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Heidelberg: A Year-End Review

January 4, 2013
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HEIDELBERG, Germany—Last month, Heidelberg hosted European and North American journalists at its headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany, to get a year-end update from executives and tour the company’s massive press manufacturing facility in Wiesloch-Walldorf.

Overall, the press manufacturing giant was optimistic about its future, despite challenges rising from both digital printing and the changing landscape of print production volume (especially in established markets). Executives pointed to strong press sales in emerging markets where Heidelberg has invested heavily in the past decade. They also noted growth trends in package printing, as well as the expansion of the company’s services and consumables areas—which account for up to 60 percent of Heidelberg’s business in the U.S.

In the U.S. market, which saw a plunge in press sales starting in 2008, Heidelberg’s Management Board member Stephan Plenz, observed that U.S. printers as a whole operate presses with some of the oldest average ages across the globe. These older presses—well built though they are—are not as efficient as newer Heidelberg presses that employ such technologies as Anicolor and Prinect, Plenz said, resulting in less productive, more costly printing. Press technology has advanced so much in the past five years that only printers with the latest technology can hope to compete in the global market, he maintained.

Plenz outlined Heidelberg’s current strategy, which has its focus in four areas: emerging markets, packaging printing, services and consumables, and digital and new businesses.

Management Board member Marcel Kiessling, head of global sales, noted that emerging markets such as China and Brazil are showing substantial growth in print production volume—6 percent per year, he said. Heidelberg expects this segment to account for 40 percent of global sheetfed volume by 2015, with a corresponding growth in press sales. The company is expanding its market coverage and service force in these countries.

The packaging segment has been a focus for Heidelberg during the past ten years, said Plenz, with the company investing in press automation, post-press, and very large format technologies. Turnover in this segment has increased steadily during that time frame, now accounting for 25 percent of its total.

The opportunity for growth in consumables was highlighted by Peter Tix, head of consumables. While the worldwide market for sheetfed consumables is about 2.5 times larger than sheetfed printing presses, Heidelberg’s share of consumables is about 4 percent versus about 40 percent for presses. At the heart of Heidelberg’s consumables strategy is its Saphira product line, which positions the company as a one-stop-shop for its customers.
 
In the digital printing segment, Heidelberg offers Linoprint C (Ricoh technology primarily for commercial applications) and Linoprint L (CSAT inkjet targeted for label applications). Heidelberg’s marketing plans for these digital color presses seem predominantly focused on its base of existing offset customers, rather than on printers that are exclusively digital. Linoprint models are being offered as a way for an offset printer to handle very small run lengths, while enjoying Prinect integration and Heidelberg color management.

Using Prinect technology to integrate Linoprint digital printers with prepress, offset, and postpress equipment and manage the entire workflow was a recurring theme. Demonstrations in Heidelberg’s Print Media Center (PMC) showed how its Web-to-Print Manager integrates with the Prinect Business Manager MIS to enable a seamless hybrid workflow for digital and offset printing.

In discussing Heidelberg’s partnership with Landa Corp. to develop and manufacture digital printing presses based on Landa Nanographic Printing technology, Heidelberg’s Andreas Forer seemed cautiously optimistic. “If everything works as he [founder Benny Landa] has promised, then definitely we have a bright future,” he said, alluding to some hurdles that have already been encountered.

During the visit, journalists also toured two of Heidelberg’s Print Media Center (PMC) locations, which function primarily as demo centers for potential customers and house almost every piece of equipment sold by the company. Just opened in October, the PMC in Heidelberg (54,900 sq. ft.) highlights the company’s commercial print offerings, as well as CTP and post-press equipment. The PMC in Wiesloch-Walldorf (58,100 sq. ft.) focuses more on Heidelberg’s packaging and very large format presses. In the future, Kiessling noted, Heidelberg will use these PMC locations, as well as the ones in Atlanta, Sao Paolo, and Shenzhen, as its primary customer contact platforms.

Advantages of Anicolor inking
During the three days in Heidelberg, Plenz and other executives repeatedly pointed out the productivity and cost advantages of using Anicolor inking technology for producing shorter runs. These benefits include 90 percent fewer waste sheets, 50 percent less makeready time, and consistent, even ink application, without ghosting. Users of the Speedmaster XL 75 Anicolor, which debuted at drupa, are selling the 10th sheet, Plenz contended. One of the keys to Anicolor and Prinect short-run efficiencies comes from ganging multiple jobs on a single print run. Using this capability, Plenz said that an average of 12,000 jobs could be run in one day.

Two customer tours highlighted the advantages of Anicolor. Drucken 123, in Aschaffenburg, is a small commercial print shop that runs a 5-color Speedmaster with Anicolor, along with a Linoprint digital press. Owner Markus Müller noted the critical importance of flexibility when focusing on short-run work. Concerning Anicolor, he noted the approach of only dealing with one variable (temperature) to effect control of color quality, saying “you cannot print wrong [with Anicolor].”

A second customer visit to h.reuffurth, gmbh, in Mühlheim am Main, showed a larger print shop. Owner Hans Reuffurth said his company has been a beta site for Heidelberg’s Prinect Inpress Control and most recently for its Speedmaster XL 75 Anicolor press. With Inpress, he reported that very little to no adjustment is required by press operators for color control, and with Anicolor, makeready waste was reduced from about 1,000 sheets to about 50 sheets.

Among the many highlights of the trip, journalists met with both outgoing CEO Bernhard Schreier and new CEO Dr. Gerold Linzbach. Schreier made a surprise visit at the Wiesloch-Walldorf facility. Relaxed and in good spirits after running Heidelberg for almost 13 years, Schreier said he wanted to meet one last time with industry journalists to thank them for their years of coverage of Heidelberg. Schreier spoke optimistically about Dr. Linzbach, saying he had recommended that his replacement come from outside the industry to bring some new perspective. “[Dr. Linzback] was an ideal choice,” he said.

Dr. Linzbach met with journalists over dinner, spending time with smaller groups during the evening. Having been in his position for just over 100 days, he said he is still in a learning mode. However, he emphasized a priority to restore the company to profitability (sooner rather than later) and to re-establish the corporate confidence that has long made Heidelberg the leader in the industry.

 

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