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Heidelberg Advances

May 1999
BY PINCUS JASPERT


The world's largest graphic communications supplier, Heidelberg, will be 150 years old in the Year 2000. As such, "anniversaries offer a chance to reflect," Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG Chairman and CEO Harmut Mehdorn told some 60 of the world's leading industry trade magazine editors at an international press briefing held recently in Heidelberg, Germany.

The phenomenal growth of the Heidelberg group over the past three years has not only involved going public, but also brought the acquisition of key industry suppliers into the Heidelberg fold, as well as partnerships with such companies as Kodak Polychrome Graphics. With the nature of the business in constant change (though its core business of manufacturing printing presses remains the mainstay of the group), Mehdorn and other Heidelberg executives announced that further reorganizations are being conducted.

Heidelberg Digital LLC, with headquarters in Rochester, NY, has been formed to encompass Heidelberg's digital activities, including the former Kodak NexPress joint venture—continuing under the leadership of Venkat Purushotham—as a division.

Wolfgang Pfizenmaier, Heidelberg board member and the former head of R&D, has been named CEO of Heidelberg Digital. Prepress head Bernhard Schreier now serves as COO and board member of the group. In addition, the newly acquired Kodak Office Imaging business has also become a part of the new digital division.

Heidelberg Digital is clearly setting out to challenge the existing digital color press manufacturers, including Agfa, IBM, Indigo and Xeikon, among others, as well as Nipson, Océ and even Xerox black-and-white systems. The Kodak 9110 is seen as a challenger to the Xerox DocuTech.

Pfizenmaier revealed that he sees Heidelberg's entry into the digital market as a chance for his company to introduce a "second generation" press range and to offer customers lower sheet (unit) costs. The NexPress products are also currently in development and testing, and studies show that they're printing quite well.

Heidelberg's move into this new business area is being pursued with energy. Approximately 1,500 former Kodak employees are now employed by Heidelberg Digital at facilities in Rochester, NY; Tijuana, Mexico; and Mühlhausen, Germany. There are an additional 300 NexPress staff that will be integrated into the Heidelberg Digital group.

It was also announced that Heidelberg Prepress has been able to notch some excellent sales on a worldwide basis. There are now 1,000 Tango drum scanners and 5,000 Topaz flatbed scanners operating at customer sites worldwide.

For conventional offset printing, Mehdorn added that the "heavy metal" market has been robust. "The United States, Great Britain and Germany account for 57 percent of sheetfed sales," he revealed. Sheetfed machinery still accounts for the majority of Heidelberg's revenues. Web offset and prepress offerings account for 30 percent of sales, and digital printing is expected to gain a growing share in the sheetfed market.

On the same front, the first 12-unit Speedmaster 102 printing and perfecting machine was unveiled (also new is the Speedmaster LYYL(X) for coating and special effects, off-line converting with printing on a separate machine.) For the digital sheetfed market, the first of the new Speedmaster 74 DI presses—which debuted at IPEX last year—are now shipping.

For the web market, it was announced that the new MainStream 80—a gapless blanket cylinder newspaper press—is now being tested and will be shown to North American printers later this year. It is suitable for shorter runs and is said to weigh less than conventional newspaper presses.

Also on the new product front, two German printing operations were visited by the group to illustrate Heidelberg's new Speedmaster 102 CP 2000 Control Console with touchscreen color display. This technology enables customers to further streamline, automate and boost production.

At Kuthal Druck, in Mainaschaff, one eight-unit and two 10-unit Speedmaster 102s and two Speedmaster 54s are in operation. The printer concentrates on color promotional printing and reportedly is one of the first German printers to have set up a warehouse to handle distribution and fulfillment for customers.

Kuthal Druck's RMD distribution company collates printed and other materials for promotional mailings (not direct mail).

Sommer Druck, a full-service printer in Waiblingen near Stuttgart, operates two Speedmaster 102s, a Speedmaster 52 and a Printmaster 52, as well as a Quickmaster DI 46-4 and a Xeikon DCP 50/D.

Also in operation are a Creo Trendsetter, Topaz scanner and an eight-page Signasetter Pro imagesetter.

Heidelberg recently entered the preowned, customer-ready machinery markets, as well. Selling presses that include a "factory guarantee," the headquarters has been established in Slough, England, with engineering workshops in Moscow, Russia; Detroit; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Tokyo and Osaka, Japan.

Mehdorn revealed that overall print markets continue to grow 3 percent to 5 percent per year. Flexo also shows good prospects and Heidelberg is successfully entering the packaging sector.

The Heidelberg group has no plans to enter the gravure market, Mehdorn insisted.

Furthermore, he stressed that there is just "one Heidelberg," with various business units devoting themselves to specific market segments. "We want world markets," Mehdorn concluded.
 

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