“We keep our promises: sustainable industrial production with premium quality digital printing.” —Montserrat Peidro-Insa, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG
Interview: Andreas Weber, Head of Value | German version
Presented to hundreds of thousands of trade visitors at drupa 2016 and on the market since January 2017 with the start of the pilot phase: the Primefire 106 – as the first industrial premium digital printing production system in B1 format it is performing successfully in the pilot phase and has proven itself at ‘MPS Multi Packaging Solutions’. An important core element of the new Heidelberg digital strategy has thus been achieved — and now is the perfect time for an exclusive interview by Andreas Weber with Montserrat Peidro-Insa, Head of Digital Sales and Digital Sheetfed General Manager at Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (#Heideldruck) on the subject of the market launch of the Heidelberg Primefire 106.
You joined Heidelberg just before drupa 2016. Did you expect that the traditional company would be able to develop into the pioneer of premium level industrial digital printing so rapidly?
Montserrat Peidro-Insa: I have to admit that I’m extremely positively surprised. Even my high expectations were exceeded. During my career, I’ve gained a great deal of experience with the transformation of particular market segments on the basis of digital printing. But up to that point I wasn’t very familiar with the world of offset printing as a core area of expertise of Heidelberg. Now, as Heidelberg is merging both together, I’m sure that we can meet the present and future needs of print shops and their customers in the best possible way.
What makes you so optimistic?
Montserrat Peidro-Insa: At drupa 2016, I saw the Primefire 106 in operation as a prototype for the first time, where it produced top quality inkjet print samples. Afterwards, I watched as this was implemented quickly and highly professionally in Research and Development, as well as in Engineering, within just a few weeks. After all, what is important is not only complying with ambitious machine specifications but also being able to produce at industrial level with the aid of technical innovations, in line with actual working situations. And that was achieved in an extremely short time. The engineers were open-minded, new ideas from the team and suggestions were taken into account immediately and implemented technically. Also the cooperation with our co development partner Fujifilm went very well for both sides. To be perfectly honest, I’d not experienced anything like it before. They were real highlights for me and they still have an effect today.
The pilot phase for the Primefire 106 began in January 2017. What is so special about it?
Montserrat Peidro-Insa: For a successful pilot phase in which the machine runs under production conditions at customers, two requirements must be met. 1. The technology must be complete, i.e. fully developed. 2. Innovations must meet or exceed the needs of the customer. In the context of the print shop business, this means that new printing technologies must be successful from the word go – they must work reliably from a technical and from a commercial point of view. The largest burden for print shops is winning new print job orders, which is very hard work. Once they have a job, they must be able to produce it reliably and without problems on an industrial scale. This means with top quality and speed, extremely good reproducibility characteristics and a very high level of machine availability coupled with minimum makeready times. Ensuring that this can be achieved is the core element of our job.
Aren’t high quality and an excellent uptime already standard in digital printing?
Montserrat Peidro-Insa: Unfortunately not. And this is the most important strength and USP of the Primefire 106 in comparison to other solutions on the market that either offer one or the other. With a lot of solutions, this means that the up time may be reduced to as low as 40 % if maximum quality is required. And vice versa – if you concentrate on maximum productivity, high quality standards cannot be achieved. With the Primefire 106, we have proven that we can offer both at once, as demonstrated in the pilot phase. With this machine, we set high standards in terms of dependable high quality performance, which is an indispensable requirement in our target markets of packaging and converting.
The first customer in the Primefire pilot phase is the globally operating MPS Multi Packaging Solutions, with its headquarters in New York City and its production site in Obersulm near Stuttgart. What was the key reason for this collaboration?
Montserrat Peidro-Insa: The excellent product specifications as well as outstanding features and, above all, our performance pledge were convincing factors, as everything meets the wishes and stringent requirements at MPS exactly. Furthermore, the two companies have worked together for many years, as Heidelberg is the main supplier for offset printing technology and several pilot projects have already been implemented successfully in the area of offset printing. My colleagues have done a brilliant job, which has resulted in a high degree of mutual trust being built up at many levels over a number of years. And this situation is now being transferred seamlessly to digital printing, with the additional major plus point that, with Fujifilm, we not only have a premium supplier of inkjet printheads, but Fujifilm is a development partner who actively contributes know-how and manpower in this context in order to get the best out of its technology with our machine and production concept. And that’s unique. Another factor is our industry-wide, leading service network with teams who can help out quickly if needed, either remotely or on site. And all these points were appreciated and acknowledged by more than 40 companies at our Primefire customer event at the end of January, 2017.
World premiere of Heidelberg Primefire 106 at drupa 2016. Video: Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG.
In the context of the Primefire 106, the fact that the go-to-market and new business models will be key success factors was highlighted at drupa 2016. What must be borne in mind or what are potential new challenges?
Montserrat Peidro-Insa: Heidelberg is renowned for its excellent customer relationships and loyalty — and this is even acknowledged by its competitors. Good customer loyalty is developed when Sales as well as Service identify with the customer as much as possible, have a continual presence and are integrated into the customers’ everyday work. As this has been the case for a very long time, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel with the go-to-market activities for the Primefire. We use tried and tested elements and well-established structures in account management that are valued by our customers…
… and what is the situation as far as business models are concerned?
Montserrat Peidro-Insa: In the context of business models we need to rethink, as with industrial printing using inkjet technology one thing is of key importance – our customers must know exactly what they are paying for at all times. The click charge billing models that are commonly used for digital printing work for numerous applications that are made up of a large number of individual jobs, often with small print runs. The click costs comprise a fixed charge plus variable costs and should only amount to a maximum of 20% of the total production costs, otherwise it becomes unprofitable…
… and what exactly does this mean with respect to the Primefire 106?
Montserrat Peidro-Insa: With high-volume production with the Primefire 106 in multi-shift mode under industrial production conditions, a different approach is definitely needed, especially for packaging printing. The costs must be completely transparent before the job is started — across all process steps. We call this the “pay for what you consume” model and we have developed new types of contracts which cover all aspects related to the maintenance of the inkjet printheads and other inkjet printing production factors, such as ink, for each contract, in addition to the purchase prices of the machines. We therefore offer an economically relevant model, tailored specifically to packaging print shops, that is an important part of our performance pledge and that, in my opinion, no other manufacturer can offer at the moment.
Best-in-class technology needs a great design as well: Primefire 106 celebrated its World Premiere at drupa 2016. Photos: Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG.
What impact does this new business model approach have in actual situations? After all, the Primefire concept also changes the way that Heidelberg customers can go about their business.
Montserrat Peidro-Insa: That’s right, digitization in the printing industry changes the way business is done in many areas. Print shops must consider whether it is better to integrate Primefire systems into their existing operation or to separate them off into their own department/company. There is a wide variety of options for how companies want to structure and organize their digital business. From the application-related, technical side or the process workflows, we can offer comprehensive, flexible support.
Have you already received feedback from your customers’ customers – i.e. brands that use packaging?
Montserrat Peidro-Insa: Since drupa 2016, we have received feedback from companies who order packaging via our customers. The most important feedback is that digital printing solutions must be 100% reliable as the requirements are extremely high. Brand owners or print buyers who find out about the Primefire technology actively approach our customers immediately in order to be able to take advantage of the benefits themselves as soon as possible. In particular, this applies to the time to market speed at the point of sale which enables sophisticated products to be sold more easily and quickly.
What’s more, our customers are also given the chance to not only produce jobs in line with customer specifications but also to actively approach their customers/interested parties with their new ideas on the basis of the new opportunities provided by the Primefire. This new form of creativity is expressly welcomed in order to design marketing activities that are more relevant or to address new target groups more effectively. — Incidentally, this situation has meant that our Primefire pilot customer MPS has been producing actual runs for brand customers from the cosmetics industry since the beginning of February 2017 – and not only test jobs for inspecting samples for new applications. This rapid adaptation of new printing technologies is accelerating the transformation dramatically.
As it looks today, does the success of the pilot phase meet your expectations?
Montserrat Peidro-Insa: Definitely. Without mentioning any concrete figures, we have received an enormous amount of inquiries. This is mainly because the Primefire 106 is designed as a platform that can be upgraded and therefore is expected to offer a production life of up to ten years.
To finish, can you give us a forecast of how this platform approach will develop with the Primefire 106?
Montserrat Peidro-Insa: We keep our promises: sustainable industrial production with premium quality digital printing. In the next few years, there will be hardly any need to modify our Primefire technology in terms of quality, printhead technology and print image resolution. However, it is conceivable that throughput will be increased for more printed sheets per hour. New areas of application will certainly arise in the next few years. Specific solutions, for the pharmaceuticals area for example, will also be planned. This includes new opportunities in the context of digital finishing, e.g. with inline processing. And it is very important to make it clear that enhancements to the Primefire systems will be possible for existing installations for the foreseeable future due to our platform concept. Investments are therefore secured in the long term.
Thank you very much for this informative interview. It seems to me that Heidelberg has played an important role in the breakthrough of industrial digital printing
About Montserrat Peidro-Insa:
Montserrat Peidro-Insa is the new force in the Heidelberg digital team. She joined Heidelberg in the spring of 2016, just in time before drupa. The former HP manager has gained many years of experience in launching professional digital printing systems, and Heidelberg would also like to benefit from this expertise. She is therefore a welcome addition to Jason Oliver’s team and is now Head of Digital Sales and Digital Sheetfed General Manager at Heidelberg. Together with her staff, she will be responsible for the market launch of the Heidelberg Primefire 106.