By Andreas Weber, Head of Value | German Version
“For me, Heidelberg Assistant is a tool that is very important to our digitization strategy, one that is indispensable for the future.”— Andre Gass, IT specialist and senior executive at D.O.G. GmbH in Darmstadt
Managing processes with the aid of digital communications creates transparency in real time for complex technical procedures and takes industrial print production to a whole new level. This was the most important insight gleaned from the follow-up meeting with D.O.G. GmbH in Darmstadt.
The aim of the meeting was to examine the use of the Heidelberg Assistant as a central digital management platform in a highly specialized print shop. D.O.G. was represented at this meeting by senior executive Andre Gass, who, as a qualified IT specialist, deals primarily with the Heidelberg Assistant and intelligent data analysis for the operational and technical management of the print shop. Tom Oelsner, Head of Innovation at the Heidelberg Digital Unit, also attended the meeting on behalf of Heidelberg.
Precision and reliability based on flexibility and innovation
D.O.G. GmbH is a family business and has specialized in work for customers in the German and European pharmaceutical industry and the cosmetic and airline sectors since it was founded in 1996. The solutions in its portfolio include sophisticated print products and services such as packaging inserts, booklets, standard labels, piggyback labels, outserts, folding cartons, labels for folding cartons, design and consulting services, logistics, and engineering. Everything at D.O.G. is genuine precision work, which is monitored by customers through audits. Founder and Managing Director Johann Gass has ushered in a new era so that his company can meet the requirements of the digital age in the best way possible. Three of his children have also joined the team. D.O.G. runs production operations at two sites in western Darmstadt and has been using the Heidelberg Assistant since June 2018.
The Heidelberg Assistant is a universal web platform that allows various users to digitally manage all the relevant aspects of a print shop. These aspects include, for instance, the printing technology in use (including performance measurement and predictive monitoring), support, purchasing through an eShop, and administration. The combined use of Heidelberg IDs and customer-/employee-specific dashboards supports personalized access to the system and allows companies to integrate all specific components in a customized and scalable way. The Heidelberg Cloud ensures the best possible connectivity and provides an optimum means of sharing data and knowledge. After being launched initially in Germany, Switzerland, the USA, and Canada, the project was rolled out in Japan in July 2018. And there are more countries to come. The platform has an open design and can even integrate products from other manufacturers. The basic version is available to all customers free of charge.
Useful to customers from day one!
“Following the launch with around 30 customers in December 2017, it is clear that industrial customers with an affinity for services and cutting-edge equipment draw particular benefit from the Heidelberg Assistant. Right now, there are already over 200 customers using the Assistant. There’ll be 500 by the end of the year,” Oelsner states confidently. The aim is to make both the platform and Heidelberg Cloud meet the highest security standards.
Oelsner sees his collaboration with IT specialist Andre Gass as the perfect opportunity to put the platform through its paces and make sure it continues to evolve. Thanks to the modular design of the Assistant, new customer requirements can be integrated as add-ons as necessary. A new release goes live every three months. “The capacity utilization is very high right from the start. There are many customers who use the Heidelberg Assistant several times a week, some even daily,” explains Oelsner.
This high intensity of use appears to be rather consistent across the individual markets, although market penetration has progressed furthest in Switzerland: “The Assistant offers the widest range of applications for customers with machines connected to the Heidelberg Cloud. In Switzerland, around 50 percent of this customer group already uses the Assistant, mainly to boost productivity and get advance warning of potential failures.” The feature in highest demand appears to be the service status, which, thanks to its traffic-light system, can be checked at a glance.
The ability to customize the platform makes it particularly appealing to users – this even includes assigning names to machines and photos of installed machines and print shop employees.
Oelsner explains: “It’s really important to us that we can put the customer at the very heart of what we do. That means we make it possible for our customers to give their staff exactly the support they need for their respective tasks. For instance, employees can select the events for which they would like to receive a messenger or email notification. “Do you still use the telephone or do you use the Heidelberg Assistant?” That has to be the question we ask customers – because they can now track service processes, spare part deliveries, predicted failures, and productivity 24/7 without having to make a single call.
The many benefits of digital communication and smart automation
Managing maintenance operations has to be a key focal point for industrial print shops, as Gass is well aware. The Assistant automatically generates a maintenance calendar, which helps customers find the best way to incorporate various machines into production planning. After all, downtimes lower productivity and so, in principle, should not occur unless scheduled. Maximizing the availability of production systems is important, first and foremost, in giving print shops the flexibility they need when plans change because the customer has moved a deadline. Workflows must always be designed to achieve maximum productivity.
“Digital communication with Heidelberg Service, either through the Assistant’s messaging system or the eCall functions [for instance, the machine automatically reports and documents signs of faults], really takes a lot of weight off our shoulders. Nothing gets lost, and all processes are always running at optimum level,” Gass explains. He appreciates the platform’s clear structure, transparency, and user-friendliness.
“Our core values of reliability, commitment to quality, flexibility, and innovation are fully reflected in the Assistant, which helps us considerably when it comes to doing the best possible job in the interest of our customers,” adds Gass.
Gass worked very closely with the Heidelberg Assistant while preparing for the installation of a new Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106-2-P. “We take a very methodical and structured approach to everything we do, and always push ourselves to the limit when it comes to performance and quality. This is because customer requirements, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry, are extremely high.” Gass has been very impressed by the way Heidelberg makes the premium technology of its hardware and software both transparent and simple to use.
“We’re really benefiting from everything the Assistant is making possible because reaching a high level of digitization is very much a priority, not just for us but also for our customers. This is because one of our core missions is to create the best possible interfaces to our customers’ highly diverse systems,” explains Gass. Orders are sent to the print shop digitally and can then be managed and monitored on an entirely digital basis and optimized using process management where appropriate.
As a result, it may become necessary to create an interface between the Heidelberg Assistant and the ERP system at D.O.G. for future use. Oelsner adds: “A system connection is already being tested for error messages. This allows the customer’s system to send an XML file to the Assistant for electronic processing without an employee having to fill out a new form.”
However, it is important to make full use of the wide range of options already available first, primarily with regard to the platform’s add-on options, and particularly those relating to performance measures. The basic version of the Assistant provides the customer with KPIs. Additional options for more detailed analysis can be agreed in a separate contract.
Important outcomes: Speed, error prevention, convenience functions
Gass has been impressed by the integration of the Heidelberg eShop, which is tailored to the specific needs of his company: “We have preconfigured shopping lists, and it only takes a few clicks to put together the right order. The eShop range adapts to our requirements and selects the consumables we actually need. Incorrect orders are now a thing of the past. Even today, the Heidelberg eShop is already designed to work fast.
According to Oelsner, it takes an average of 70 seconds to place an order using shopping lists. In the future, the necessary order volumes will be calculated on a predictive basis using key data from production and the customer will be advised on when to place an order, so that no surplus stock has to be stored in the print shop.
With the exception of a completely autonomous ordering process, which will be available in future configurations of the Assistant, the print shop could not have chosen a more dependable procurement system.
There is another feature of the Assistant that Gass finds particularly practical – users can intervene if necessary, and are not solely reliant on automation. Oelsner goes on to discuss the feedback he’s gotten from many customers: “All kinds of additional documents, such as text, images and video, can be sent to Heidelberg using the service system, even an audio file of a rattling sound, which would be difficult to explain otherwise.”
For Gass, this represents a significant improvement to communication and a noticeable increase in the speed and quality of troubleshooting. He also believes it is important the system documents what it does, so as to create transparency for the management team.
Gass summarizes his experience with the Assistant: “For me, Heidelberg Assistant is a tool that is very important to our digitization strategy, one that is indispensable for the future. What’s more, everything we’re familiar with in terms of modern digital communication through social media in our private lives is also offered by the Assistant for our business matters: Messenger and chat functions, notifications, and much more. Everything is recorded automatically in timelines and can be researched later on.”
My take – times are changing. And that’s perfect!
In the print business, there is still a lot that can be done much better as part of a smart digitization strategy driven by IT expertise. This is particularly true when tech manufacturers, like Heidelberg in the case of the Heidelberg Assistant, create innovative, scalable and interactive platforms that print shops can use in structured, personalized and creative ways.
At D.O.G. in Darmstadt, they aren’t just aware of this – they’re actively integrating it into their new business strategy, making it an important part of this new era in the company’s management. This is all the more fitting, as D.O.G. aims for the highest level of quality and precision based on its clearly defined company values.
Digital communication at every step in the industrial print manufacturing process is a must if you want to take a modern approach to business operations and the concerns of end customers.
If all necessary business communication between the tech manufacturer and the customer in the printing industry can be optimized to such a degree, then everyone wins – with mutual benefits, profitable growth and sustainable development in business activities! —Andreas Weber
About the author
Andreas Weber has been a print expert and internationally renowned business communication analyst, coach, influencer, and networker for over 25 years. His activities focus on transformation for the digital age and include lectures, management briefings, workshops, analyses, reports, and strategic advice. – His blog www.valuetrendradar.com inspires readers from over 150 countries worldwide.