more. Also, there are a lot of job shops and manufacturing companies to offer services to produce complete parts or several processes.
Also, BlechExpo inside has another exhibition: Schweisstec—everything dedicated to welding technologies for metal welding. For us, it is not a very interesting topic, but we can understand that welding equipment was very well presented. It was big separate hall with welding machines, equipment, robotic welding, welding automatic cells with positioners, fixtures, etc.
The exhibition changes by time
The second day of the exhibition was more busy, with more people and booth visits. We have also seen several big delegations.
The exhibitions in the past had one good criterion for analysis: the number of signed contracts directly at the exhibition. It means when the customer made a last choice and visited the booth to make the order or preorder. Due to the present internet communication, we believe it doesn’t work anymore—people are just looking, requiring quotations, and talking. But it is hard to understand if the lead came to the deal. Unfortunately, the number of collected business cards doesn’t mean an equal number for the possible orders. And when competitors with equal machine tools stay near, any potential customer will visit both booths to receive two offers.
When we wrote our previous article about BlechExpo, our main question was: will it be something new? Unfortunately not, in particular with our area of interest, which doesn’t include welding, stamping, profile forming, and slitting. Also we noted the decrease of attractive installations directly on the booth with demonstrated movements of machines with installed robots. All companies are trying to run machine tools only in idle mode without material and parts. Just movements in the air. So it is impossible now to have the situation where you will pass through the booth and see the real manufacturing of your products, for example.
At the end and some numbers
Official numbers after the closing of the exhibition: 40,103 trade visitors, 1256 exhibitors from 38 countries, nine fully booked halls. The exhibition is still very big, but it has fewer numbers than BlechExpo 2021, which was completely overcrowded based on people’s feelings about recovering from COVID regulations. Moreover, during the unstable global situation, some countries are completely out of business at BlechExpo, which also affects the final numbers.
Years before, a lot of big companies tried to demonstrate new machine models, new inventions, or developments directly at the exhibition as the first point of view and public presentation. Now probably this is over as well.
At the end? BlechExpo was not a bad but ordinary exhibition. It is quite important for the German market as one of the biggest sheet metal fabrication centers, with easy access and the possibility to view everything you want. But we noted that even some big companies missed the show. It means that visitors will not see all the machine tools that are presented and available on the market.