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Focus: New ways of transferring knowledge for profitable growth with print in the digital age

As of now, a blog focusing on interaction and knowledge transfer around the topic ‘Subscription’ is online:

https://hotspot-subscription.blog/

In German and English, a new platform will be made available that bundles factual information, expert opinions, interviews, practical experience and the latest scientific findings, makes them transparent and invites them to participate.

“Subscription is a new, exciting and multi-faceted topic that will keep us busy for a long time – with the potential to enable the graphics industry to continue its successful path to the digital future with print,” explains Andreas Weber, founder and CEO of Value Communication GmbH in Frankfurt am Main. As an experienced journalist and blogger, he moderates and designs the content of the blog. In a team with a top-class expert advisory board, relevant insights, trends and perspectives from daily work are recorded, discussed and made publicly accessible.

“The blog, as an interactive platform, aims to provide real added value to everyone who is interested in the emerging Subscription Economy in the industrial environment. Anyone who wants to contribute new and important things in this context or has specific questions can get involved”, adds Weber.

#hotspot-subscription.blog can now be subscribed free of charge for all available devices and is predestined for use by smartphone.

 


 

Experten-Blog #hotspot-subscription gestartet

Fokus: Neue Wege der Wissensvermittlung für profitables Wachstum mit Print im Digitalzeitalter

Ab sofort ist ein auf Interaktion und Wissenstransfer ausgerichteter Blog rund um das Thema ‚Subscription‘ online: 

https://hotspot-subscription.blog/

In deutscher und englischer Sprache wird damit eine neue Plattform zugänglich, die Sachinformationen, Experten-Meinungen, Interviews, Praxiserfahrungen und neueste wissenschaftliche Erkenntnisse bündelt, transparent macht und zum Mitmachen einlädt. 

„Subscription ist ein neues, spannendes und vielschichtiges Thema, das uns lange beschäftigen wird — mit dem Potenzial, der grafischen Branche einen anhaltend erfolgreichen Weg in die digitale Zukunft mit Print zu ermöglichen“, erläutert Andreas Weber, Gründer und Chef der Value Communication GmbH in Frankfurt am Main. Als erfahrener Journalist und Blogger moderiert und gestaltet er den Blog inhaltlich. Im Team mit einem hochkarätig besetzten Expertenbeirat werden relevante Erkenntnisse, Trends und Perspektiven aus der täglichen Arbeit erfasst, diskutiert und öffentlich zugänglich gemacht. 

„Der Blog als interaktive Plattform will über die Branchengrenzen hinaus allen, die sich im Industrieumfeld für die entstehende ‚Subscription Economy‘ interessieren einen echten Mehrwert bieten. Denn wer in diesem Kontext neues und wichtiges beitragen möchte oder spezifische Fragen hat, kann sich einbringen“, ergänzt Andreas Weber. 

#hotspot-subscription.blog kann ab sofort kostenfrei subskribiert werden für alle verfügbaren Endgeräte und ist für die Nutzung per Smartphone prädestiniert.

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ThinkPaper Quo Vadis Online Print.001

By Andreas Weber, Head of Value

#Think!Paper — Edition 2, Vol. 5. | Original German Version (Translation via Google Translator)

 

Preliminary note

These days in March 2019 caused confusion in the so-called online printing community. The pioneer CIMPRESS — progressive, successful, growth-oriented — demystified itself. Growth slowed, market capitalization halved, investors are turning their backs. Ouch! The fears: When the market leader coughs, the smaller ones get a flu. And: The gold rush mood, which was also experienced at the Online Print Symposium for many years, seems to be gone.

What’s happened

Do not worry: Online Printing is not going downhill. On the contrary. Online printing, like digital printing, is not a genre or even an industry, but a more or less useful auxiliary term for characterizing digital process paths in the production of printed matter. It started with web-to-print, leading to automated, standardized and scalable processes with the World Wide Web as a showcase. So one could win on the one hand customers who could order to date no printed matter; on the other hand, price advantages were used, as the optimized procedures allowed more favorable costs.

As a result, huge print volumes shifted from the classic commercial market to the ‘online printers’. So money has been redistributed. The actual new business areas remained marginal. Growth was thus achieved by repression, with a naturally not limitless effect.

Robert Keane recognized this early on. He used Vistaprint as a cash cow to acquire dozens of other companies. From this he formed a global corporation with a holding structure under the umbrella brand CIMPRESS. CIMPRESS itself does not have any customers other than shareholders; customers for print products of all kinds, including mass customization, belong to the sub-brands.

This has advantages and disadvantages. This was initially centralized to save costs and grow quickly. Now that growth has lost momentum, it has decentralized. Two things matter in this back and forth:

  • First, the cost of brand care is enormously high and inefficient, as it has little impact on CIMPRESS customers, investors.
  • Second, the consistent corporate culture is left behind. Many small kingdoms are most fond of themselves.

On to new shores

And thirdly, CIMPRESS is not dealing with homogeneous competitive structures, but romps in many areas and skirmishes with many “opponents”. Ultimately, such opponents are all those who have built digital literacy as part of the reform of their core business, from commercial printing to packaging, large format, etc. And thus able to offer technically savvy, highly efficient, cost-optimized and highly specialized. And with the support of their suppliers, which drive digital transformation in all directions. Heidelberg’s 1st Digital Print Forum on March 21, 2019 impressively demonstrates this.

To use a picture: CIMPRESS as an aircraft carrier or giant cruiser can not call every port and is not as agile as the tens of thousands of frigates, submarines and speedboats who want to win the battle in guerrilla style.

Conclusion: Real benefits or unique selling point of CIMPRESS can not be recognized. And those announcements of gigantic orders at drupa 2016 at Landa are completely fizzy. Like other more! In short: a lot of pampering — nothing except expenses. That will have become clear to the investors.

The problems of CIMPRESS are therefore largely home-made and by no means typical for those who see themselves as online printers. — Robert Keane is confident that he has recognized and counteracted.

Deceptive calm before the storm

Still, it will be difficult for everyone. The more digital the business, the more demanding it is to design customer relationships and promote customer loyalty. There is no loyalty in the e-commerce driven online print business. It is always about the best price and the highest ‘convenience’. To provide differentiation features becomes Herculean task.

From my point of view, the following central questions arise:

  1. Beyond Online Printing — How to make your own corporate culture so human that it attracts attention in the market and excites both internally and externally?
  2. Beyond Technocracy — How to reduce the overly focussed technology focus to better market insights through customer orientation to adapt to changing needs extremely quickly and effectively?
  3. Beyond Silo-Mentality — How to develop a new openness in mind and agility in doing, to identify differentiation traits and to develop a distinctive entrepreneurial personality?

As I will not be attending the #ops2019 in Munich this year, I am curious how seriously and openly the attendees will talk about the neuralgic points. And when the closed-conspired online print community repositions itself and finally opens to customers and prospects. Then there would certainly be other participants who could benefit from the online printing expertise as an orderer.

By the way: Many of my thousands of readers and network partners took my April Fool’s Day story seriously. Tenor: Bertelsmann regent Liz Mohn fancies getting in touch with CIMPRESS and above all the founder and CEO Robert Keane, in order to bring their Bertelsmann Printing Group, with 1.6 billion annual sales much smaller than CIMPRESS, back on track. — Maybe the idea of me is not so bad. If not already done, please read.

 

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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.

 

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#ThinkPaper Morten via INKISH.001

 

By Morten B. Reitoft, Editor/CEO INKISH, TV for- and about the printing industry, based in Roskilde, Zealand/Denmark

(The story was originally posted on LinkedIn, 5. March 2019)

#Think!Paper — Edition 2, Vol. 3 

Do you know the feeling of anti-climax? You have been busy for many days, maybe even been traveling, perhaps yet met a lot of people and, then you are back in your office, and things are quiet. Perhaps not more quiet than usual, but the contrast is what makes the anti-climax. This is how I am right now.

Last week I was at the Hunkeler Innovationdays #HID19 in Lucerne, Switzerland and it was actually one of the events I really anticipated to visit. Many friends, many business partners, potential business partners, and well – equipment that whatever you look at it as amazing. When you look at the digital printers, they are pretty amazing. The quality, the speed, the size, the – well – everything is just amazing. However, the binding is actually to some extent more amazing. You feed a roll in one end, and you see finished applications coming out in the other end. Books, statements, magazines, you name it, and I can’t help thinking about the amazing world what we live in. Technology keeps bringing us new amazing options, but most people in the printing industry don’t even know. The requirements for the vendors must be quite stressful from time to time. How do you keep innovating and how do you keep bringing new technology to the market when even the last great invention hasn’t sold in quantity expected?

At Hunkeler Innovationdays I spoke to CEO Michel Hunkeler and he kind of said (listen for yourself when we publish the interview) that Inkjet printers didn’t sell as fast as anticipated. It’s not cheap to develop machines like that and to be profitable, volume to some extent is required, or the price will be too high. Partnerships are seen as never before. Today we see technology from one vendor build into technology from another vendor. Some even re-brand products to get a wider distribution and who knows maybe shared development- and marketing cost. Two fresh examples are Ricoh/FujiFilm/Heidelberg or what about Argos/Plockmatic and then Hunkeler who build the amazing equipment that interfaces with practically every major supplier of inline or nearline binding equipment.

Houston we have got a problem. We – as an industry – continues to focus on effectiveness, lower cost and unfortunately don’t focus a lot on how to grow our industry. I have said this numerous times, and of course, my voice is a beep in the bigger world – but friends we have to do something.

 

Events #HID19

#HID19 was a big success according to all those exhibitors. Indeed, it was very well organized and highly informative. 

 

Where does it start? It starts with having a focus on growth rather than price – maybe not so much from the vendor side, but your hard work making machines better, faster, and more efficient drive the price development in the wrong direction. Your customers need to learn how to focus on growth – not just from a company perspective but an industry perspective. Some marketing people don’t know what we are capable of. Some people believe that print is old-fashion. Some people don’t see the value in push media and printed communication. Some of your customers don’t even know the basic skills when it comes to selling applications and solutions on anything but price?

I think we as an industry should figure out what to do. 

Many people in the industry actually do something about this – but all are small voices in a big world, and you should support these people. If you can make the industry grow your customers will increase revenue and profit, and they will be able to invest in your equipment – it’s that simple!

A few mentions! Deborah Corn and her Project Peacock educate the designers and print buyers. Matthew Parker teaches printers to sell not on price. Pat McGrew educate the market with her Print Sample TV. TwoSides about the environmental issues – and many more people – not to forget mentioning INKISH of course. We all work to make the printing industry better, more profitable, growing and exciting in the future as well – but vendors should financially support the future of the industry – and if you don’t want to encourage any existing channels just for the sake of marketing – find your projects that can support the industry you are part of and invest. The ROI in my opinion is higher and the impact on everybody is considerable. I personally buy magazines for more than $100 a month, I buy books frequently – if we all buy more print applications we support our industry and why shouldn’t we?

And then – After the Hunkeler Innovationdays I checked out some of the vendor’s websites – my god. Take a look at your own site and tell yourself that it does a good job – if you think so, fine – if not – do something about it. INKISH is about storytelling but to see websites in 2019 that still only focus on products – not even tell stories from users or inspire potential customers – my goodness – you will have a difficult time communicating with the younger generations.

DO something about that as well!

 


 

Response

There was immediately an interesting discussion on LinkedIn after Morton published his story. Here our selection via screenshot.

 

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Morten Photo

About Morten

Morten B. Reitoft is an experienced CEO with a passion for development of ideas and business. His statement: ”I am very creative and very hard working and one of my greatest strength is my ability to encourage people – whether these are customers, employees or business partners.”

Specialties: Creative, competitive, Great interest in both the detail and the overview, very good communication skills, inspiring, fast thinking, internationally oriented, great interest in people, business and processes.

Sign up for our INKISH.TV newsletter: http://eepurl.com/boQR_b

 


 

ThinkPaper Technocracy.001

More about the #Think!Paper project can be found in the ValueBlog.

 


 

 

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Highly attractive for startup companies such as PastBook in Amsterdam – print combined with social media provides access to new customer groups worldwide. Image collage: Andreas Weber, Mainz/Frankfurt am Main.

Executive summary of analysis by Andreas Weber, Head of Value

Also see the analysis commentary.

 

Print is becoming increasingly relevant – not only on the stock markets, but also and in particular with professional investors.

However, a closer look throws up a great many questions and even contradictions for (industry) outsiders. It is virtually impossible to obtain an overview of the position of “print as a business” from the current situation. This is because print is big – with an annual turnover of some US$898 billion (approx. €830 billion) in 2015.

In order to be able to evaluate print correctly, three different aspects need to be examined and assessed:

  1. (Global) economic importance of print
  2. (Unexpected) growth drivers in the print business
  3. Positioning and strategies of technology suppliers

 

 

1. (Global) economic importance of print

  • The print market is extremely important, rivaling automotive engineering, the financial sector, and advertising. This is actually nothing new and has been the case for generations!
  • One key trend in the print shop market is that print shops are becoming leaner, but added value needs to increase despite shrinking production volumes. Print shops must therefore continue investing so as to improve production efficiency and unlock new growth markets.
  • drupa 2016 made it clear on a global level that print media have by no means had their day and can be put to more effective use than ever. It is therefore wrong to paint a gloomy picture. The prospects are excellent!
  • The only way to add more value with print, though, is to stimulate the demand for modern-day print products on a sustained basis. Print doesn’t sell itself!
  • New kinds of striking concepts that are geared to market requirements and adopt an integrative approach to the professional manufacture, distribution, and use of print media hold the key to the future of print.
  • In order to be successful in the printing industry, it is vital not to rely solely on vertical positioning in individual applications, but to cater specifically to customer and market needs and ensure continuous innovation leadership.

 

CIMPRESS, the world market leader in online print, has turned its new headquarters on the east coast of the United States into a creative temple for the art of printing that attracts talented “digital natives” to its workforce. Photo: Screenshots from Margulies Perruzzi Architects video. 

 

2. (Unexpected) growth drivers in the print business

A) Strong growth impetus for print thanks to digital pioneers

B) Online print – the most dynamic growth segment at present

  • More than any other part of the printing industry, the online print sector is a pacesetter that is already seeing strong sales, with significantly higher double-digit growth and maximum profitability thanks to standardization and automation.
  • Relevant technical innovations are identified extremely quickly and implemented in a way that immediately helps add value. 
  • The boom in mass customization in print will accelerate this development.

C) Trendsetting 4D printing opens up new dimensions

  • The 4D graphic printing process is one of the world’s most important emerging technologies (Gartner) and is only just getting started on the market. It’s still too early to provide valid market data/KPIs, but a look at the dynamic growth of 3D printing as a whole enables parallels to be drawn and evaluated.
  • The considerable importance and excellent prospects of 4D printing are in any case clear. Not only print shops and versatile online print businesses are involved, but also all kinds of other companies, including manufacturers of consumer goods, the commercial sector, and even online startups.

D) Packaging – core competence enjoying extremely strong growth worldwide

  • Almost half of global print sales are generated by packaging and label printing and the total will have reached around €472 billion by 2018 (approx. €390 billion in 2015).
  • The packaging and label printing market is currently expanding by some €25 billion each year and will soon account for over 50 percent of the global print volume. Online trade and multichannel applications including communication at the point of sale are key growth drivers.
  • Offset and flexographic printing are by far the most important processes and will still have to handle the bulk of production in 10 years’ time. Digital printing technologies (especially inkjet printing) are growing at an above-average rate – in particular thanks to manufacturers working together – but still remain at a low level in terms of market share.
  • Those print shops that offer integrated solutions geared to customers, a high level of automation/standardization, and digital process expertise are one step ahead of the rest. 

 


 

3. Positioning and strategies of technology suppliers – from compartmentalized thinking to a customer-focused holistic approach

  • There are thousands of print and paper technology suppliers. Printing industry customers are confronted with a multitude of identical or similar offers.
  • Despite everything – and probably also due to the ever-present digital print manufacturers who like nothing better than to predict the demise of print if the industry fails to invest in digital printing – manufacturers using traditional offset, gravure, and flexographic technologies appeared to be falling behind.
  • However, despite having to face serious crises that threatened their very existence, the long-established groups Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heideldruck) and Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA) have maintained their strong position and been completely revitalized.
  • The world of offset printing, which was left for dead, has been successfully resuscitated and proactively integrated into the world of digital printing. Digital printing technology, on the other hand, remains compartmentalized with its standalone solutions and relies on displacing existing solutions through substitution.
  • Investors and the stock exchange acknowledged the renaissance of German companies KBA and Heideldruck at drupa 2016. The sales and earnings of both have improved as a result – with confident forecasts of upward share price movement.
  • For companies focusing uniquely on digital printing technology, on the other hand, big ambitions and significant research outlay have not had a positive impact on their share price to date.
  • The two German printing press manufacturers KBA and Heideldruck – the industry frontrunners – are successfully defending their leading positions and once again enjoying profitable growth. As things stand at present, Heideldruck has the best chance of building on its dominant market position in the digital era thanks to its holistic and expedient digitization strategy focusing on print.
  • Consequently, Heideldruck has become the pacesetter in the digital transformation of the global printing industry. In addition to different printing technologies, the entire print shop management process – including digital administrative/process control and cloud-based services – is being incorporated for optimum networking. The benchmark here is to ensure the best possible customer focus.

 

 


 

CONTACT / Further information and advisory:

ValuePublishing VDMA pre-drupa Pressekonferenz 2016.001

By Andreas Weber | GERMAN version

My comments: This was probably the most productive and therefore the most important event (with the business press) associated with drupa. Yes, market figures were given, but only as a guideline and to demonstrate that print is a growth market. The focus was far more on explaining from various perspectives how successful print business has transformed. No doubt some things will sound familiar. The important thing, though, in the run-up to drupa 2016 – which must cover a wider range of topics and exhibits than ever before – was to clearly establish the true context. And it was revealing to see how wholeheartedly all the key players (in this case the main decision-makers) at drupa, the world’s number one industry trade show, are behind their statements and publicity.

There’s no doubt about it – the world of printing isn’t what it used to be, but people have stopped bemoaning this fact and pressed the reset button. Nonetheless, anyone who still believes buying new equipment will ensure business success is mistaken and will fail. The new recipe for success will include holistic thinking outside the box, a comprehensive knowledge and excellent command of all process steps, automation, and the right, enlightened approach to digitization in the context of the sudden and rapid change in the demands placed on the printing sector.

In what was in my personal opinion the key speech, Dr. Gerold Linzbach talked about the true significance of digitization. Here’s an extract: “We’ve taken the vital step from focusing on technology to focusing on customers. (…) The benefit to customers is the top priority. We don’t simply apply technology for the sake of it.”

As Linzbach stressed, technology has to deliver “the optimum benefit for our customers and ultimately for whatever takes the industry forward.”

Welcome to the “Haus des Buches”

My report: The time and place for the exclusive pre-drupa business press conference were well chosen. We met on April 4, 2016 at the Haus des Buches (literally: house of the book) in the heart of Frankfurt am Main, a key financial center. The topics under discussion were market analysis, packaging, Print 4.0, and digitization. Our host was Dr. Markus Heering, Managing Director of the VDMA Printing and Paper Technology Association, who optimistically pronounced: “Print is an industry with a future.” As he sees it, print products are more than ever an everyday part of our lives and exhibit greater diversity than ever before. In his brief words of welcome, Messe Düsseldorf President and CEO Werner Matthias Dornscheidt was confident that the preparations for drupa 2016 couldn’t have gone better and it would be a resounding success, with appealing special events such as the drupa cube and an excellent supporting program providing the icing on the cake.

W M Dornscheidt und Dr. HeeringWerner Matthias Dornscheidt from Messe Düsseldorf and Dr. Markus Heering from the VDMA Printing and Paper Technology Association. Photo: Andreas Weber

 

Broad-based dynamic growth

“The global trend toward flexibilization and automation is currently playing into our hands. Germany’s press and paper machine manufacturers have been more successful than virtually any other mechanical engineering sector in making Industry 4.0 a reality,” continued Dr. Heering. Print 4.0, he said, was supporting Industry 4.0, and the extent to which print shops can improve their productivity and flexibility using fully networked digital work processes was already evident. Incoming orders for printing and paper technology were 10 percent up on the previous year in 2015, while press manufacturers saw a 9 percent increase in orders along with a slight fall in sales, especially in Germany. For manufacturers of postpress equipment, the increase in orders was as high as 21 percent. As Dr. Heering explained, “The sales figures also show it’s a long time since postpress technology was in such high demand. Sales climbed 13 percent in Germany and 9 percent in other countries.” He sees this as good reason to approach drupa 2016, the industry’s leading trade show worldwide, with renewed energy.

According to the VDMA, the key elements of networking and flexibility are emerging as visions and guiding principles for printing press and paper machine manufacturers, and there are three topic areas to be addressed:

  1. Flexibility in meeting specific customer needs
  2. Merging of technologies and functions
  3. Cooperation and standardization of interfaces

The focus is on the declared goal of strengthening print and paper by moving into new applications.

 

Claus Bolza-Schünemanndrupa president Claus Bolza-Schünemann, Chairman of the Executive Board of Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA). Photo: Andreas Weber

 

Packaging printing as a driver of print shop business

drupa president Claus Bolza-Schünemann, Chairman of the Executive Board of Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA), trained the spotlight on the packaging sector as a growth driver, stressing that traditional printing methods are leading the way here and are indispensable for the time being, but digital printing offers the possibility of new uses. “Together, flexographic and offset printing currently account for around two-thirds of the international packaging printing market, which was valued by Smithers PIRA at around US$415 billion in 2015. Digital printing’s share is still relatively small at approximately 3 percent, which leaves plenty of room for growth,” he said, adding that the packaging market for print shops is growing at a high level of 4 to 5 percent annually.

Bolza-Schünemann underlined that the total global sales volume for print was so high that it was hard to imagine. According to forecasts, sales will rise from their current level of just over US$900 billion to almost US$1 trillion by 2018. “The fact that ten years ago KBA was still generating a good 60 percent of Group sales in media-oriented print markets and only around 20 percent in packaging printing highlights the extent to which the printing world has shifted in the direction of packaging. Not entirely unintentionally, packaging now accounts for over 60 percent and publication printing just over 10 percent,” added the drupa president. In addition to outer packaging with high design and production standards, everyday packaging is now also becoming more important. Bolza-Schünemann is expecting the brown corrugated cardboard packaging currently used as standard in e-commerce to become increasingly colorful and believes this makes high-performance rotary inkjet printing ideal for the corrugated cardboard market.

 

My interim comments:

Global sales figures always sound good. And the prospect of print media manufacturers soon generating US$1 trillion is impressive, but at the same time highly abstract. Newspapers such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung did pick up on this after the VDMA business press event, referring to signs of life from the world of printing on page 18 of its April 5, 2016 edition, confirming that print is a growth market, and pointing out that the printing industry’s turnover exceeds that of the automotive industry – but what does that really tell us? What’s more, these figures have been around for nearly 15 years. manroland AG defined them as the basis for its market research, but they were evidently little use given that the company went bankrupt. Far more exciting in my view is the question (which is not easy to answer) of the role print media are playing in the improvement in overall macroeconomic performance. If packaging is now being called the printing industry’s growth driver, all companies that are looking to physically sell products must focus 100 percent on print. That’s a clear and obvious statement, isn’t it? The imaging group Canon – also known for excellent specialist surveys about print and multichannel applications – has developed a convincing chart and is using it for
presentations. This makes the significance of print even clearer!

 

 

drupa president Bolza-Schünemann listed the following reasons for the strong, sustained growth of packaging:

  1. Printed packaging serves a protective, preservative, and advertising function for its contents and, increasingly, a communication function, too. Just think of consumer protection with appropriate references on the packaging.
  2. Packaging cannot be replaced by flatscreens or smartphones. Unlike printed newspapers or catalogs, it remains unaffected by the changed media behavior and actually tends to benefit from this.
  3. The global population is rising and international prosperity is increasing. The middle class with disposable income is growing in emerging markets such as China, India, and Brazil. Growing prosperity goes hand in hand with higher consumption and that in turn means more packaging and printing, all the more since shopping malls are springing up everywhere in emerging markets, too.
  4. Packaging is becoming increasingly classy and sophisticated – the only way to attract the necessary attention at the point of sale. This trend results in greater added value for the printing industry and machines with more elaborate configurations for the supply industry.
  5. More single-person households with a preference for ready meals and the booming online mail-order business are also driving growth.

What’s more, the influence of multichannel solutions, augmented reality, and personalization – which make all types of packaging the starting point for new contact and dialog options with the buyer – is creating huge potential for brand organizations (see the ValueDialog with multichannel developer Jacob Aizikowitz).

 

Kai Büntemeyer

Kai Büntemeyer, Chairman of the VDMA Printing and Paper Technology Association and Managing Partner of Kolbus GmbH & Co KG. Photo: Andreas Weber

 

The only solution – digital networking of the entire value-added chain

Businessman Kai Büntemeyer, Chairman of the VDMA Printing and Paper Technology Association and Managing Partner of Kolbus GmbH & Co KG, dismissed the prejudiced view that postpress is more or less an add-on to print media production. He warned against being tempted by offers to buy attractive new presses without thinking, and thus failing to consider the entire process chain and assess all networking options within and outside the print shop. It’s essential to have “a process world characterized by interoperability, open systems, and harmonized interfaces. The speed of the evolutionary processes under Print 4.0 stands and falls with the transparency of the players involved,” emphasized Büntemeyer, citing the example of the interface syntax provided by his company to download free of charge.

In the case of the printing and paper industry, he said it was important to distinguish between digitization on the one hand and digital printing on the other: “Digital inkjet printing is simply another process to be integrated into digitized process chains in the same way as conventional offset, flexographic or gravure printing. The printing process is just a small part of the complete chain.”

According to Büntemeyer, the overall process chain is as follows:

  • It starts with the receipt of digital job data;
  • continues with software-based job planning for optimized machine capacity utilization with minimal makeready times;
  • includes purchasing and HR planning;
  • and naturally all prepress and postpress process steps;
  • and it only ends with automated packaging, addressing, and shipping of the print products.

Although all this has long been established, he explained, it is only now feasible thanks to today’s high-performance technology, because only very recently have processor capacities, real-time communication, and big data software solutions enabled implementation in a way that is geared to the market.

Büntemeyer developed the following scenario, which shows postpress in a whole new light: “Sensory inline monitoring ensures consistently high quality, but the data collected can unlock added value. Monitoring the status of machines makes it possible to carry out preventive repairs, which enables downtimes to be planned. And service specialists can rectify many a fault remotely. The data collected is also used for anonymized benchmark comparisons in cutting-edge printing systems. Users can compare their performance and productivity with that of other users of the same systems.”

However, Büntemeyer also recognizes that, broadly speaking, the industry’s equipment is lagging behind these possibilities – by at least 10 to 15 years. During this period, there was too little process/solution-oriented thinking and insufficient investment. Networking between print shops is also recommended.

 

My interim comments:

It’s good that this has now been made clear, because I conclude that it’s ultimately no longer a case of optimizing details and maintaining the traditional silo mentality. New, sometimes disruptive, holistic, automated business processes and the corresponding reorientation of business models are now the order of the day. (N.B.: The 4th Online Print Symposium, which took place in Munich on March 17 and 18, 2015, revealed how far this has already progressed at extremely successful online print shops such as Onlineprinters, Flyeralarm, United Print, and CIMPRESS (see the article entitled “Zipper’s Insights: reporting from the 4th Online Print Symposium”).

 

 


Dr. Gerold Linzbach, CEO of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, has realigned Heidelberg to focus on customers. Video: Andreas Weber (in german language).

 

“Digitization isn’t the same as digital printing!”

Dr. Gerold Linzbach, CEO of industry leader Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, followed his statement at the VDMA press event by summing up the company’s new role: “We’ve taken the vital step from focusing on technology to focusing on customers.” He said it was important not to make digitization just another buzz word that everyone uses without really knowing what it means or agreeing on a standard definition.

According to Dr. Linzbach, Heidelberg has, in discussions with customers and numerous market partners, defined three essential elements or levels of digitization for the print market. When understood correctly, digitization thus makes it possible to embrace the digital era through the automation and flexibilization of print.

The first essential element is networking in the sense of automatically passing on data (for press and downstream postpress operations) between machines with adequate interfaces to make all process steps transparent to users. Especially these days, when fragmented order books set the rhythm, automation through networking is absolutely vital. It’s the only way Heidelberg customers can, among other things, complete 3,000 or more orders per day. Success in smoothly incorporating digital printing systems via the print shop network also really pays off. In a short space of time, this has enabled Heidelberg sales staff to succeed in selling 1,000 OEM digital printing systems from Ricoh to print shops.

Once the job data has been received, the customer – that is to say the print shop – is automatically relieved of the decision as to the best production process to use, i.e. offset or digital printing. According to Dr. Linzbach, then, it’s all about seamless integration of all production resources that a print shop must use to minimize the data handling outlay. This is already standard in online printing and will spread to all areas of the printing industry. It’s also necessary if, as in the area of packaging, there is a huge increase in the amount of documentation required to prove, for example, that food was packaged in line with regulations.

 

Dr. Gerold Linzbach at the press conference. Photos: Andreas Weber

 

The second essential element is the variabilization of print, that is to say personalization or customization in the sense of frequently changing the print content, together with a wide variety of substrates/printing stock – by its very nature a strength of digital printing processes. Heidelberg has configured and developed a whole package of digital printing solutions for drupa 2016. This even involves printing at different locations, for example end customers printing muesli packaging with personalized designs at the mymuesli.com shop.

Connectivity plays an important role. According to Dr. Linzbach, it’s a mistake simply to rely on equipping presses with thousands of sensors that can read data in seconds and then store it in huge volumes. For a responsible technology manufacturer like Heidelberg, the challenge is to move from big data to smart data. In other words, data that is essentially suitable for any use needs to be filtered, selecting only the most important details from the mass of job, customer, and application data – that is to say the very things that are really relevant. It must be possible for this to happen automatically. To stop this sounding too theoretical, Dr. Linzbach gave an example. Heidelberg will be creating an e-commerce platform that automatically tells customers, for example, if something they order is incompatible with the equipment installed at their company. The aim must be to avoid outlay and above all mistakes, and to lessen customers’ workloads so that they can concentrate on their core activities.

Dr. Linzbach holds out the prospect of soon being able to operate even the most complicated technologies very easily, almost at the touch of a button – just like smartphones and tablets, which operate in a virtually self-explanatory way and produce exactly the desired results without the consumer needing to know about each and every technical function.

This is the only way to ensure that customers from the print shop sector can get on with their real work. According to Dr. Linzbach, the main task of someone running a print shop is not to deliver perfect print quality – that must be ensured by the company providing the technology – but above all to manage jobs and high order volumes, undertake marketing activities, and maintain contacts with customers.

And that brings us to the third essential element of digitization –reduce to the max using appropriate filters developed from customer and application know-how to combine all the technical possibilities and focus on what is actually relevant so as to turn data into productive information.

Dr. Linzbach’s conclusion: “The benefit to customers is the top priority. We don’t simply apply technology for the sake of it, nor do we simply install the maximum that is technically possible. We always try to combine it in such a way as to offer the optimum benefit for our customers and ultimately for whatever takes the industry forward.”

 

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N.B.: ValuePublishing offers comprehensive reports and constructive criticism relating to the important and above all relevant pre-drupa events. See in particular:

“drupa ante portas – Top topic for 2016: Print in the communications mix!”

“drupa ante portas: Is print (again) in the passing lane? YES and NO.”

 

 

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