Heidelberg performance data details virus impact

Heidelberg stats: UK commercial print output has crashed to the most serious impact level
Heidelberg stats: UK commercial print output has crashed to the most serious impact level

Heidelberg is making data from thousands of its presses worldwide publicly available for the first time as it charts the impact of the coronavirus on different parts of the printing industry – and the stats depict the severity of the situation for UK commercial print.

The manufacturer’s new ‘Print Media Industry Climate Report’ is being updated on a weekly basis.

It involves anonymised data from some 5,000 offset presses around the world that are connected to Heidelberg’s cloud system for monitoring press performance.

The interactive charting shows the impact of the pandemic on print volumes in commercial printing, and packaging and labels and currently extends to about 50 countries.

It is comparing estimated current production compared to the same period last year. The data visualisation impact scale ranges from 1 (serious impact of Covid-19 on production) to 8 (production above last year's level), with 7 representing production at last year's level.

The latest stats are for week 16, the week beginning 13 April and the third full week of lockdown in the UK.

The Heidelberg data shows that UK commercial print output had already crashed to the most serious impact level of 1 the prior week, classified as “severe impact: multiple print shops stop production completely” with productivity expected to drop to below 40% of normal levels.

UK commercial printers have been hard hit by the enforced shutdown of retail and leisure activities, from shops to pubs and restaurants and events that would involve print collateral. 

Some printers that are still operating have reported volumes down by more than 70%, and as much as 85%. 

"It's very worrying and I don't know what's going to come out of all of this – what will be the knock-on effects of it all?" said a senior industry source. 

"Also it's worth considering that companies will have kept their newest presses running and mothballed the oldest."

By contrast, the UK packaging and labels segment had a score of 5.4, classed as: “Minor impact, limited reduction of production.”

Heidelberg said the most notable findings from the past four weeks were as follows: print production in China had fallen by up to 80%, but recovered as the infection curve fell and is now back to last year's levels in both the commercial and  packaging/label segments.

Packaging and labels remain “very stable” amid the coronacrisis, helped by the increased demand for food and pharma packaging. “Nevertheless, local supply problems such as the discontinuation of paper production in India are having a negative impact on this segment in some countries,” Heidelberg stated.

Print production outside of China had been stable or higher than prior years until mid-March. But the Covid-19 pandemic and associated widespread economic shutdown has resulted in “a significant reduction in print volume worldwide, especially in the commercial market”.

Heidelberg has been developing its connected cloud services for a decade. The manufacturer said that in the financial year 2019/20 more than 13,000 press and 25,000 Prinect modules would be connected to Heidelberg via the Internet of Things.

It said it had put together the new Industry Climate report at the request of “many of our customers”, who wanted a way to understand which market segments and countries had been most affected by the virus crisis.

Heidelberg experts correlated the information from its own cloud with other info sources, including Covid-19 data from the World Health Organisation, the European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control, and economic data from IHS Markit.

The Heidelberg Print Media Industry Climate Report can be accessed here.