Komori prises MBO range from Friedheim

Komori UK will take on MBO products from 1 September
Komori UK will take on MBO products from 1 September

Friedheim International has lost its MBO folders agency after 54 years following new owner Komori’s decision to handle sales and support inhouse in regions where it has wholly-owned subsidiaries.

From 1 September, Komori UK will take on sales and support for MBO Group products in the UK. However, Friedheim will continue to support all warranty and service contracts issued prior to the transfer.

The decision, which also means Friedheim will no longer sell Herzog + Heymann miniature folders, follows Komori buying MBO Group last year.

Speaking to Printweek, Friedheim managing director Mark Bristow said he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision.

“I’m maybe a little old fashioned, but there’s a way of doing business and to do something like this, particularly at the time of a pandemic, with no chance for face-to-face discussion or consultation or indeed any discussion about the relevant factors doesn’t show respect to Friedheim or indeed the marketplace.”

He added that MBO informed Friedheim in February that Komori was planning to add MBO sales and support to its direct sales operations globally. However, Bristow said that he understood that MBO had “resisted hard” in the UK’s case.

He said that while he understood new owners often made changes, his greatest frustration, especially in light of the five decades of personal and strong working relationships the two companies shared, was that the ultimately the decision was made at corporate level with little consideration of the impact for local customers.

“We feel the decision is not a good one for MBO as a business,” said Bristow.

Bristow said the decision was then reviewed after the February notification, and while upheld it was recognised by all local parties that the planned September timeframe would be challenging.

“So, we came up with a plan that meant extending until the end of the year and a longer handover, that was reported back and debated and then earlier this month we were told that the original September plan would be adhered to”.

As a result, Friedheim wrote to MBO and H+H customers, which Printweek understands to be around 500, last Friday.

“What was frustrating was that in the end we were given the kind of notice you might expect from an organisation you had worked with for just two or three years, not 54,” he said.

Bristow said that while it can no longer sell new MBO machines from 1 September its plan at this stage was to continue to offer independent service and parts to MBO users.

“We’re going to carry on, we’ve got all the expertise, the technical knowledge and ability and we service all the customer needs now anyway, so our plan is to carry on supporting the market because we have the spares and service knowledge.”

As a result, none of Friedheim’s 38 staff will be transferring under TUPE to Komori.

Bristow said the business already supports kit that it no longer sells due to the longevity of post-press technology, so this was simply a continuation of that policy and that discussions regarding potential future collaborations with Komori were likely to continue.

“We’re not trying to undermine Komori in any sense, but with the greatest of respect they’re not going to have the infrastructure in place for September,” said Bristow.
While he admitted losing one of its “top three or four” agencies was far from welcome news, he said the heady days of selling circa 100 machines a year were long gone as the industry had evolved, as had Friedheim.

The Hemel Hempstead based business also represents a raft of other manufacturers including Hunkeler, Kama, Palamides, and Wohlenberg and in recent years has significantly expanded its portfolio.

In December it took on Hohner’s range of stitching lines and stitching heads in an exclusive UK deal.

This time last year it also took on the exclusive UK & Eire dealership for Young Shin large-format die-cutters and two years ago it became the exclusive UK and Ireland dealer for Israeli manufacturer Scodix’s digital enhancement equipment.

With no staff transferring, Komori UK will take on an as-yet-unspecified number of additional staff in both sales and service roles, as well as retraining some of its existing 33-strong team on the MBO products.

Komori UK managing director Steve Turner told Printweek: “There’s no question Friedheim International have done an absolutely super job of selling MBO equipment for the last 50-odd years, and they’ve got a big customer base.

“We are very grateful to the guys at Friedheim for the way they have supported the market.”

However, he said he was delighted to take on the MBO Group portfolio and further grow Komori UK’s offering as a result. The firm is headquartered in Leeds, where it also has a spare parts facility. 

“We have a very well-established parts and service infrastructure that we can bolster to support these products.

“It makes strategic sense for Komori in the UK market. A good number of the customer base are long-established Komori customers as well. In the commercial and pharma markets we already have a relationship with a lot of these users. And where we don’t, we will develop a relationship very quickly once we take responsibility for the products.”