Photos: Heidelberg / HDU. Collage: Andreas Weber, Frankfurt am Main
“We’re remodeling customer interfaces for Heidelberg and creating a seamless digital ecosystem for its customers.” – Rainer Wiedmann, Head of the Heidelberg Digital Unit (HDU) and Chief Marketing Officer at Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG.
New digital ecosystem for the print media industry
The new “leading light function” of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG heralded by CEO Rainer Hundsdörfer midway through 2017 is increasingly taking shape and making dynamic progress. “The new Heidelberg Digital Unit is boosting the company’s e-commerce business, online presence, and digital marketing expertise,” said member of the Management Board and Chief Digital Officer Dr. Ulrich Hermann just recently.
What exactly does that entail? Rainer Wiedmann discussed this publicly for the first time in an interview for ValueDialog. A successful digital pioneer, Wiedmann took charge of the Heidelberg Digital Unit start-up company (HDU for short) on April 1, 2018 in parallel with his role as the Heidelberg Group’s Chief Marketing Officer. – The interview was conducted by Head of Value Andreas Weber.
About the new Heidelberg Digital Unit (HDU)
Location: Wiesloch-Walldorf, with branches in China, the United States, and Asia
Initial workforce: 50
Objective: To enjoy dynamic growth and establish the number one digital ecosystem in the print sector
Partner: Internet specialist iq!
As CDO on the Heidelberg Management Board, Dr. Ulrich Hermann is a dynamic driving force behind the company’s digital transformation.
Digital business models inspire the customer journey
Mr. Wiedmann, you were already a digital pioneer over 20 years ago when you founded the argonauten group, a multimedia agency that was an immediate success. What has changed since then?
Rainer Wiedmann: Back then, I was already heavily involved in shaping customer interfaces. This approach led by way of marketing innovation to e-commerce. Nowadays, the focus is on end-to-end digital business models. Thanks to IoT (the Internet of Things), machine learning, voice control, and similar innovations, a complete digital customer journey is now possible for the first time – not only sales & marketing, but many other parts of the value chain are being digitized.
So you see this as a linear dynamic development?
Rainer Wiedmann: What I see is an extremely dynamic process. An online presence is no longer the be-all and end-all. Access to customers and interaction with them are the most relevant things. Based on the new approach, an optimum customer interface is essential if digitization is to generate value.
What’s your motivation for treading new ground with HDU in the mechanical engineering sector, of all places?
Rainer Wiedmann: I started out as an engineer and, following my studies at the University of St. Gallen’s Institute of Technology Management, I gained vital experience with a large number of industrial customers. New forms of connectivity are rapidly transforming mechanical engineering, and Heidelberg is extremely well placed to benefit from this development.
Rainer Wiedmann: Our machines have long been networked. We also have our own global sales and service organization with a portfolio incorporating hardware, software, and consumables.
What’s more, the executive management team at Heidelberg understands exactly what transformation through digitization means, as demonstrated among other things by the new subscription model – a first in the industry. As I see it, all this creates the perfect conditions!
HDU in a nutshell
How is the newly founded HDU positioning itself in this context?
Rainer Wiedmann: Our goal is to design customer interfaces for Heidelberg that create a seamless digital ecosystem for the company’s customers.
What are HDU’s core values?
Rainer Wiedmann: HDU is all about creating added value based on permanence, consistency, and relevance. Its main value lies in getting the maximum number of existing and potential customers to use the Heidelberg offering on a weekly or, better still, daily basis. It’s not simply a case of registering a large number of nominal users in the system, but of having as many active users as possible. As I see it, content, function, coverage, and interaction are the key to success.
Does your new approach with HDU fit in with the Heidelberg culture?
Rainer Wiedmann: On the one hand, the people at Heidelberg come across as being open and innovative. On the other, they like to follow precise rules. In the digital transformation context, however, I feel a more target-driven approach is vital for employees.
What does that achieve?
Rainer Wiedmann: One advantage of HDU that can be transferred to Heidelberg is that in order to achieve specified goals or optimize target achievement, we work as a team on the structure of rules so that we can make adjustments as and when required.
Heidelberg is indisputably strong when it comes to technical innovation. But what about the company’s customers? Are you aware of any reservations about digitization?
Rainer Wiedmann: Given that all kinds of print production have long been based on digital data, our customers are well advanced with the process of digitization, and e-commerce is nothing new to them either. Online printing has created a huge new growth market. Our approach of working closely with customers to offer a comprehensive package providing peace of mind has therefore proved very popular. If you know what needs to be done and the goals are clear, digitization in printing is regarded very much as an opportunity.
Digital print shop processes are one thing, but the go-to-market strategy in the digital age is another matter entirely. I see a weakness here. Am I right?
Rainer Wiedmann: The important thing in my eyes is for Heidelberg to demonstrate the positive effects of digitization as effectively as possible to customers who are in dialog with us. Only personal experience gives a proper impression of how print shops can also put this to good use in their own customer relations.
Screenshots from the Heidelberg Digital Unit’s new website.
HDU mission statements
“We develop innovative digital sales, marketing, and service solutions for all stages of the customer journey and deliver measurable results with a multidisciplinary team and external partners focused on success.”
“We contribute to the operational excellence of all Heidelberg units by offering a digital, state-of-the-art ecosystem that sets new standards in this area.”
“We don’t shy away from any risk. We rely on our entrepreneurial skills and make unexpected, disruptive decisions that enable us to score points with our customers.”
“We won’t let anything stop us achieving our goals and dreams. Continuously pursuing them and measuring our progress will see us succeed.”
“We embrace the digital age. We enjoy working with people who leave the office happy because everyone has done their best and is proud to be part of the team.”
It’s all about clear goals and measurable successes
HDU started out with 50 staff and is aiming to expand rapidly. What skills do you require?
Rainer Wiedmann: Around 80 percent of our initial team are very experienced and highly skilled in the print market. We’re adding new people who have experience in areas such as e-commerce, digital marketing, and social media.
What’s special about your team?
Rainer Wiedmann: We have the right mix! The mutual respect and common goals of our “mixed” team make us particularly effective. The excellent market position enjoyed by Heidelberg and our geographical proximity to the company are very helpful and motivate us all. We are “Born in Heidelberg” – a statement that perfectly demonstrates our unshakable commitment. It also boosts our credentials as an employer beyond the confines of the sector.
How is HDU’s work being integrated into the Heidelberg Group’s everyday operations? And how is the collaboration going?
Rainer Wiedmann: We’ve gotten off to a very promising start because we actively approach Heidelberg staff, provide them with all the information they need, and listen to what they have to say. We have contacts for the individual Heidelberg business units and access to all the sales units. Our global Growth Hacking Tour has already started. We’re using it to raise the local profile of our portfolio in key markets, offer training on our new tools and software solutions, and introduce e-commerce initiatives that we’ve developed.
Roadmap of the Global Growth Hacking Tour in the startup phase of the HDU. (Photo: screenshot from the HDU website)
Focus on maximum competitiveness and market relevance
Does that effectively mean HDU is offering in-house consulting and agency services at Heidelberg?
Rainer Wiedmann: Yes, but we’re not uniquely a service provider. We offer support with customized tools, efficient campaigns, and in-depth know-how. And we enter into clear target agreements. Our task is to create measurable results and boost e-commerce sales. We focus closely on figures to deliver success. And we achieve results as a team when we generate leads and sales.
What is the response to the Growth Hacking Tour?
Rainer Wiedmann: People are immediately seeing that we’re coming to them with the offer of added value for their day-to-day work and demonstrating a true community spirit. As a subsidiary, we have a clear advantage. We’re creating a trusting relationship from scratch for joint success.
Looking beyond Heidelberg, competitors on the digital printing market are claiming they provide their own digital platforms as ecosystems for print. What can and do you want to do differently or even better?
Rainer Wiedmann: Yes, we have our rivals, but in our segment – commercial and packaging printing – we have the highest market shares and by far the largest installed base. What’s more, we’ve had the world’s largest database for presses for over ten years.
And that means what?
Rainer Wiedmann: It enables us to offer even better functions and optimum access to our entire portfolio along with detailed knowledge of specific customer interests that is always up to date. Our extremely strong service is now helping to expand things again on the operating side.
So does that mean the HDU ecosystem must make it possible, based on the Heidelberg platform, to significantly improve all aspects of performance?
Rainer Wiedmann: We don’t simply want production to run smoothly at print shops. At the end of the day, we’re improving our customers’ competitiveness and market relevance – not just here and there but at all levels as far as possible.
Hand on heart, as a digital expert, what do you say to the boss of a print shop whose customers tell him printing is outdated and they no longer want to use it?
Rainer Wiedmann: Print media will never disappear. In fact, we’re seeing growth in areas such as packaging, labels, and mass customization. Yes, there are shifts from analog to digital – in particular when it comes to company marketing – but new applications will keep on emerging. For me, HDU’s main task in the long term is to unlock this new potential and enable customers to act flexibly, proactively, and sustainably as times change.
How do you personally think HDU will fare in the short, medium, and long term?
Rainer Wiedmann: I’m more than confident. We’re sticking to the vision and mission we formulated for HDU. And we’re measuring our progress, then responding immediately.
– Thank you very much for this interview.
My take on things – a solution of striking simplicity
It’s enough to take your breath away. Heidelberg is putting in an impressive sprint on the home straight, hurtling forward in a completely new guise – the Heidelberg Digital Unit (HDU) – and showing the competition quite clearly who’s in first place when it comes to digital transformation.
It’s official! A traditional company has without doubt completely reinvented itself – in record time –demonstrating the courage to take risks based on its wide-ranging expertise in printing and all things digital. Rather than abandoning much of the previous system, the company is using and optimizing it to benefit from new developments. One important additional aspect: Heidelberg has realized that in the digital age it’s no longer sufficient to aim for success with best-in-class product innovations.
Launching HDU in this form is a real stroke of genius in my opinion. A subsidiary designed as a start-up – fast, flexible, and firmly anchored with an excellent network – it provides new, user-oriented “digital” services for the Group and at the same time becomes a pacesetter with measurable results to make sales, marketing, and services permanently fit for the digital age on a global level. In my eyes, that’s the perfect way to firmly establish highly innovative products and solutions on the market on a lasting basis.
The biggest winners are Heidelberg customers and the market as a whole because, for the first time, they have access to a well thought-out, effective ecosystem in the form of an exponential platform that takes industrialprint production to a whole new level in the digital age and makes it fit for the future. To sum up, this is a real win-win situation – especially for Heidelberg staff, shareholders, and numerous new partners.
The “crux of the ‘digital’ transformation problem” I identified in my #ValueCheck is thus soon set to be resolved!
Rainer Wiedmann comes from Stuttgart and is one of Germany’s great digital pioneers. After studying at the universities of Stuttgart and St. Gallen and gaining several years of professional experience, he founded the argonauten group (350 employees at 11 international locations) in 1996, the aquarius group (100 employees based in Munich, Hong Kong, and Shanghai) in 2005, and the iq! group (based in Munich and Palo Alto) in 2014.
The iq! group maintains close links with the new Heidelberg Digital Unit (HDU), which started operating on April 1, 2018 with 50 employees.
HDU is a start-up company and a subsidiary of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, where Wiedmann plays a dual role as Head of HDU and Chief Marketing Officer.
From 1999 to 2003, Wiedmann was President of the Deutscher Multimedia Verband e.V. (now BVDW e.V.). From 2003 to 2004, he was on the board of Gesamtverband Kommunikationsagenturen GWA e.V. in Frankfurt.
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 140 countries worldwide.