Heidelberg USA’s President Reflects on the U.S. Printing Industry
As the printing industry slowly recovered from one of the most difficult business climates ever, Harald Weimer stepped into his new position as president of Heidelberg USA in the fall of 2011. While Heidelberg fights back and defends its market-leader position, Weimer now faces some unique challenges and new opportunities in these drastically changed market conditions.
It brings me great pleasure welcoming him to my blog to share his outlook on the U.S. printing industry and its position on a worldwide basis.
Nick: Compared to newly industrialized countries such as China and Brazil, North America is quite a mature market. As one of Heidelberg’s six top markets worldwide, what unique contributions do you see us bringing to the global table?
Weimer: First of all, the United States is still the biggest commercial printing market worldwide at approx. $80 billion, plus the converting industry with around $15-$20 billion in sales, is huge. Therefore, it is also for Heidelberg very important to have a strong presence here, making sure that we accomplish what is expected from a market and technology leader. And it is encouraging to see that more and more customers have found their way out of the crisis, which we could measure with an increased order intake of 40 percent year-over-year.
U.S. commercial printers these days are looking for technologies with the highest efficiencies to allow addressing the margin pressure they have. That includes people and processes. Therefore, the need for services, uptime and consulting is getting more important.
The converting industry—folding carton and labels—is much more industrialized (here) than, for example, in Europe. Converters are always looking for scale effects and a permanent need for retooling for highest productivity.
Nick: You come from a background in international business experience in Europe and Mexico. During those times, what assumptions did you have about the U.S. printing industry that you now find untrue?