ValueCheck: How is #Heideldruck mastering the digital transformation?

Value Publishing Mike Hilton 2017.001

By Andreas Weber, Head of Value  |  German Version

Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (#Heideldruck for short) is in the ascendancy, growing sustainably and profitably while other companies such as HP, Xerox, Ricoh, and Canon are being forced to restructure and/or consolidate. This appears to be nothing out of the ordinary looking back on over 150 years of a company steeped in tradition, but look more closely and it’s a different story. Heideldruck claims it was the only printing press company to record a significant improvement in incoming orders over the past financial year in the period during and after drupa. But it certainly won’t be resting on its laurels – quite the opposite, in fact. Entirely new growth segments for the sector are being identified and approached proactively, with Heideldruck mutating into an “agile” company.

“Over the next five years, Heidelberg will once again become a leading light in the sector, enjoying strong growth and profits. We’ve defined the relevant success factors and have already introduced initial measures. This marks the start of a new era of growth for Heidelberg,” said the company’s CEO Rainer Hundsdörfer.


ValueCheck by Andreas Weber with Rainer Hundsdörfer, CEO of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG



Hundsdörfer also had the following to say: “The Heidelberg Digital Technology (HDT) and Heidelberg Digital Business and Services (HDB) sectors were established on April 1, 2017 to prepare for the company’s digital future. HDT combines sheetfed offset, label printing, and postpress operations and is responsible for developing, producing, and marketing the appropriate technologies and products for new business models. HDB, meanwhile, is where Heidelberg manages its operations relating to services, consumables, remarketed equipment, digital printing technology, and solutions throughout the value-added chain.”

This was possible thanks to the economic recovery of Heidelberg and the profitable growth it is now once again experiencing. The most important observations regarding the new strategy and the KPIs from the latest balance sheet are as follows:

  • Strategic focus on technology leadership, digital transformation, and operational excellence
  • Group targets for 2022 defined and underpinned with specific measures
  • Targeted increase in sales to around €3 billion, in EBITDA to €250-300 million, and in net profit after taxes to over €100 million
  • Initial strategic measures already implemented – two acquisitions (DOCUFY/Fujifilm coatings & printing chemicals in EMEA) and enhanced efficiency
  • Presentation of annual financial statement for 2016/2017 confirms targets achieved



Worth noting: 
Digital doesn’t “only” mean digital printing at Heideldruck

Digital printing is naturally a fundamental part of the new, comprehensive “Heidelberg goes digital” strategy. The new Primefire platform for digital packaging printing sets the bar extremely high here. But the digital transformation of the print business demands more than simply building good digital presses. Heideldruck has now gained a significant edge in this respect by finding a holistic approach that actually enables print shops to master the digital transformation. At the Annual Accounts Press Conference on June 8, 2017 in Frankfurt, CFO Dirk Kaliebe pointed out that it was now virtually impossible to distinguish between the high level of digitization in offset printing and that in digital printing. “The term ‘digital printing’ is actually misleading,” remarks Hundsdörfer. “Non-impact printing would be more accurate, that is to say a contactless printing method. Ultimately, however, printing takes place and an analog product is produced,” he explains. Hundsdörfer believes a mechanical engineer’s skill lies in combining all possible methods that serve to manufacture marketable print products of all kinds that are suitable for production in an efficient and automated process.

Is Heidelberg the print world’s Amazon?

As was already stressed at drupa 2016, the Push to Stop method enables autonomous printing. This is similar to Google helping to develop autonomous driving. The aim of the Heidelberg Cloud and assistant solutions is for the company to become the Amazon of the printing industry. “Heidelberg goes digital” is therefore linked to far more than a new way of building printing presses. As I see it, this is comparable to the success story of Tesla. At first glance, Tesla manufactures a premium electric car. A closer look reveals highly sophisticated data exchange between the driver/his preferences and the vehicle’s maximum coordination with specific needs and an optimum driving experience. In spring 2017, Tesla succeeded in overtaking automotive pioneer Ford in terms of market capitalization and sold more luxury vehicles in the United States than Porsche, VW/Audi, and BMW put together. Heidelberg could enjoy similar success. That’s why Hundsdörfer is promoting his vision of the “agile” company – a company that in my view is characterized by thinking and acting autonomously! 


Screenshots of the Heideldruck Annual Report, which has a die-cut folding carton on the cover that can be removed and turned into a “digital” box. This can be downloaded via


As an experienced mechanical engineering insider, Hundsdörfer knows the importance of “operational excellence” (with the focus on permanent optimization of the solution portfolio and production processes). He is also aware of the two biggest assets of Heideldruck – know-how and experience regarding the best way to run a print business, under the premise of automating what can be automated – in production, in procurement, in real-time analysis of production resources in the field, in dialog between Heidelberg customers and their customers, and much more besides. Heideldruck is already a long way ahead of many other mechanical engineering companies in this respect. And it is marketing its know-how with start-ups, the go-to market, production companies (e.g. in 3D printing), and also other sectors (no doubt including the automotive sector in the future), where production processes continuously need to be converted and adapted. And not over a period of many months, but in just a few days.



There was good reason for the following question being raised at the Annual Accounts Press Conference: “Given everything you’ve told us, is it still appropriate for you to be called Heidelberger Druckmaschinen [= Heidelberg printing presses]?” The answer was that the brand has long been called “Heidelberg” and that’s all that counts. According to Hundsdörfer, building presses is vital for Heideldruck because the machines and their operation are linked to numerous additional and value-added services offered by the company. This is also the reason for the recent acquisitions of DOCUFY and, above all, the consumables sector of Fujifilm. Accordingly, Hundsdörfer wants Heideldruck to become a system solution provider, rather like a kind of platform operator for the global printing sector and its customers. Transformation is not simply a means to an end here, but the core business enabling profitable growth like that of the GAFA companies (Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple – see our ValueWebinar on value analysis “Transformation – Beam me up, Scotty”).




The new “Heidelberg goes digital” strategy clearly won people over at the Annual Accounts Press Conference, with the share price immediately soaring to its highest level all year. Despite the significant complexity, the Heideldruck CEO and CFO were able to set out their perspective and arguments both concisely and transparently. The Heidelberg Digital Business and Services (HDB) division has a key role to play, because this is where new business models/business model philosophies need to be developed for Heideldruck and also for customers and partners. — See as well our  ValueDialog with Management Board member and Chief Digital Officer Dr. Ulrich Hermann.



Extracts from the presentation charts used at the Heideldruck press conference on June 8, 2017 in Frankfurt




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Heideldruck BPK Review via ValuePublishing Storify 08062017



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