By Andreas Weber, Head of Value
Think global, act local — this motto could now also apply to print shops, both small and large: regardless of where the owner/manager is, the Heidelberg Assistant as a new, browser-based platform now makes it possible to monitor and manage all important workflows and process steps in-house and not just in the pressroom at all times via a smartphone, tablet, or PC. It also provides many new possibilities, such as the ability to see how your company stacks up against others. And everything needed to keep the production resources up and running is done automatically, from technical servicing and maintenance to ordering materials. This new form of integrated operations management is now a reality, and speeding up the journey of digital transformation. At the same time, Heidelberg is transforming its mechanical engineering business to become a modern, innovative platform operator for the printing industry.
The facts: Heidelberg Assistant launches in four countries
The Heidelberg Assistant is ready for the market. According to Heidelberg, it lays the foundation for taking the business of printed products of all kinds to a new level. The goal is to be able to seamlessly digitize Heidelberg’s collaboration as a supplier with thousands of its print shop customers at all levels. The pilot markets are Germany, Switzerland, the USA, and Canada. Over 30 customers from six countries were involved in the development, backed up by 400 customer surveys — primarily in China. The highlight: the integrated platform approach is making completely new operator models and eCommerce offerings possible, including in traditional printing, allowing print shops to concentrate fully on their core business. At the same time, Heidelberg can assume higher turnover from servicing and consumables in the long term. . The basic version of the Heidelberg Assistant is free of charge for customers, and securely controlled via an individual Heidelberg ID.
“With the Heidelberg Assistant, we’re digitizing collaboration with the customer. The lessons learned from this form the basis for the development of our new digital business models and speed up the digital transformation of the company,” says Dr. Ulrich Hermann, Member of the Management Board responsible for Heidelberg Services and Chief Digital Officer.
According to information from the company, the details are as follows:
- Digital collaboration with the customer over the entire lifecycle — The Heidelberg Assistant will enable customers to run their processes smoothly and to operate their print shops smartly and efficiently.
Benefits: Users get a complete overview of the service and maintenance status of their print shop, including data-based failure prediction. By getting access to the biggest knowledge base in the industry, users should also benefit from new performance services that enable them to maximize the potential of their entire value chain. The access to big data performance analytics should offer further potential for boosting productivity.
Additional benefits: The Assistant will enable Heidelberg to further scale its existing big data applications such as predictive monitoring and performance consulting in the market.
- Digitization of the service chain — Personal access to real-time access to knowledge base and service.
Benefits: Customers get secure and personal access to the Heidelberg Assistant, which allows them to call up all information such as the status or productivity of their presses or services availed of in their company, anytime, anywhere.
Additional benefits: Things like software updates, predictive maintenance messages or contract management and an invoice overview are possible in the system.
- Smart eCommerce offering all the way up to new business models — The Heidelberg Assistant offers direct access to the new Heidelberg eShop (www.shop.heidelberg.com).
Benefits: This link creates a smart eCommerce solution, since products can be individually recommended according to customers’ installations and needs. Additional benefits: Consumables and selected service parts are generally delivered within 24 hours.
The added highlight: new kinds of operator models
Above all, Heidelberg also sees digitization as the basis for new digital business models. According to the company, two divisions are being introduced for this, both of which follow the win-win principle:
- Big Data: The extensive data analysis from the globally installed and networked base of machines and software enables Heidelberg to develop new digital business models. All in all, customers and Heidelberg benefit from the evaluation of a database of over 10,000 connected machine systems and over 15,000 software systems.
Benefits: According to Heidelberg, an offering consisting of equipment, software, consumables, and service tailored to the exact needs of the customer and its entire value chain can be created based on this.
- Subscription: Operator models in which Heidelberg agrees a fixed price with its customers for the printed sheet will also be possible on this basis. Heidelberg provides all the necessary equipment for this.
Benefits: The customer can concentrate fully on marketing its produces and services. Against the background of a growing number of customers that choose an operator model, increasing sales can be assumed both for customers and for Heidelberg.
“Spotlight on…”—via ValueDialog: Tom Oelsner, Head of Sales Excellence at Heidelberg, answers questions about the Heidelberg Assistant product launch.
Your project was truly mammoth, involving over 30 pilot customers. What were the biggest challenges?
Tom Oelsner: The biggest challenge was to establish an interactive and agile design process in dialog with selected international customers, and to advance our digital developments in a targeted way. Presenting the Heidelberg Assistant as a prototype at drupa 2016 allowed us to already gather a lot of customer feedback. On this basis, a dedicated team together with customers extended the platform to orient itself fully towards the daily needs of the participating customer employees (from the press operator to the operations manager, buyer, etc. as well as the management). These extensions were quickly designed and rendered tangible using agile development techniques, and then were available without delay for discussion and further tests.
Which criteria/aspects were and are the most important for your customers?
Tom Oelsner: The Heidelberg Assistant supports the customer over the product’s entire lifecycle. The customers are involved in industrial production, so machine availability and productivity are the most important goals. Topics relating to service and maintenance therefore become extremely important. With questions like ‘when will which technician come’, ’when, which materials’, etc. Basically, differentiations are required in the different production areas that our customers represent, which also depend on the type of company and the company/employee structure. For example, we needed to find out whether there are full-time buyers or people performing dual and multiple roles in the companies so that we can ensure that all the employees involved are adequately supported for their specific tasks by their platform account and find themselves. By doing so, we can address complex requirements and ensure tailored role/task-specific use of the Heidelberg Assistant, which can be differentiated by our own sub-accounts.
What is the most exciting thing about the project for you? And how do you see it developing?
Tom Oelsner: The most exciting thing is that for the first time, we have a platform with a variety of real-time interaction options. This allows us to meet the requirements of the platform economy and port them transparently to the print production business. Feedback from customers has been excellent and any possible acceptance thresholds are quickly overcome. Further development will take place in three directions.
1. Scope: Targeting other customers in the four pilot countries to include as many Heidelberg customers as possible or ideally all of them there, as well as extending the platform to other countries like Japan and China.
2. Product integration: To date, all Heidelberg products have been integrated, but not yet to the same depth. Little by little we want to extend the scope of service for all Heidelberg and OEM products and, for example, offer failure prediction beyond sheetfed presses.
3. Innovation: Currently we have over 200 new ideas from the teams, which we’re reviewing from the point of view of technical feasibility and profitability and integrating into new releases. The next release of the current Heidelberg Assistant 1 will come in March 2018, but extremely fast cycles mean that others will follow every three months. Incidentally, the reception internally at Heidelberg, i.e. among colleagues, has been fantastic. This all makes me extremely happy, and shows that we’re on the right path to making the digital transformation a reality.
Thank you very much for this informative interview!
About the interviewee:
Tom Oelsner did a degree in computer science at TU Dresden. He joined Linotype-Hell AG in 1990, working in various software development areas and roles. From 2002, he developed Remote Services/Heidelberg Cloud as a program manager for Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG. He was appointed Vice President Enterprise & Services in 2008 and has been promoting digitization projects for Heidelberg and its customers as SVP Sales Excellence since 2010.