SteelFab 2011, the region's largest sourcing platform for the steel working industry, concluded on a successful note indicating a recovery in the regional economy and reflecting a positive optimism for the year ahead. The four day event that exhibited more than 600 brands recorded an increase in the number of visitors by 16.85 percent compared to last year.
The steel industry, which entered the recession in the best of health and took the worst of dips, has emerged as a leading indicator of what lies ahead. The seventh edition of SteelFab, featured 202 direct exhibitors this year, against 183 last year, registering an increase of nearly 10 per cent. The trade registration figures for 2011 stand as 6,667 visitors, against the 5,706 total trade registrations in the 2010 edition - which is an overall increase of 16.85%.
SteelFab 2011 was held at Expo Centre Sharjah from January 17 to 20, 2011 and was organised by Expo Centre Sharjah with the support from the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
STEELFAB 2011 - VISITORS
A total of 6,667 trade visitors visited the SteelFab 2011 show. A further 400 visitors visiting the show included the opening ceremony party, trade consulates and embassies, press and guests accompanying trade visitors.
Regional industry took advantage of the close proximity of the show to ensure a visit. Visitor numbers from the Gulf Co-operation Council states rose by 18% as compared to SteelFab 2010. The rise was significant for visitors from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Overall visitors from the GCC countries were up by 18 %.
Visitor numbers from other Middle East countries (Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen) remained constant for the show. A marked increase in visitors from Central Asia (Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan) and India were reported at the show.
Visitation from countries such as Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Ukraine indicated the acceptance of the show as a regional sourcing platform.
This proved that the visitor footprint of SteelFab is expanding constantly, and is covering the evolving African economies and Central Asian countries. This also reflected the wider acceptance of SteelFab as the "must-visit" trade show for metal manufacturing and steel fabrication.
STEELFAB 2011 - EXHIBITORS
Exhibitors were quite satisfied with the results of the show. The overall feedback was that the regional market was again investing in projects and was serious on enquiring and buying new machinery. This resulted in several machines being sold and orders initiated, pending finalization.
For the first time, Germany had an official pavilion at SteelFab, featuring ten German manufacturers and an information booth.
The German Engineering Federation (VDMA), along with AUMA - the Federation of German Trade Fair Industry -- and the Federal Ministry of Economics & Technology organised the official German joint companies' exhibition at SteelFab 2011.
For the first-time, SteelFab featured a pavilion of Taiwanese machinery manufacturers, The pavilion was organized by TAMI- Taiwan association of machinery industry.
The Taiwanese pavilion featured products ranging from hydraulic presses, deep-drawing presses, turret punch presses, press brakes, shears, welding machines, welding guns, abrasives, fastening systems to milling machines and carbide tooling. "We are pleased to put together this collection of Taiwanese manufacturers for the first-time for SteelFab 2011" said Mr. Gary Yang, Director of Exhibition Division, TAMI. "We have been monitoring the SteelFab exhibition, and have identified it as the best regional platform for the TAMI members in metal-forming machinery and related sectors. We look forward to receiving the Middle East visitors and are confident that they will find good results with our exhibitors" he added.
Another first was a used machinery pavilion organized by Machinery Trade International.
"We are optimistic that there will be an upward trend in the industry this year," said Hani Arwani, sales manager, Arwani trading Company LLC, participating at SteelFab for the fifth consecutive year.
"The last two months have seen a sudden acceleration in construction around the world. Although I don't see the industry exploding in the near future, I do see a very clear slow and steady pattern emerging with Saudi Arabia promising to become a strong buyer this year. "It is through such exhibitions as SteelFab that we gain vital exposure to this market. It serves as a fantastic platform to showcase the latest technology, create awareness and educate the trade visitors on the new developments and constant changes that's inevitable in this industry," he said.
While visitors to the exhibition comprised of a wide representation from the entire Gulf region this year, exhibitors predicted that the booming market for steel in the immediate future is Saudi Arabia, with the UAE coming in second.
Although the demand for steel and steel related products in Qatar is expected to reach frantic levels thanks to the mammoth construction projects lined up for the 2020 World Cup to be hosted there, experts in the industry say it will take a year or two for the real purchasing to begin.
Not everyone in the industry has suffered by the slump claims Dr. Dirar Hafes, general manager of FICEP, Middle East. "As a group we have not been affected by the global recession," he said. "While sales in particular regions dropped drastically during the crisis year of 2009, we made it up in sales in other emerging markets like India in the same year." In the past two months however, sales have been monumental. The market is definitely reviving again, and participating at SteelFab has been a priority for us because it is a specialized exhibition, helping us concentrate on the right target audience."
"The response from visitors this year, compared to the last two years has been very positive," said Hans-Rolf Wiemann, managing director of Kahrl & Weimann, which has been associating with the past several editions of SteelFab.
"We have had some serious inquiries and hope to generate some sales from SteelFab 2011."
Dr. Martin Riester, organizing member of the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), Germany's official pavilion at SteelFab for the first time said their participation at Steelfab is a clear indication of the German steel industry bouncing back. "Germany's expectations for the steel industry this year is very optimistic. We feel the market will demand quality products again so it makes good sense to exhibit at trade fairs such as SteelFab which is the strongest steel sector exhibition in the region." The German companies participating under one umbrella for the first time have recorded positive feedback from visitors to the trade fair. "We use such exhibitions that provide excellent exposure to relevant market partners in the region to solidify sector related networking in the target market," he said.
Not everyone sees the shiny side of the immediate future of the steel industry. Hilmi Abdullah, general manager of Mechanical Age, dealers in steel machinery, said this is a make it or break it time for most small and medium sized steel industries.
For Mostafa El Hageen, general manager of Comex International FZC, one of the largest exhibitors at SteelFab, the anticipated steel renaissance is a mixture of "hope and faith." Although I wouldn't say the industry is at a standstill, the recovery continues to be slow. This is the juncture at which exposure of your products at regional levels become important," he said.
For some companies though, the exhibition is seen as platform for advertising rather than selling. "It is our presence here that is important," said Nader Shahidiar, general manager of Prima Finn-Power. Participating for the third time, he claimed this year's response has been below expectations.
With the largest pavilion in the sheet metal sector, he denotes their participation to "mainly advertising purposes, and for the visual presence of the company in an exhibition that plays a pivotal role in the steel industry in the region. "What makes this exhibition important is that it has gradually replaced the need of regional buyers to travel to world shows in Europe and the USA since SteelFab provides all their requirements," he said.
Summing up the trade fair at large, "The quality of visitors at SteelFab is excellent. We have tried other exhibitions in the region and find SteelFab to be the only one for our business," said Paul Von Doesburg, CEO of Gietart Middle East.
Overseas participation was strong for the show. Exhibitors and brands came from Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Malaysia, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, UAE, United Kingdom and the USA.
Robotics in manufacturing was a key discussion area at the concurrent Technical Seminars held alonside SteelFab 2011. Presentations by Lincoln Electric, ABB Robotics and Celada Middle East concentrated on the use of robots in the manufacturing process.
"Our presentation on hard automation and robotic automation is tailored to customers who are looking for complete automation solutions for the welding industry - focusing to provide cost-effective solutions to all automation needs of the customer through our standard and custom-build products," said Mr. Paul Howe, Regional Automation Manager, Lincoln Electric, Asia-Pacific.
Another presentation on robotic automation was by Celada Middle East."We have been implementing automation in varied industry in Europe. Celada provides robotic automation solutions for the manufacturing industry with capabilities to integrate robots with CNC machine tools used in steel manufacturing with our partner, Fanuc Robotics" said Mr. Silvio Tomassoni of Celada Middle East.
ABB Robotics seminar was on robotic arc welding and Painting for quality and productivity.
Other interesting seminars covered topics like 'surface preparation and protective coating equipment' by Airblast Middle East; 'filtration systems for cutting systems' by Donaldson Filtration; 'cutting-edge chain technology for fabrication' by Kettenwulf Betriebs; ‘process industry welding practices & welding consumables' by Lincoln Electric; and 'software applications in steel fabrication' by Acecad Software.
206 direct exhibitors showcased over 600 brands in a total exhibition area of 16,000 square meters, featuring the Middle East's largest display of machinery, machine tools, welding equipment, supplies, consumables and ancillary equipment used in the pre- and post-treatment of steel.
A special segment at the show, the Tube & Pipe Machinery section was of great benefit to visitors from the process, oil & gas, shipbuilding, MEP, pipelines and other pipe & tube user industries.
Metal-cutting machine tools were a continued special focus at the show.
The live machinery display at the show featured shears, press brakes, punch presses, CNC profile cutting, beveling, grinding, oxy-fuel cutting, water-jet cutting, plate drilling/cutting, beam drilling/sawing, blasting/painting, cut-to-length, slit-to length, welding displays and stud welding.
SteelFab 2011 was organized by Expo Centre Sharjah with the support from the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
For more information: www.steelfabme.com