Heidelberg’s Path Forward
IPG toured Heidelberg’s facilities last month, spoke with executives and learned more about how the press manufacturer envisions its future in the printing industry.January 2013 By Bob Neubauer
In December 2012, In-plant Graphics had an opportunity to visit Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG’s headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany, to talk with executives and tour the company’s massive press manufacturing facility in Wiesloch-Walldorf. (Watch video below.)
Overall, the press manufacturing giant seemed optimistic about its future, despite the rise of digital printing and competition to print from e-readers and mobile devices. Executives pointed to strong press sales in emerging markets, like Asia and Africa, where Heidelberg has invested heavily in the past decade. They also noted growth trends in packaging printing, as well as the expansion of the company’s services and consumables areas—which now make up 60 percent of Heidelberg’s business in the U.S., vs. just 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. This message seemed to address the fact that U.S. printers maintain some of the oldest offset presses in the world, 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.”
Though the company may not think of it as such, Heidelberg’s Print Media Center (PMC) functions as an in-plant, printing brochures, marketing material and even Christmas cards with foil effects. The PMC functions primarily as a demo center for potential customers, housing almost every piece of equipment sold by the company. But Heidelberg feels it should also be an example and inspiration for customers, allowing them to compare their operations with Heidelberg’s print shop.
The PMC employs 135 people, plus 15 apprentices in two facilities totaling 113,000 square feet. All equipment, including postpress, is integrated into the Prinect workflow. In addition to providing training and demonstrations, the PMC produces all company printing, including materials for trade shows and local open houses.