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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.
 

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