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Print is a market with a future!
Koenig & Bauer (KBA) AG reinvented itself during recent years. After the successful reorientation, Chairman of the Board Claus Bolza-Schünemann looks to the future with confidence. The focus on growing markets and profitable niches as well as the new holding structure with four autonomous business units are effective: KBA is in the black again. For drupa, Bolza-Schünemann announces new solutions with regard to analog and digital packaging printing, industrial printing and the digital networking towards Print 4.0.
Mr. Bolza-Schünemann, the drupa is now just around the corner. Being the drupa President, you participated in the World Tour. What impression of the mood did you get?
Bolza-Schünemann: An astonishingly good one. Also in countries where I had not expected it. Be it Japan, Kazakhstan or Egypt where we sat face-to-face with partly more than 100 specialist journalist. Against the background of this experience, I think that the coming drupa will be similarly successful as the last one in 2012.
The mood in the industry is improving anyway. Or is this impression misleading?
Bolza-Schünemann: I perceive it the same way. In most companies, the restructuring phases have been completed. Now, they are at the helm again and accept the challenges of digital changes. We all see that the print product is and will remain omnipresent in our everyday life. Since our business reaches far beyond the printing of media. This message got across. Print is a promising market and not at all a dying business!
How far have you progressed with the reorientation of KBA?
Bolza-Schünemann: We have successfully completed the sometimes painful restructuring. KBA is now a completely different company, compared to 10 years ago. The proportion of our packaging solutions in total sales has risen to 70 %, while the proportion of our media dependent revenues has decreased from 65 % to 10 %. In order to be able to respond to specific markets and customers in a more focused way, we have distributed the responsibility to mostly autonomous business units: “Sheetfed Solutions”, “Digital & Web Solutions” and “Special Solutions”. Furthermore, we have “Industrial Solutions” as an internal and external production service provider. They are all financially independent in their actions and have full responsibility for all operations from sales to service.
Like no other company, KBA has put a mark on newspaper printing for 200 years. Now this segment accounts for as little as barely 10 %. Is the time of this market running out?
Bolza-Schünemann: We come from the newspaper world, but we cannot turn a blind eye to the changes: The new web press business has dropped by 80 % – from 2.0 billion € in 2006 to now 400 m € made by the newspaper and commercial printing segments taken together. The market is stagnant, and this will remain so. Our “Digital & Web Solutions” business unit will continue to serve it, however, with an adjusted capacity. As the name Digital & Web suggests, this is were we combine digital technology with our web press know-how. In essence, this process still focuses on the handling of wide paper webs, no matter whether they are printed on offset, flexographic or inkjet machines. The interface between the inkjet printing unit and our technology is the flying ink drop. A few months ago together with our American partner HP Inc., we presented the HP T1100S PageWide Web Press as the world’s largest inkjet press with a web width of 2.8 m for high-quality printing on corrugated board packaging. Because of its huge size the T1100S will not be at drupa, but HP will offer interested parties from this market segment to see the T1100S on 2 days at the KBA plant in Würzburg. In parallel, we are expanding our RotaJET family, which we are now offering in widths from 76 cm to 2.25 m. To our surprise, it is in demand particularly in niches. For instance, in decor printing on laminates. It is interesting to see how the market functions. Suppliers of self-adhesive decorative foils offer hundreds of new motifs every year, which they first print in smaller volumes. The ones liked by the customer are then printed in higher volumes.
Will your business units make a joint appearance at the drupa?
Bolza-Schünemann: There is, of course, a joint KBA stand. It will comprise approximately 3000 m². As always in Hall 16. Our motto is “Add more KBA to your day”. From the bank note to the newspaper and high-quality packaging – you always encounter products that are printed with KBA technology. From the toothpaste tube in the bathroom in the morning to the sophisticated wine label in the evening. We show a uniquely wide portfolio of sheetfed and web fed presses, some digital, some offset, some flexographic printing presses, and with solutions for packaging and industrial printing as well as “special solutions” like direct printing on glass, metal and flexible packaging, for security and bank note printing.
Which role does Print 4.0 play?
Bolza-Schünemann: We subsume automation and digital networking from the print shop to after-sale services under KBA 4.0 – and attach highest importance to it. The printing industry is the pioneer of Industry 4.0. Production has been largely networked, the workflows are digital – also in analog printing. The photobook, for example, shows how far we have got. Newspaper and commercial printing too are intensely networked and automated now. Remote maintenance, fault analysis, upgrades, automated, parallel plate changing, inline process controls are state of the art for us. Customers can make anonymous benchmark comparisons with other users of KBA machines and then ask for our advice if they wish to improve their performance. We help the printing companies to survive in the difficult market environment with machine optimization, training, consulting and pro-active services. This is of utmost importance for the future of KBA.
China is cooling down. How do you see the situation there?
Bolza-Schünemann: Our advantage is that the wages and salaries there are rising sharply. The printing houses now look at the personnel cost and have an open mind for our automation solutions. This is a new development that plays into our hands. The Chinese competitors rather have some difficulties with that. I am also optimistic that the rising wages will boost consumption in China and, as a result, the demand for packaging and industrial print products. Despite the currently ongoing slowdown, the future perspectives are good. During the last 200 years, we have experienced market fluctuations en masse. What we need to do now is to respond flexibly – and to be there when the market starts up again.
One last question: What will your company look like in 2030?
Bolza-Schünemann: I assume that we will still be very close to the markets, cast our nets to trends and develop bespoke solutions. This is how we came to glass and metal printing, which was a problem child and is an absolutely healthy daughter now. The demand for packaging in order to make food less perishable and thus ensure the supply of food for the world population will soar. Wherever there is greater prosperity, rules and regulations for food hygiene and packaging follow hard on. Every day, several tons of food perish before they reach the consumer. KBA wishes to make a contribution that this unfortunate situation will be remedied.