Value Blog dialog: As Harald Weimer sees it, networking and integration make print a top smart, automated communication solution
By Andreas Weber
As reported in the Value Blog and via ValuePublishing social media accounts, and based on my expert analysis, the promising new approach of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heideldruck for short) aims to use the leading trade show drupa 2016 as a globally innovative platform to provide the printing industry worldwide with a sneak preview of visions that are within grasp. The motto “Simply Smart” is intended to lead us into the new world of “Heideldruck 4.0”.
Consequently, following the year-end press conference on December 1 and 2, 2015, I was keen to put some in-depth questions to Heideldruck board member Harald Weimer. The senior manager is responsible for the growth area of Heidelberg Services, which covers the Group’s full service and solution portfolio and appears to be undergoing targeted, market-oriented expansion.
He adopted an open, confident and forward-looking approach to his first Value Blog dialog. And he established a completely new context for the print media business by stressing the need for us all to understand that digitization presents not disadvantages, but a great many opportunities that should be grabbed courageously and dynamically! – The new credo (in my own words): Digitization will become part of the DNA of a post-Gutenberg era in which integration and networking will make print a 21st century pioneer ensuring the success of automated communication solutions.
Key statements by Harald Weimer
- The print media industry remains strong and its core business is stable, with global annual sales of over €400 billion.
- The proportion of sales accounted for by personalized print products is enjoying dynamic growth and is based on standardized processes for industrial print applications.
- Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT), including big data, are part of our DNA.
- Changes, in particular disruptive ones, are nothing new. Adapting to such changes has long been an everyday task.
- The print media industry is on a par with other innovation-driven sectors of industry and has no need to hide its light under a bushel.
- In the print media business, digitization does not simply mean offering Internet solutions or digital printing.
- Print will become part of a world of smart communication.
- Our new strategy therefore incorporates the promise “More than Machines” and the credo “Listen. Inspire. Deliver.” to firmly establish a new sense of values among our staff.
- The interaction between machine, process, and man needs to be redefined and offers significant potential.
- Simply Smart – our team of partners achieves real innovations by thinking from the perspective of the end customer.
- Due to 4D printing, there is an increasing focus on the way innovative print applications relate to digital lifestyle products.
- Personalization is part and parcel of digitization and will continue to gather pace thanks to Industry 4.0/IoT. This means automated print applications are no longer created via conventional purchasing channels but rather as part of multi-channel scenarios.
Note: Video by Rhein-Neckar-TV recorded 2 December 2015 (in German language).
Value Blog dialog: Q & A
You see excellent growth prospects for the medium of print in the digital age. What do you consider to be the most important aspects of sustainable success in the print media business?
Harald Weimer: First something that many people don’t realize: The print media industry remains strong and its core business is stable, with global annual sales of over €400 billion. Growth is being driven by the packaging segment and, in terms of process technologies, by digital printing. Both are helping to produce a dynamic industry in which offset printing remains extremely important. Successful print shops are further improving their efficiency to ensure they are as fast and flexible as possible and can respond to new requirements associated with globalization. The proportion of sales accounted for by personalized print products is enjoying dynamic growth and is based on standardized processes for industrial print applications. This goes hand in hand with the digitization of business models and the entire supply chain so as to firmly establish a wider range of services with customers and suppliers. Our integrated approach including things such as the smart print shop and smart services is supporting these developments because it enables us to implement the principle of Industry 4.0 with our customers and at our own company.
In other words, the print media industry, including its supplier Heideldruck, is already very well placed in the digital transformation?
Harald Weimer: Yes, because the key prerequisites are in place and will undergo targeted expansion. Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT), including big data, are part of our DNA.
That’s a surprising statement given the constant moans about the Internet, in particular in Germany, and the print media industry’s very conservative view of the future. Many people still think the Internet is the enemy of print media…
Harald Weimer: I’d like to speak out in support of the many print businesses and our customers. Changes, in particular disruptive ones, are nothing new. Adapting to such changes has long been an everyday task. At the same time, past experience has taught us to how to draw strength and new courage. Most of our customers have made the transition from small-scale to industrialized printing. The question is not whether, but how. Starting with automated production processes, including the long-established JDF (Job Description Format), all the way through to web-based benchmark functions from the cloud and real-time data from the presses, our solutions have long met the criteria of the Internet of Things. The print media industry is on a par with other innovation-driven sectors of industry and has no need to hide its light under a bushel.
Doubters and critics always say that digitization will make things even more complex from the perspective of many print shops. And this also means more people are skeptical about whether the whole thing is manageable. How would you respond to this?
Harald Weimer: Digitization offers huge opportunities for the print media sector, but no disadvantages. Integration, including the networking of production processes, reduces complexity…
Can you give an example?
Harald Weimer: There are already print shops that are expanding their digital customer-to-customer relations along the entire value-added and supply chain based on industry standards and automation. Customers and the market are rewarding these efforts with double-digit growth rates.
[Editorial comment: Is this a coincidence or not? At almost exactly the same time as my Value Blog dialog with Harald Weimar, German news broadcaster N24 widely published the latest test results on December 16, 2015. See: “Online-Druckereien im Test – Sehr gute Qualität, stark unterschiedliche Preise” (Online print shops put to the test – excellent quality, wide range of prices).]
What does that mean?
Harald Weimer: In my opinion, it’s vital to make a distinction. In the print media business, digitization does not simply mean offering Internet solutions or digital printing. The necessary intelligence lies in the workflow as a whole, in the smart, seamless configuration of entire processes to best meet customer requirements. This enables innovations to be offered that can undergo further development working in a team with print shop customers. It helps us all a great deal if we use the terminology correctly and more clearly.
What role does Heideldruck play in these wide-ranging scenarios? Do you want to and are you able to offer everything from a single source?
Harald Weimer: We see ourselves as a solution partner and an integrator, combining our own modular solutions with those of relevant partners and enabling them to be used as a networked, customized package solution. Partners are and will continue to be very important to us in quickly getting solutions onto the market. We’re no longer simply looking to optimize the quality of print images but are aiming to provide appropriate, future-proof solutions for creating and making available tailored print products.
That represents a watershed or a turnaround at Heideldruck, but it won’t happen overnight, will it?
Harald Weimer: We’re currently talking in terms of the roadmap to drupa 2016. This represents a kind of proving ground for us to gradually complete the things I’m talking about. As I’ve said, the vital thing is to use digitization to reduce complexity. As you correctly predicted some years ago in your white paper on this subject, print will become part of a world of smart communication.
Thank you for mentioning the white paper. I still consider it to be important. How do you see the relationship between print and what I’ve referred to as smart communication?
Harald Weimer: Today’s communication solutions incorporating print must be both flexible and intuitive. So far, Heidelberg has used its Prinect workflow technology for this purpose. End customers determine freely and without any obligation how they want to have something produced – whether using offset printing or the myriad of digital printing processes we offer. We’re now making significant further progress through smart collaboration. We no longer simply offer products in the form of presses. In the future, customers will also obtain a detailed online overview of how their machines are performing. This will create a new sales platform for software, services, and consumables. It’s down to smart, integrated solutions to make our customers and their customers more successful.
In other words, you’re completely redefining the role of print and thus that of Heideldruck?
Harald Weimer: A number of aspects that represent a continuation of what we started at drupa 2012 need to be explicitly mentioned here. Benchmarking creates transparency for our customers by enabling them to use an app to find out online how they’re doing and where room for improvement exists. We’re taking our service performance solutions to the next stage so that customers can also offer their own customers something similar, for example through the Prinect portal or the Prinect web shop. This will create new e-commerce platforms for processing transactions differently in the future and offers our customers completely new ways of accessing both us and our partners.
E-business will thus play a far more important role extending beyond web-to-print applications and conventional sales options, then?
Harald Weimer: To coincide with drupa, we’ll be offering digital platforms that will make our extended services easy to find and use. This includes being able to find one’s peers, but also specific recommendations and assistance. We’re already practicing this approach, but in the future it will take on an entirely new, digitally extended dimension that does not come at the expense of personal relationships.
That sounds like what has recently been referred to as customer centricity and brings about a change in culture characterized by a high level of interaction. How do you plan to tackle this?
Harald Weimer: We’re starting with the company itself. Presses have been in our DNA for generations, as reflected by our company name, which includes the German world for presses – Druckmaschinen. Our new strategy therefore incorporates the promise “More than Machines” and the credo “Listen. Inspire. Deliver.” to firmly establish a new sense of values among our staff. It describes what is required to enable interlinking. The interaction between machine, process, and man needs to be redefined and offers significant potential. This plays a key role in all our internal communication measures.
What impact does the transformation process within Heideldruck have on your customer and market communication?
Harald Weimer: Our drupa motto “Simply Smart” summarizes the external aspects. Digitization is driven by the market. We must make sure we offer appropriate and relevant solutions. To do so we need to incorporate our customers’ communication with their own customers in a new way, for example by providing new support tools. We will use real-life scenarios for this purpose at the leading print media trade show drupa 2016.
In other words, the focus will be on applications in your extended customer-customer communication?
Harald Weimer: The solution presented at the December press conference at the mymuesli shop in Heidelberg shows the way forward. The focus was not on our 4D press, but on the possibility of mymuesli customers designing their own muesli packaging in the shop on an iPad and printing it on our Jetmaster Dimension inkjet press. Our team of partners achieves real innovations by thinking from the perspective of the end customer.
The mymuesli.com startup company isn’t a typical Heideldruck customer, though. Are you intending to do more of this as part of your innovative approach?
Harald Weimer: Our strategy includes leveraging additional market opportunities. We need to take this step to strengthen print, and online print shops are already using 4D printing solutions from us. We differentiate between solutions in the narrower sense of the word for print businesses and those in the broader sense for communicators, for example at the point of sale.
What new ideas are having the biggest impact?
Harald Weimer: We’re currently looking at a great many approaches based on the dynamic growth in demand for personalized products. Due to 4D printing, there is an increasing focus on the way innovative print applications relate to digital lifestyle products.
Last but not least, will Industry 4.0, that is to say the professional aspect of IoT applications, change the way print jobs are produced?
Harald Weimer: Personalization is part and parcel of digitization and will continue to gather pace thanks to Industry 4.0/IoT. This means automated print applications are no longer created via conventional purchasing channels but rather as part of multi-channel scenarios. Our solutions must factor in all these new aspects, so it’s well worth people from all kinds of sectors visiting us at drupa 2016.
Many thanks for participating in this Value Blog dialog!
About the interviewee:
I’ve known Harald Weimer for a long time, since the mid-1990s when he started digital printing at Xerox before joining the direct imaging sales team at Heidelberg in 1998. The highly knowledgeable and dynamic industrial engineering graduate has always had a great interest in the latest market developments and appreciates constructively critical dialog. He has now gained wide-ranging international experience. Since April 2014, he has been successfully extending his area of responsibility as Member of the Management Board responsible for Heidelberg Services. His subject: “Future of the Print Media Industry – Roadmap to drupa 2016”.
Value Blog video documentation of Harald Weimer’s presentation “Digitized World”, 1 December 2015. Recording by Andreas Weber via iPad.