On the Road: Heidelberg Reveals Future Direction, Product Strategy

The new Print Media Center in Heidelberg showcases a full range of commercial printing equipment and workflows.

HEIDELBERG, GERMANY—Last month, Printing Impressions and its sister publications, Package Printing and In-plant Graphics, were invited to visit Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG’s headquarters to talk with executives and tour the company’s massive sheetfed press manufacturing facility in nearby Wiesloch-Walldorf.

Overall, the offset press manufacturing giant remains optimistic about its future, despite the rise of digital printing and competition to print from e-readers and mobile devices. Executives pointed to especially strong press sales in emerging markets, like China, Brazil and India. They also noted strong growth trends in package printing, as well as the expansion of the company’s services and consumables offerings—which now make up 60 percent of Heidelberg’s business in the United States, vs. 40 percent from equipment sales.

For the U.S. market, which saw a plunge in press sales starting in 2008, Heidelberg’s message was essentially this: “Modernize or get left behind.” Press technology has advanced so much in the past five years, noted Heidelberg board member Stephan Plenz, that only printers with the latest technology can hope to compete in the global market. Compared to other industrialized countries, U.S. printers maintain some of the oldest offset presses, according to Plenz. “When I walk through shops in the U.S., the age of equipment is incredible,” he said. “The competitiveness to other countries is suffering. You’re not able to compete with a modernized print shop—not with old equipment.”

These older presses, well built though they are, are not as efficient as newer, more automated Heidelberg presses that reduce makereadies and integrate better into Prinect workflows, Plenz maintained, resulting in less productive, more costly printing. He showed figures indicating a 20 percent drop in print production volume in the U.S. since 2006, compared to a 10 percent drop on a worldwide basis.

Conversely, emerging countries, noted board member Marcel Kiessling—who was named head of global sales last June—are showing substantial growth in print production volume: 6 percent per year, he said. Heidelberg expects this segment to account for 42 percent of global sheetfed volume by 2015, with a corresponding growth in press sales. The company is expanding its market coverage and service force in these countries.

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