Carel van Sorgen sat comfortably in his well-appointed EuroBLECH booth (or “stand,” as the Europeans call it), in Hanover, Germany, home to one of the largest tradeshow facilities in the world. The place makes Chicago’s McCormick Place look cozy. Van Sorgen has been to more EuroBLECH shows than he can count. But one thing he could count is the number of cut and formed metal parts his company, 247 Tailor Steel, planned to ship that day. “At this point we have about 150 tons of steel coming in every day, and the next day it’s all gone. Altogether, we have more than 4,500 customers.” He knows exactly how many orders ship, when, as well as how much money the company made. How does van Sorgen know this? It’s all in the company’s proprietary software, accessible with a few swipes or mouse clicks. The Dutch custom fabricator is a harbinger for the fabrication industry at large, very much like the EuroBLECH show itself. Talk of so-called “digitalization” and Industry 4.0 dominated the exhibition halls between Oct. 23 and 26, when the trade fair grounds transformed into a showcase of modern metal fabrication—what it is and, especially, what people expect it to become. The 25th Internatio...