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Digital Digest: Heidelberg Digital Sneak Peek Reveals New Strategy

May 2014 By Mark Michelson, Editor-in-Chief
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HEIDELBERG, GERMANY—The reference to the word "humble" and the usage of PowerPoint presentations containing "heart-shaped artwork" images throughout are not what one would typically expect from a presentation by the CEO of the world's largest sheetfed printing press manufacturer, but Heidelberger Druckmaschinen CEO Dr. Gerold Linzbach made it clear that the company is not your father's Heidelberg anymore.

Although the manufacturer once held the belief that its customers sought homegrown, "industrial-strength" output solutions developed solely by Heidelberg, Linzbach admitted the need to change that inward mindset throughout his organization, especially when it comes to the external partnerships Heidelberg needs to gain a bigger foothold and market share in the fast-growing digital printing arena.

"We looked for the best partners to add the best pieces to our solution," Linzbach told a room full of international journalists and industry analysts assembled here for the "Digital Sneak Peek" event early last month.

"We understand the customer knows best. This sounds a bit philosophical, but Heidelberg was an extremely proud company. We are a much more humble company now," he stressed, pointing out that Heidelberg's employee ranks have shrunk from 20,000 to 13,000 people and referencing the financial difficulties faced by Heidelberg in recent years.

Dubbed internally as "Synerjetix," Heidelberg is seeking full buy-in among its employees to collaborate with a number of partners to develop digital inkjet printing solutions for commercial and package printing applications.

Foremost, Jason Oliver, head of Heidelberg's digital business unit, announced a partnership with Fujifilm to develop a Heidelberg-branded, B1-format color inkjet press designed for commercial and package printing. Company officials remained vague on when the cutsheet press will officially debut—but although Heidelberg still has until the end of the year to sign up for drupa 2016—it seems logical that timeframe would represent the desired launch date.

Oliver added that Fujifilm was a natural partner given its industry leadership in drop-on-demand inkjet print head technology, inks and printing quality, combined with Heidelberg's expertise in substrate handling, process controls and precision manufacturing.

In the shorter term, Heidelberg is collaborating with Fujifilm and Gallus (in which it owns a 30 percent stake) to present a new Gallus digital label printing press this fall that incorporates Fujifilm inkjet printing technology. This integrated solution is designed to meet the growing demand for a cost-effective means of producing short runs and customized labels. It reportedly will feature offset quality, the speed of flexo, the cost and durability advantages of UV inkjet, and in-line converting capabilities.



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