By Andreas Weber | Click to access german text
Following its impressive relaunch in front of an audience of international experts in December 2015, long-established company Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG – or “Heideldruck”, as it is known by the stock market – has now reached the next level. In my view, print as a medium and as a universal media technology has now truly entered the digital age and is here to stay. The Heideldruck management team has done a superb job, and this will take the industry forward.
Using the platform of ValuePublishing, we have produced a comprehensive online real-time report giving information on the key aspects, and this has already attracted interest from over 100,000 specialists around the world via Value social media. See the summary in a Storify report, which provides texts, photos, short videos, and comments from experts. Key tags: #print #bigdata #IoT #multichannel #Innovation
The slogan “Simply Smart”, which – as reported – Heideldruck has chosen for the leading trade show drupa 2016, has a really promising ring to it. It encapsulates a new corporate strategy that was around two years in the making and turns everything in the print industry on its head. “There were many areas to work on,” concedes CEO Dr. Gerold Linzbach. He has now pulled it off with a new, highly dedicated team. Heideldruck seems to be rising like a phoenix from the ashes to set new standards. What’s it all about? It’s about how to enable the industrial production of print media in the digital age and harness its potential for business and private communication in new shapes and forms. Nothing more, nothing less. What’s revolutionary is that Heideldruck is no longer focusing on mechanical engineering and heavy metals but on innovative software architectures and valuable know-how on how to integrate print technology into profitable business scenarios. It’s now about digital expertise and no longer whether traditional offset printing or cutting-edge digital printing is better.
Expert audience from around the world. Photo: Heidelberg
Almost as impressive as the many Heideldruck innovations announced in Heidelberg on February 18 and 19 was the response from the audience. Top experts from global print media technology publications were invited to take a critical look at a dazzling array of new products and solutions. The verdict was unanimous – “Hats off to Heidelberg. That’s exactly what will take our industry forward,” said Klaus-Peter Nicolay, publisher and editor-in-chief of Druckmarkt, and he was not alone. “Fantastic! Things at Heidelberg are right on track,” said Bernd Zipper, technology consultant and online printing expert from ZIPCON Consulting. And publisher Michael Seidl, EMGroup Vienna, noted: “This is a real game changer, not just the announcement of new developments that will help the industry and strengthen print for the future.”
“Heidelberg committed to enhancing data”
“It’s all about data rather than tonnage. With one weighty exception, machinery is just a side note in the drupa offering from Heidelberg. The Group is absolutely serious about its slogan ‘We are more than machines’,” says Martin Schwarz from the magazine 4c. Ultimately, he argues, it’s a matter of building an ecosystem around the installed machine base that systematically leverages data and algorithms to boost print shop performance. And, he adds, “it may be that Heidelberg is creating the only possible impetus for disruption in an enormously saturated economic environment. Today a lot of what’s been presented may still be optional, but soon it will be vital. Yet it’ll also become vital to develop the brave new digitized service world into a source of revenue.”
Smart services are now one of the central planks at Heideldruck, as demonstrated so clearly by Harald Weimer from the Management Board. (NB: Weimer shows how printing can be managed using an iPad. See also our interview “Print is smart”). Services already generate sales of over €500 million a year at Heideldruck. As well as maintenance of machines and solutions incl. maximum system availability, increasing importance is now also being attached to knowledge transfer for optimizing management, production, and sales. Heideldruck provides a network that delivers valid data from over 10,000 installed machines, plus over 15,000 software products, so as to create benchmarks and drive forward ideas for improvements. This could be called a systematic form of collective intelligence. Heideldruck customers can use a secure online portal to access all this data, call up Heideldruck services including Remote Support, and order relevant consumables. With the new “Heidelberg Assistant” available at drupa, Heideldruck is entering a lucrative sector. The system is an extension to an e-shop, an app of sorts that gives print shop customers a precise overview of recommended maintenance, facilitates service queries, and enables online ordering of consumables at all times. It uses “intelligent algorithms” to recommend the correct material order volume and place orders instantly as and when needed. To date, the only similar service available has been in office publishing using managed print services (MPS).
Stephan Plenz presents the first Primefire 106 test print. Photo: Heidelberg
A real sensation – Primefire 106
New technologies from Fujifilm and Heideldruck are setting new standards in inkjet printing, declared Member of the Heideldruck Management Board Stephan Plenz, who is in charge of inkjet technology development and was on top form for the presentation of Primefire 106. Production printing has been redefined. It’s no longer ‘either-or’, but a case of being ‘equipped for all situations.’
When asked about one of the secrets of the new machine – a newly designed digital impression cylinder – Plenz responded, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in a manner reminiscent of legendary Apple CEO Steve Jobs, with: “It’s magic!”. Both Plenz and the top-level management from Fujifilm, who had flown in from Japan, argued convincingly that this isn’t just another inkjet press being launched onto the market, but precisely the machine that meets industrial production needs, which hasn’t been the case to date.
Employing joint patents of Heideldruck and Fujifilm, it took just 15 months to develop, among other things, new inkjet print heads, with seven-color printing, and a conditioning system that enables printing of virtually any material without the ink having to penetrate the paper or card. Notably, thick materials can be used. This removes a major hurdle that has previously acted as a brake on inkjet printing – the limited number of paper types supported. Crucially, innovation is one thing – effective positioning of technological innovations on the market is another. Heideldruck is carefully selecting sectors to enter so as not to fall into the trap of following a one-size-fits-all approach. The new Primefire technology is aimed initially at specific segments in packaging printing and is due to be ready for delivery by the end of 2016. The first fully functional machine will be on show at drupa 2016, along with the classics from the Speedmaster series.
To sum up – ‘indeed, it’s magic.’ Never before has the run-up to drupa been so exciting. Reinventing print and adapting to business and consumer behavior in the digital age is exactly what we need. By rising like a phoenix from the ashes, Heideldruck is benefiting the whole of the industry – and naturally drupa, too, as the world’s leading trade show for print and paper, which will help target new groups of visitors, including those who no longer take print seriously, misjudge it or even consider it antiquated and outdated. — we now have convincing proof that the opposite is true. Print is winning in the digital age.
Note: We’re following up this report with an interview with Stephan Plenz, Member of the Heideldruck Management Board. We’ll also be bringing together the best reports from colleagues around the world to show the wide range of views.