Big H fires up fresh strategy for Drupa

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Monday 21 March 2016

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With a reported share of just over 40% of the sheetfed market - significantly more than nearest challengers KBA and Komori combined – Heidelberg can be forgiven for primarily focusing on its core litho offering at each Drupa up to now.

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But with digital and inkjet technologies both taking further strides forward in the four years that have passed since Drupa 2012, the big H has refocused its strategy for 2016. 

At the manufacturer’s pre-Drupa event, held last month at its headquarters in south-west Germany, company bosses took the opportunity to map out its focus for this year’s show.

Heidelberg will exhibit under the banner theme ‘Simply Smart’ at Drupa, focusing on customer demands caused by the industrialisation of printing. 

The firm’s ‘Smart Print Shop’ aims to increase a print firm’s overall performance by integrating digital and offset Heidelberg technology via the new Prinect Digital Front End.

There was particular focus at the pre-Drupa event on the company’s Remote Monitoring and Performance Plus smart services.

With these services Heidelberg helps customers to improve their press availability and overall productivity by anticipating potential problems before they arise and then addressing them during planned service visits.

But the company’s main Drupa draw will undoubtedly be its new B1 sheetfed inkjet press, Primefire 106, which it has developed jointly with Fujifilm. 

The press, which Heidelberg says achieves quality output comparable to offset, is primarily aimed at folding carton printers and is suitable for customisation, variable data printing and targeted marketing applications.

The Primefire 106 is the first new product to adopt the ‘Fire’ product branding, the new standardisation of Heidelberg’s entire digital printing portfolio.

The firm’s Linoprint CP and CV digital printers have become Versafire CP and CV respectively, the Gallus DCS 340 hybrid conventional/inkjet label printing press has become the Gallus Labelfire 340 and the Jetmaster Dimension range has become the Omnifire range.

Growth areas

Heidelberg head of equipment Stephan Plenz believes digital will play a major role in the future growth of the company but says other areas are also presenting growth opportunities. 

“There’s room for growth in consumables, not because the market has grown rapidly but because there’s no real big player in the market. We are one of the biggest but there is still room to grow,” says Plenz.

“The other potential growth area is packaging and the third is digital. It’s absolutely essential that we have some growth areas that we are working on intensively.”

Plenz says Heidelberg has not abandoned a desire for conventional offset growth but accepts that growth opportunities in the sector are limited, based on trends over the past five years. But he adds that it is essential the company retains the stable market share it already has.

Plenz says Heidelberg is also still looking at potential new acquisitions, particularly in the areas of software and consumables, to drive further growth.

In the past 18 months the manufacturer has acquired consumables company BluePrint Products and services and consumables business European Printing Systems Group.

Absent from the manufacturer’s pre-Drupa preview was any mention of the offset LED and LE-UV drying technology it has recently started to push more prominently. Plenz says demand for the technology in Europe has now levelled out after a period of growth.

“Each technology will be shown at Wiesloch [the firm is offering customers trips to its Wiesloch site during Drupa, where it is running a complete line-up of presses] but in total I think this technology is a bit over-discussed in the industry.

“There are beautiful solutions where LED and LE-UV dryers are needed and we will support our customers that need it. It’s a fantastic technology if you have the right application for it but if you just want to print CMYK standard stuff then conventional is cheaper.”

Crucial to Heidelberg’s growth strategy, as demonstrated with the Fujifilm partnership on the Primefire 106 and its successful alliance with Ricoh in toner digital printing systems, is collaboration.

For the first time Heidelberg will share Hall 1 at Drupa with partners including Masterwork Machinery and Steinemann.

“When you look to the speed of this world, collaboration is a must and the key to success,” says Plenz.

“If you keep collaboration as a master-slave combination you will not be successful so we work with our partners on an eye-to-eye level and try to get the best out of that for both of us.”

He adds: “Our Drupa hall will still be one hall with one theme, but it will say ‘this is Heidelberg and partners’.”

On Drupa moving to a three-year cycle, Plenz says the added cost of exhibiting every three years instead of every four means the company will need to find a way to compensate, but he is adamant that the decision will not affect Heidelberg’s product development cycle.

“I would have preferred every four years because I don’t think the industry needs it every three years, but that’s not our decision,” he says.

“But we do not steer our development programmes according to exhibitions.”

Plenty more is yet to be revealed by Heidelberg at Drupa, particularly in the way of offset, including a Speedmaster announcement that is shrouded in secrecy until the doors open in Düsseldorf at the end of May.

But digital is where the manufacturer’s key advancements currently appear to lie and visitors to Hall 1 are likely to find a company with a very different message to promote than even four years ago. 

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