Highcon ramps up to address final frontier of digital transformation

Jo Francis
Monday, June 28, 2021

Disruptive digital post-press manufacturer Highcon has been around for more than a decade, but in 2021 it feels like the firm’s technology is really coming of age.

Donegal: Corrugated and packaging markets offer “colossal” profits
Donegal: Corrugated and packaging markets offer “colossal” profits

An IPO at the end of last year, and a number of high-profile appointments involving former HP executives have signalled the extent of the Israeli manufacturer’s ambitions.

Highcon also has a high-profile backer in the shape of Indigo and Landa founder Benny Landa.

The company raised $45m (£33.5m) through the flotation at the end of last year, with the business valued at $165m. Then in January, long-standing HP Indigo boss Alon Bar-Shany – hugely respected among HP’s worldwide customer base – joined as chairman, along with another well-known HP Indigo figure and experienced industry hand

Simon Lewis, who became vice-president of marketing. 

The spotlight then turned to the UK, with the appointment of Steve Donegal as country manager for the UK and Ireland. 

Donegal is also steeped in the industry. He began his print career at Crosfield Electronics back in 1987. He then joined the fledgling Indigo business in 1994 and, after HP’s acquisition of Indigo in 2000, subsequently spent nearly 18 years working at the industry giant – relocating to Australia as he took up international roles developing the business in India, Korea, Asia Pacific and Australasia. 

In fact, Donegal met Highcon founders Aviv Ratzman and Michael Zimmer right at the beginning of their venture. 

“I’ve been fortunate in keeping my finger on the pulse. I visited Mickey and Aviv back in 2009, when I first saw the prototype of the Highcon tech,” he recalls.

“When I came back to the UK in 2017, I was around the Dscoop consortium and did some work there, and met with Jens Henrik [Jens Henrik Osmundsen, VP sales and GM EMEA and APAC at Highcon, and also ex-Indigo/HP]. We chatted and I said I’d like to help out – I love the technology and I’d really love to work with Highcon. It’s a great fit with where the market is going,” Donegal explains. 

Donegal subsequently helped the business with some projects, including the high-profile installation at Linney Group’s supersite in Mansfield. 

“Since then I’ve stepped in, in a big way to really start driving a new wave of Highcon in the UK and Ireland. And I’m really pleased with the way it’s going and ultra-excited to be working with the team – it’s a really good bunch of people to be to be working with again. It’s great technology and it’s coming into its sweet spot now and I think you’re beginning to see the buzz.”

It’s worth noting that the UK market is significant for Highcon as it is home to the world’s first Euclid installation, at Glossop Cartons, which installed the digital cutting and creasing device in February 2013. 

The Stockport company followed that up by taking the world’s first next-generation Highcon Beam three years later, and Donegal warmly describes Glossop as being “instrumental” in helping Highcon establish itself in the market. 

Most recently, the installation of the UK’s first Beam 2 at Linney Group has transformed the company’s die-cutting operations, with executive director Charles Linney going so far as to describe the B1, 5,000sph device as a “game-changer” for the business, resulting in a huge reduction in makeready and turnaround times. 

Linney also highlighted the sustainability benefits involved, one of the key drivers for businesses across the industry. 

Donegal believes Highcon is positioned to take advantage of this trend, as well as the ongoing shift to digital production and shorter runs that has been accelerated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Lewis says last year’s IPO “is enabling us to do things that we quite simply hadn’t been able to do for a long time”, including, in April, the introduction of new fifth-generation consumables, a new pricing bundle for consumables and service, and a unified and upgraded operating system for Euclid and Beam devices. 

And there are, of course, as-yet-undisclosed new product innovations in the pipeline too. 

“We’re meeting the trend of driving that end-to-end digital transformation. It’s a pivotal moment in digital finishing because it’s a pivotal moment in digitisation, and that step of digitising the post-print process is critical because digital printing is no longer new or break through, and in order to really deliver the benefits what happens afterwards is important,” Lewis notes.

Donegal has his sights firmly set on further growth, and has already signed up Litho Supplies in Ireland, and CMYUK here in the UK as agent and go-to-market partner. 

With more than 70 installations worldwide currently, he believes Highcon has only scratched the surface of the potential market opportunity. 

“If you look at just the corrugated industry, it’s colossal. If you look at the packaging industry it’s colossal. And if you could count the tens of thousands of companies, just in those two segments and argue what percentage of them would turn to a digital solution at some point in the next one to five years, I would say it would be a significant percentage.”

However, he also emphasises that the focus is not solely on large companies and mega-groups. 

“We’re seeing small companies of different shapes and sizes across folding cartons, commercial printing and corrugated. They’re all taking an interest in more agile ways in which they can reduce bottlenecks and produce better value-added applications for their customers. It is the old adage of the digital supply chain and it is the last frontier. And I’m very fortunate to have stuck my nose in early to get a taste of it.” 

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