‘Simply Smart’ Heidelberg

Heidelberg CEO Rainer Hundsdörfer was in upbeat mood at the company’s Press Conference that previewed the recent China Print expo in Beijing. Speaking to a gathering of largely Asian trade media he gave an overview of the global print market, which is reckoned to be valued at around €400 billion/year in the sectors in which Heidelberg competes, with equipment sales at €2.4 billion and €2.5 billion respectively for sheet fed offset and digital. Services account for another €1.3 billion and Consumables about €8 billion.

Recognising that China’s GDP growth had slowed from its former frantic pace, he said that a stable economy still made the country a major driver for growth, and was Heidelberg’s third largest market worldwide. Claiming the lead in Industry 4.0 solutions, he said that the trend for investment in industrialised printing and digitisation would increase in the Chinese market and that the company’s solid financial platform in 2016-17 will prove a sound base for future growth, especially with its modern and high-efficiency production plant in Shanghai.

Looking at market trends for the two decades from the millennium to 2021, Hundsdörfer said, “Statistics indicate that sheet fed offset technology will hold a stable share of the total print production volume, currently at 38% and looking at around 36% in four years’ time.” These figures largely mirror those of the developed markets, while the emerging markets show a higher figure of 46%. “Interestingly, the opposite is true for digital printing, with the developed markets predicted to grow from 15% in 2015 to 21% in 2021, while the emerging markets are likely to see a smaller increase, from 11% to 14% over the same period,” he explained.

Regionally, Asia is the star performer. While the mature markets of North America and Western Europe both forecast to show small declines of 1% between 2015 and 2021, China and Hong Kong show a 5% hike and Asia Pacific a positive 1% overall. “As far as print sector is concerned, packaging is by far the best performer, with growth rates of 6% from 2015 to 2018, and a further 6.2% from 2018 to 2021,” he said. These are double the rates of the publishing and commercial print sectors over the same period.
So, what does all this mean for China? Answer – a very positive future, in which print continues to play a lead role in communication, with sheet fed offset remaining the key player, in a regional market where growth, especially in package print, offers huge potential for new business.
Moving on to ‘talk digital’, Dr Ulrich Hermann explained Heidelberg’s new strategic approach to the market and its customers. Defined as ‘customer centric’, the concept is to listen to what the market wants and deliver products, services and consumables in a seam free integrated way that maximises productivity. It sounds a high ideal, but the practicality is relatively simple in that Heidelberg aligns its business towards growth sectors and provides appropriate technology to secure a better market share. “In a market that thrives on innovation, it is vital that we move from product features to customer value,” he said. “By offering Chinese customers ‘Smart Solutions’, Heidelberg can ensure they are at the cutting edge of Industry 4.0, with a Smart Print Shop, Smart Services and Smart Collaboration.”

In the Q&A session that followed, two significant facts emerged. First, that in the financial year 2016-17 just completed, Heidelberg had performed well, achieving targets and importantly improving earnings, with the global market now well set on recovery from the downturn initiated by the global financial crash. And second, that the hybrid digital inkjet/offset PrimeFire press, that was shown at Drupa 2016, has secured a second beta site, and will commence series production early in 2018. Interestingly, among the first batch will be a machine for a Chinese converter, which highlights the investment in innovation that the Asian market enjoys.

Heidelberg’s six wise men at the Beijing Press Conference (left to right): Benny Huang (Head of Heidelberg China), Rene Ludwigsen (Head of Heidelberg Asia Pacific), Dr Ulrich Hermann (Board Member responsible for Digital Business & Services), Stephan Plenz (Board Member responsible for Digital Technology) and Jack Xia (Head of Heidelberg Sheet Fed Product Management in China), who acted as interpreter.

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