Sitting comfortably? Notes from the big, Red Sofa

By Darryl Danielli, Monday 04 July 2016

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In the first of our series of interviews from the DrupaDaily Red Sofa, Darryl Danielli talks to one of the oldest companies exhibiting at the expo, as well as one of the youngest attendees. Words Darryl Danielli


There aren’t many manufacturers that can boast a 125-year history in print and a chief executive who can lay claim to a bloodline going back to its founder. But Bobst and, as his name implies, its chief executive Jean-Pascal Bobst can do just that. In our first interview we ask Bobst about the similarities between the 1890 Swiss start-up and the global business of today that has 5,000 staff and sales of CHF 1.3bn (£1bn).

In our second interview, we talk to Avner Israeli, chief executive of one of Drupa’s newest kids on the block, 3D printer manufacturer Massivit. While he’s hardly a whippersnapper, notching up a 30-year career in print at companies like Scitex and Stratasys, he’s full of teenage enthusiasm when it comes to printers embracing the 3D opportunity sooner rather than later.

Jean-Pascal Bobst
Chief executive, Bobst

Darryl Danielli Bobst is celebrating its 125th anniversary at Drupa; do you think your founder would recognise the business of today?

Jean-Pascal Bobst Absolutely not. In the 1890s, Joseph Bobst was a printer, but today Bobst builds machines and delivers services for the global packaging printing and converting industry.

Do you think the two companies – the 1890s business and today’s – have anything in common though?

I guess the values, the equality and the ethics of how we do business and the close relationships we have with customers and suppliers – so there is certainly a common thread.

Obviously the business has moved beyond its core post-press technologies in recent years; how do you think it needs to evolve to survive and thrive for another 125 years?

Bobst is unique because we are in the folding carton industry, the flexo industry as well as the corrugated industry, and we go from pre-press systems through to the end-product that gets delivered to our customers’ customers. The industry we serve is certainly evolving dramatically in terms of the digitalisation of the packaging supply chain – it’s all about how that digitalisation will take place over the coming years.

And in terms of digital, you’re working with Kodak on a corrugated line and also developing a digital carton board line; is there any news on those?

You can see the new products we have launched here. We launched digital flexo, which is part of our strategy to offer all types of technology for printing – as we are one of the leading players in flexo and gravure presses. Digital printing is also developing very quickly. We not only have it for corrugated and board, but we also have a web machine in development for film and folding cartons – and we will continue to develop that. So from food to pharma we will have digital packaging solutions for all the industries we serve.

And what do you see as the big opportunity for the business then?

Really it’s our responsibility to deliver the right solutions for our customers’ applications. It is not about one technology being better than another – you have offset, digital, flexo and gravure and there are huge opportunities for us to penetrate each of those markets.

But the industry is rapidly evolving, do you think being a family business is a strength or a weakness?

It’s certainly a strength, for a few reasons: firstly, because you have a stable shareholder base so you can take long-term decisions. Second, you have very strong values, which you can grow and base your business upon, for the benefit of your employees, customers and suppliers. And third, being a family business allows us to have a very close relationship with our customers – because they know we will be here tomorrow.

Final question: clearly the business has changed dramatically over its 125 years – but if your founder Joseph Bobst were to come to your stand here do you think he would approve?

I guess, if you look forward, then we all, as parents or grandparents will approve if the next generation can develop our legacies. And our legacy is to make things better, from a human perspective, from an innovation perspective and from a value
creation perspective. And if you look at those three areas then Bobst is doing a pretty good job.

Avner Israeli
Chief executive, Massivit

Darryl Danielli Why are you here at Drupa?
Avner Israeli Because we believe that we have a solution for people that are engaged in 2D printing, people who are looking for an additional dimension to increase revenue,
profitability and productivity, and new applications.

And are those 2D printers your typical customers?

Typical customers here at the show are printers, people that are using wide-format and some commercial printers looking to diversify. But we’ve already sold systems to bureaus, and also theme park-type businesses and theatres. We believe that we will be able to extend the applications further.

People get very excited about 3D, but are there specific areas or applications that are particularly exciting?

Something that we have found lately, is that we are not just a prototyping company – we cater for everything from design, to prototyping to actual manufacturing – where we can build molds for vacuum forming or silicon molding, for example.

But do you think 3D represents an opportunity for all commercial and wide-format printers or only those with very specific skills or client base?

That’s a good point. I believe that we are moving into an almost ‘virgin’ market, and I think that one of the things that really helped us to build our machine is that we did a lot of analysis about what the market wants. So the [large] format size of our technology, for example, is suited to the market.

So it’s open to any printer as long as they have the right applications?

Sure. Obviously people need some training, it requires an initial investment for the equipment – but I believe that in the next 10 years, or possibly even by the next show, Drupa will have a different form and many more 3D products.

What should printers ask before they look at making an investment in 3D?

They need to ask themselves: do I want to invest? Do I want to take the risk? I can tell you from history that most of the printers that invested in digital printing in the mid 1990s – the entrepreneurs that did take that risk – have become rich and are growing like hell, and surprisingly enough they come to our booth and they see another revolution coming.

So your advice is: get in early, don’t wait, move now?

Move now, absolutely.

So do you think that with the industry going through a period of evolution and many printers looking for ways to futureproof their businesses that 3D might be the answer?

Yes, but it depends, because 3D will over time become crowded. At the moment most people offering 3D printing are in engineering, but this is not what we are offering. We are offering a different solution that uses different materials aimed at a different market. For us, the sky’s the limit.

Because you think that commercial printers might be perfectly placed to commercialise 3D printing?

They might just be.

These interviews were first published in the drupadaily, to see the videos, visit

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