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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.

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