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manroland rises under new owners at drupa

Thursday, 02 June 2016
By Patrick Howard

manroland web enjoying another drupa: Daniel Raffler, vice president and Steve Dunwell, managing director Australasia.

What a difference four years can make for the German webpress manufacturer and its sheetfed printing press relation. Last drupa MAN Roland the second largest press manufacturer in the world had recently gone broke and was split into two companies. It’s a different story this time around.

At the 2012 show manroland web and manroland sheetfed had just been bought out of bankruptcy by Possehl, a large German industrial conglomerate and Tony Langley, a fast moving English entrepreneur respectively. Possehl, a huge industrial trust that turns over Euro 3.4 billion per year and has Euro 260 million in the bank, picked up the web press division, along with its Australian company, while Langley, a UK businessman came in to take over the sheetfed part of the company. The survival of either company was, to out it mildly, not assured.

Fast forward to this drupa and manroland web and sheetfed represent a success story that not only illustrates the enduring value of sound engineering, but also that there is good money to be made in manufacturing offset presses.

It’s a story that sits oddly with the mainstream narrative of this drupa where innovation and new forms of printing are praised as the only sustainable future for the industry. Both companies have stuck to their knitting, focusing on getting their costs down to reflect the reduced state of demand and refining their established product lines.

For manroland web the development focus is on digital finishing, in particular its FormerLine system for books as well as the Foldline for newspaper and catalogues. Over the past four years under the new ownership 20 of these industrial strength machines have been sold.

A new Geoman e-line web press is targeted on printers who may not have the volumes for a larger machine. It is an aggressive move to expand into the below the line sector where companies such as Manugraph play.

On the manroland sheet stand a huge 10-colour 700 Evolution press shows how redesign and continuing development can refine even the most sophisticated printing presses. Labelmakers in Victoria is the first local buyer, expecting to install its Evolution in a couple of months.

Both manroland businesses are now back in the black, albeit a lot smaller, with Langley claiming he has already recouped his initial investment in the sheetfed company. At this drupa manroland web claims it has increased its market share, even as the over all volume of web presses sold is in decline, posting a profit last year of a Euro 6.2 million on a turnover of Euro 240.7 million.

There are now 1200 personnel in the web company with 40% of revenue coming from services. A new online parts website contains the specs of 800 installed machines, allowing customers to drill down to find the specific parts and consumables for their particular model.

In a world where we’re accustomed to the more stellar profits from the internet giants, the survival of manroland web and sheetfed may not excite the financial markets but it is a testimony to the need for heavy metal to drive the printing industry.

According to Steve Dunwell, managing director of manroland web Australia, the success is largely down to the character of the two owners. “We’re extraordinarily lucky in our two new owners. They have given us financial security even as they are pushing us to improve,” he said.

“In Australasia we’ve exceeded our targets over the past four years, contributing 12 percent of the total revenue, well above our weight.”

According to Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox and Benny Landa, industry guru, in their separate presentations at this drupa, only two percent of the five trillion printed pages in the world are produced digitally. At 98 percent offset printers enjoy a dominant market share, even as volumes are set to decline.

If there is any substance to the idea of an offset crisis it’s confined to the press manufacturers and their business model. However, the success of the two manroland companies, as well as the strong drupa showing by Heidelberg, Komori and KBA, illustrates that diligent management can meet the challenges of a much smaller market. Reports of the death of offset are exaggerated.

 

 

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