Something to Talk About

Gareth Ward is a European journalist who has been writing about developments in the printing industry for more than 25 years. This is the seventh Ipex he has attended.

manroland took the brave step to show no presses at Ipex, not because it is short of cash (it might be, but it received €200 million of refinancing last year), but because according to the official doctrine it wanted to get closer to its customers.

Instead, there would a logical flow around its booth, inspired by the layout of the Gugenheim Museum in New York, culminating in a 3D video presentation using technology salvaged from the planet Pandora. Around the industry there were many shaking heads, and probably still are many shaking heads, wondering if the press company had lost its mind. But the decision was based on cool logic and it seems to have paid off.

CEO Gerd Finkbeiner explained that at Drupa he had noted that as soon as a machine demonstration kicked off, all conversation stopped and people lost interest. Without that distraction, proper talking and listening could take place he argued. And there is the simple maths that it could not possibly show all the presses it has, not even the new Roland 700 HS, an 18,000 sph machine without its Direct Drive technology and no doubt aiming at the same space as the Heidelberg Speedmaster CX.

Customers, UK ones at least, have felt ‘loved up’ by the approach. They have been met by the sales exec, offered a coffee and cookies and a sit down discussion, taken to lunch and then a trip to the on-booth presentation theatre for the video show and then more indepth talks about either manroland’s productivity approach, value-added print or environmental print inspired by what they have seen. Those wanting to see presses in action can be shuttled off to customer sites no more than an hour or so from Birmingham.

One visiting production director had found his team had been on the booth for more than four and a half hours of the day allocated for visiting Ipex. And then, after looking at the slick press demonstration on another stand, came back because the visiting team felt cared for by the manroland approach and they could get more coffee and cakes. He said that when he reached the company, which had taken the traditional approach, and apologized for his tardy arrival, the first question was “What on earth did you find to talk about for all that time?”

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