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Heidelberg pushes for packaging prominence

Friday, 10 November 2017
By Patrick Howard

Leading from the bridge, Rainer Hundsdörfer, CEO, Heidelberg.

A massive new generation Speedmaster XL 145 topped the heavy metal array at the press manufacturer’s Wiesloch Print Media Academy’s customer event, while the first Primefire 106 digital inkjet is already installed at MPS packaging.

Under new CEO, Rainer Hundsdörfer, and with the first slim profit reports in a few years, a revitalised Heidelberg has staked its claim to the growing packaging sector with a full on exhibition of its press power. Although a relatively late arrival to packaging there’s no doubt the company is pulling out all the stops to be a major player, as the commercial offset print sector where it still dominates, flatlines at best.

Over 300 customers as well as a strong press contingent braved the gloomy November murk to attend the event. They were treated to an uncharacteristically upbeat Heidelberg with Hundsdorfer claiming the company is set to return to its ‘ traditional Lighthouse’ role as the leading print industry technology and service provider.

A quick tour of the big hall filled with offset packaging presses and Masterwork (MK) finishing equipment reinforced the determination to win a good chunk of the growing packaging business. Everything that can be automated is automated and the data transferred to Heidelberg’s cloud where it adds to a massive store of information and production parameters.

Stephan Plenz, board member responsible for the digital technology made the point that Heidelberg’s digital strategy goes far beyond digital printing. “We are pushing the industrialisation of packaging,” he said. “Automation is key.”

The idea is to let the production run without stopping, for every new job to be lined up ready to go for automatic production. He termed it, “navigated autonomous printing.”

It’s the next step beyond the fabled ‘one button printing.’ Now even on the largest offset press connected to Prinect workflow the purpose is to run without even the need for a printer to push a button between jobs.

According to Rainer Wolf, vice president sheetfed, Heidelberg presses consistently outperform others. “The peak performance of a carton press is 83 million good B1 sheets on the floor over a full year period. While this is exceptional, there are 180 Heidelberg press installations clocking up more than 40 million sheets year over year.

“The number of sheets on the floor is consistently higher than other presses, regardless of format,” he said.

The drive is to make press operation into a manufacturing process with ten presses already signed on to Heidelberg’s innovative ‘subscription printing’ strategy. This is designed so customer’s only pay for what they use, with Heidelberg taking responsibility for making sure the press runs and is supplied for an optimum performance.

Primefire in the market

No matter how impressive the big metal was as it pumped out folding cartons in Wiesloch this week, most attention was focused on a system that wasn’t at the show. The first Primefire 106 was installed at Multi Packaging Solution, a WestRock packaging business specialising in cosmetic and personal care products. Located at Obersulum, not far from Heidelberg, its managing director Steffen Schnizer, took special pride ins showing off the new addition to the company’s broad array of Heidelberg presses.

The Primefire 106 is a full size inkjet press that prints on treated carton stock with seven colours and a coater. The water-based process is claimed to be extremely stable and consistent.

Journalists were given a tour of the factory and allowed climb over the Primefire in its specially air-conditioned chamber. Certainly the printers from MPS operating the press were firm in their recommendations of the press as an integrated production tool. While still early days, initial production runs have been very promising.

Plenz promises there’ll be two more Primefire presses installed in beta sites by Christmas before the company ramps up into full production next March. The next two years of scheduled Primefire manufacturing is already sold but he promises to double the roll out to accommodate customers’ requirements.

There’s little doubt that Heidelberg sees its future in packaging, which already accounts for more than a third of its turnover. It’s well on the way to doubling that based on this showing at Wiesloch.

Read Patrick Howard’s exclusive interview with Rainer Hundsdörfer, CEO Heidelberg (right) in the next issue of Print21 magazine.

 

 

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