Posts Tagged ‘Bottcher’

  • On the chemistry of success: Böttcher Australia celebrates 20 years – Print21 magazine

    Mitchell ‘Mitch’ Mulligan … happy to be celebrating 20 years leading Böttcher Australia.

    While automation and speed are making offset printing more productive, they’re also throwing up fresh challenges. Mitchell ‘Mitch’ Mulligan has been at the helm of industry supplier Böttcher Australia since its founding 20 years ago. He’s marking the anniversary with trademark optimism and a renewed commitment to the future of print.

    Looking back isn’t Mitch Mulligan’s style. The whippet-lean motorcycle racing champion is more concerned with the challenges of ‘future-proofing’ his business as the industry shifts and changes. Deeply engaged with the prospects and opportunities for his company, Mulligan is keenly aware of how offset printing has transformed since he first hung out the Böttcher shingle in Sydney two decades ago. At that time digital printing was scarcely a ripple on the pond of the printing industry; commercial printing meant offset production, and print shops with multiple presses were all dependent on roller repair and replacement.

    When introducing the Böttcher brand to Australia and New Zealand, he addressed an industry of an estimated 2500 commercial printers using printing plates. These ranged from large enterprises with full-size presses down to shop-front franchises with a Heidelberg GTO in the back room. No matter their market power or size, using offset presses was the technology that united printers. It also provided a good market for the German-based roller supply company.

    Change from a front-row seat

    In the years since, Mulligan has had a front-row seat to witness the transformation of the industry. He has seen the market dramatically reduced in the number of enterprises, if not necessarily with a concomitant decline in volume. In this anniversary year at his Castle Hill offices, on careful calculation he estimates there are around 600 “plate-using printers” left across the nation.

    For some printing businesses and suppliers, the digital revolution has proved a disaster. Many an enterprise has shuttered and fallen by the wayside, unable to adapt to the new market conditions. For Böttcher Australia, it has delivered an environment where entrepreneurial management and agility has allowed the company to flourish and expand. While dealing with the overall decline in the traditional offset-based roller, blanket and chemistry business, Mulligan points to increased market share and an expanding portfolio of products, many addressing industries outside of printing.

    Needs-based development

    As managing director of Böttcher Australia, chairman of suppliers’ organisation Visual Connections, and stalwart of the Lithographic Institute of Australia, Mitch Mulligan is the quintessential printing industry professional: enthusiastic, positive and knowledgeable. Now 55, he kick-started the company’s local presence in 1998. Despite Böttcher’s reputation for roller supply, he stresses that the German-based mid-sized global company is really a chemistry enterprise rather than a roller manufacturer.

    Printing chemistry, along with blankets and plates for sheetfed and web offset, augment the core offering of rollers for every conceivable style of printing – and not only for printing. Increasingly, he’s moving to explore possibilities of speciality rollers for other industries such as steel, timber and pharmaceuticals.

    Team Bottcher Australia.

    “It’s still the same story as when we began: looking to where we can add value. It’s about keeping our eyes and ears open to identify how we can assist. Recently printers were really struggling with HUV and LED printing because, of all things, the printing blankets couldn’t take the new inks. It was a period of trial and error for many users. We developed a compound on our blanket that has now stood the test of time. Instead of changing 20 blankets a week, printers now have them on for weeks on end,” he says.

    It’s a fine example of what he terms ‘needs based development,’ identifying industry requirements and coming up with a solution. He shies away from the over used term ‘innovation’, preferring to mine the company’s vast technical expertise and global reach to identify new products that will make life easier and more profitable for printers. These he identifies as ‘champion products’ that meet new and developing needs.

    Sealing the solutions

    “Our ‘New UV’ blanket is one of our champion products. It’s been very well received because it solves the problem. Initially, the new blankets went into CMYKhub, an early adopter of HUV drying. After a trial, they pulled the lever on it and said ‘we’ve got to have it’. So we brought in as much as we could get hold off,” he says.

    Another ‘champion product’ is Böttcher Pro-tect Sealer, which protects print from scuff and marking on perfecting presses. According to Mulligan it’s been widely adopted since he first introduced it here.

    “Printers run it when they think there might be heavy ink coverage on a particular job. They love it. Some of them have now got to the stage where they run sealer all the time, because it’s cheaper than having to reprint a job. It’s a mixture of risk mitigation and insurance.

    “The print goes straight out to the bindery, with no marking. It’s a sleeper product for us. We’re not competitive price-wise, but we’re competitive performance-wise. Printers tried it and they’ve gone ‘yes!’ because the worst thing is to have a sealer that makes your product turn yellow. I’ve seen that time and time again. Ours doesn’t.”

    He delights at such acceptance: “It is really interesting for us. We bring something in, try it, and then next thing we know we’ve got an absolute champion on our hands. Those sorts of tailored solutions have been really good for us.”

    Family values

    In his time with Böttcher Systems, Mulligan has made a yearly pilgrimage to the German HQ for the annual meeting, although in 2011 the company broke tradition and held the event in Sydney. Böttcher is a family-owned enterprise; its current CEO, Franz-Georg Heggemann, is the eighth generation of the family. In 2015 the company celebrated 290 years in continuous operation since 1725, when Johannes Loosen first opened for business as a tanner in Cologne. That puts Böttcher in a very elite group indeed.

    Its longevity is no cover for lack of dynamism; over the past 20 years, Böttcher posted an annual growth rate of four percent. “It’s not bad for a mid-sized global technology company that invests ten percent of its revenue in R&D,” says Mulligan proudly. Of course, the growth rate in Australia and New Zealand is much higher. That’s what happens when you come from a standing start with a very competitive managing director.

    When it comes to sales, Mulligan is fairly ambivalent. Recognising the need to reach out to his customer base he sees the role more in terms of technical consulting rather than any hint of hard selling.

    “I have a very competent technical sales team. They’re first and foremost here for their technical skills to help maintain and develop the relationship with the customer. All of them were lithographers, production managers or demonstrators, who were well-positioned in the offset space when I was lucky enough to pick them up. They came with the understanding of that perspective.”

    Böttcher service can be anything from educating customers on best practices for operating a press or upgrading maintenance processes to training and keeping skills up to speed. “It’s all part of the tools. We can go in and put a tailored solution together to suit circumstances. So, if you call sales engaging with your customer and telling them of new opportunities or new ways of adding value to their business, then that’s exactly what we do. When we’re aware there’s something in our tool kit that’s of use, we’ll engage. And we engage robustly.”

    Keep rolling along

    However, rollers remain the primary identified product. In this space Mulligan is quick to reinforce that there’s plenty of developmental work going on.

    “We’re not going to sleep on rollers. It’s a question of getting the compounds right, of being able to cope with faster and faster machines, with the changes in technology in terms of inks – vegetable or oil-based inks. Then there’s the transition to LED and HUV inks and developing compounds that are stable, resistant and long life. That’s still our mantra no matter what the application.”

    He continues: “The compounds we had twenty years ago are very different to what they are today. We do around three thousand compound tests a year. Out of that we may find two or three that will stick, and they go to the next phase. The R&D team is always playing with the matrix.”

    Changes in printing technology have undoubtedly put the company’s replacement system to the test but some things don’t change. Mulligan says he is still called upon to recover rollers for 46cm one and two-colour small offset presses. That takes a bit of doing, but he’s happy to claim that he can still replace 52cm rollers from stock.

    Grapple with change

    Mulligan admires the way printers have handled the massive transformation in technology and business over the past quarter of a century. He knows how difficult it’s been. Those who survived and thrived have had more than good luck on their side.

    “I think there are those who’ve understood it well and adapted and changed. They need to be applauded. They’ve been agile and adaptive.

    “In the main, we all grapple with the rate of change. But those who understand are having that conversation with their mates up the road. They’re putting solutions together. In the future I expect to see more collaboration, more consolidation,” he says.

    “That’s a positive thing. It’s better to do it now than wait until you’ve no choice. There’ll be printers that’ve found a sweet spot with unique offerings around for a very long time. They’ll always be there,” he says.

    Much as Böttcher Systems Australia, in the lively and skilled hands of Mitch Mulligan, is set to develop its own specialised future for many years to come. 21

  • Currie Group service headlines Print21 mag

    The latest issue of Print21 magazine is out now, featuring an in-depth look at the science of colour, a tour of FESPA 2018 in Berlin, profiles of industry identities, and more.

    This month’s cover features the Currie Care Centre, Currie Group’s way of ensuring its customers receive world-class service long after the techs have got their new machines up and running. Marcus Robinson, service manager for Australia and New Zealand at Currie Group, believes Currie Care works for printers. “From a helicopter point of view I believe we’re the largest across the industry in end-to-end service. We have such a plethora of service offerings,” he said.

    From Berlin, Nessan Cleary reports on a FESPA show that turned its attention towards industrial markets. “Conventional wisdom has it that large-format printing is mainly about sign making and display graphics, but wide-format inkjet technology is pushing beyond this, which was abundantly clear at this year’s main FESPA event in Berlin, Germany,” he writes.

    Colour management can be one of the fiddlier parts of any printer’s process. Fortunately Andy McCourt is on hand with a three-page feature on accurately measuring and controlling your colour. “A properly-managed closed-loop colour workflow where the process is strictly followed to produce predictable and repeatable colour is readily achievable,” he assures.

    In a pair of printing industry profiles, Patrick Howard speaks to Andrew Macaulay, CEO PIAA, on the turnaround in Printing Industries over the last few years; and to Mitch Mulligan of Bottcher on the 20th anniversary of the supplier setting up shop in Australia.

    All this plus a deep dive into benchtop UV printing, Australia’s second KM-1 digital press, a slew of new equipment installs, and all the news that’s fit about print make this issue of Print21 magazine a great way to while away those winter blues. Check it out here!

    To subscribe to our print edition, go here or email

  • Rollers set for shake-up – Print21 magazine feature

    The offset roller business is not one that regularly makes the headlines but with the entry of US giant, RotaDyne, into the local market, this key component sector looks set for a shake-up. Alison Stieven-Taylor examines the changing dynamics of the local supply scene.

    In what is likely to be a positive move for manufacturing in Australia, US roller company Rotation Dynamics Corp (RotaDyne) announced late last year its decision to acquire two local roller businesses, Ace Rollers/Rollmakers, giving it an Australian base for the Asia Pacific region.

    According to industry sources, RotaDyne had been looking for some time for an opportunity to set up a manufacturing facility in the Australian market where its rollers are distributed by Heidelberg under that company’s Saphira consumables brand. According to US-based president and CEO, Tom Gilson, RotaDyne sees Australia as a viable manufacturing base in which “to grow our business… and to further expand into other industries in the Asia Pacific region.” This is good news for local print service providers.

    But in a contracting market like print, another player, especially one with close ties to major press manufacturers, is bound to shake things up amongst the suppliers.

    The roller market in Australia has been serviced for many years by only a handful of companies. Brissett Rollers, founded by Terry Brissett, is the longest standing printing press roller manufacturer and supplier in Australia. Alongside Brissetts, German giant Böttcher is also a major supplier locally and is recognised as the largest manufacturer of rollers on a global scale. And now there’s RotaDyne, a heavy hitter with a presence in more than 50 countries and a vast range of roller products for all sorts of applications.

    “We have a long tradition of investing in R&D,” Mitch Mulligan, Böttcher Australia.

    Local legend

    The elder statesman of the roller industry in Australia, Terry Brissett, has been supplying the local market since 1960. The company’s success is largely attributable to his technical capacity to develop solutions for various roller applications, as well as a personal approach to service. The company has a manufacturing site in Sydney and national representation.

    Brissett Rollers has experienced the highs and lows of the printing industry, in its halcyon days employing more than 100 staff and manufacturing for the region. Today, its staff of 40 services a reduced client base, reflecting the changes in the print sector. For many years, Brissett Rollers had the market sewn up but the entry of other players has eroded market share, says Terry Brissett matter-of-factly, as has the continued attrition of print businesses.

    “We are still very strong in newspapers and the web area and we do that very well, but I expect these segments will continue to decline also,” although he asserts that the downturn will bottom out and “newspapers won’t go away completely”.

    Given Brissett Rollers’ longevity, I am curious to know if RotaDyne made an approach before acquiring Ace. Brissett confirms there was interest. “But there are always three or four people interested in our company. Interested is one thing and going ahead is another, especially in the print market, where nothing is concrete.”

    Anticipating further contraction in the print roller sector, Brissett Rollers, like its counterparts, is expanding its range to encompass other industrial markets.

    Made in Melbourne

    Since December 2012, RotaDyne Australia has been operating from its new Australian manufacturing site in Cheltenham, around 20km south-east of Melbourne’s CBD, in what was the Rollmakers plant. The company has already invested in updating the Cheltenham site with further improvements and additional process machinery including state-of-the-art quality testing equipment to be installed later this year.

    RotaDyne currently operates manufacturing facilities in Europe, Asia and across the US. As a major manufacturer, it is one of the few international companies that can control all phases of manufacturing, producing a diverse range of roller and rubber-compound products. The company’s new Australian managing director, Angus Scott, former owner of Ace Rollers, says: “The decision to manufacture in Australia was made to give a no delay service to the local print market. This includes common type press rollers as well as rollers for other industries such as wood, metal, glass, board, film, food and so on.”

    This diversity reflects Ace’s supply channel which includes light industrial markets as well as the printing industry.

    Scott continues: “The confidence by RotaDyne Corporate to invest in manufacturing in Australia exhibits strength in commitment, knowing that customers benefit in service levels and flexibility by using locally manufactured products. We at RotaDyne work closely with our customers, bringing the skills of our people, with the latest technology, to work as a team so as to offer solutions which meet exacting specifications. We have the ability to adapt to the ever-changing market and intend to take a larger share.”

    RotaDyne is a member of the Global Roller Technologies Group which consists of more than 50 manufacturing facilities located in the US, UK, Germany, Canada, Mexico, South America and Asia. It also has ten R&D facilities around the globe. Tom Gilson says the acquisition of Ace supports the company’s global philosophy to manufacture locally.

    “Our investment in Ace is another example of our commitment to the print media industry and also to Heidelberg our worldwide distributor.”

    The Australian facility will be accredited by Heidelberg whose fastidious approach to quality bodes well for those using the RotaDyne product. As Glenn Plummer explains, ”Heidelberg has a relationship with RotaDyne that spans the globe and we have been selling RotaDyne made rollers under our Saphira brand in Australia and New Zealand for some time. Local production means faster response to our customers and the ability to supply large orders and specials on short notice. Having Heidelberg accredited manufacturing in Melbourne gives total peace of mind to our customers.”

    Focus on R&D

    While the current focus is on new entrant RotaDyne with the market watching what impact the US player will have, German consumables giant, Böttcher, is also seeking to grow its market share through innovation and ongoing R&D.

    A family-owned business founded in 1725, Böttcher has a global footprint and a history of partnering with many of the world’s press manufacturers to develop roller technology. The company devotes around 6 per cent of its total sales to research and development.

    “We have a long tradition of investing in R&D,” says managing director, Mitchell Mulligan, Böttcher Australia. He reveals the company employs approximately 180 R&D/Quality Control personnel who are involved with all aspects of product development and polymer engineering.

    “We test in excess of 3,000 new compound formulas annually in a bid to solve complex issues faced by the rapid changes in press speeds, chemistry and dynamics. Our commitment to R&D adds value to our customers and provides stable and dependable processes.”

    He continues: “As a company we are still in a growth phase due to the development of innovations we offer the market and the breadth of our product portfolio, which is constantly being expanded to service many market segments both within and outside the printing industry. As it stands today, we can see no limits to the opportunities we have in front of our group of companies and will continue to work hard to deliver value to our customers by listening to what they need and developing the right solutions.”

    Böttcher services a pool of 80,000 customers globally and works collaboratively with its customers and partners, says Mulligan.

    “Our mantra is to deliver lower operating costs through the appropriate use of technology and the reduction in consumption of raw materials. Our products are engineered for longer life, superior performance, longer service intervals and dependable productivity.

    “Such attributes strengthen our position as a valued long term partner,” he concludes.

    In Australia, the customer pool is getting smaller and while servicing the local market with locally manufactured products makes perfect sense from a number of perspectives – greater quality assurance and accountability, local service and support, quick response times and ease of delivery – is the entry of another major supplier into the segment overkill?

    As to the question of competition Terry Brissett says, “RotaDyne, Böttcher and ourselves are the biggest players. Someone will have to amalgamate as it is not efficient, it doesn’t make sense from a profit or a commonsense point of view.”

    Watch this space.