Digital and automation to drive growth

New Heidelberg CEO meets journalists at interpack 2017

Heidelberg’s new chief executive Rainer Hundsdörfer and Heidelberg Switzerland CEO Ferdinand Reusch. Photo IPP

Heidelberg’s new chief executive Rainer Hundsdörfer, who joined the company six months ago, said that after a rough patch the company was essentially back on track with improved financial results in the final quarter of the last financial year. Speaking at a round-table meeting at interpack, Hundsdörfer said that the company’s Q4 of 2016-17 was its best since 2008, while explaining that the company had maintained its research and development budget even in the past several years of stress. Also at the meeting was Ferdinand Reusch, managing director of Heidelberg’s subsidiary Gallus and the largest private, and perhaps most active and visible, shareholder in Heidelberg Druckmaschinen.

Hundsdörfer added, “Heidelberg has one of the best opportunities to become better in digital and create new business models; models that are not possible without digitisation. In the future, Heidelberg has to become a digital company more than a machinery one.” His candid take on automation asserted that the “digital transformation of industry actually began in the 1980s, and it is a bit of a marketing job to call it Industry 4.0.” Print needs to encompass a larger sphere, “It’s not digital print but digital business,” he asserted.

Another Hundsdörfer insight that will likely resonate with the Indian print industry is, “Digital will take a greater part of printing not just because of short runs, but mainly because digital doesn’t depend on highly skilled persons—[it’s] not just the cost, but digital is independent of the quality or the qualification of the operator.”

The company’s digital press portfolio includes the Labelfire and Primefire systems that it manufactures in collaboration with Fujifilm’s Dimatix ink jet arrays as well as its 4D ink jet system for printing on 3-dimensional objects. It also sells Ricoh digital presses under it own branding and increasingly with its own front-end technology as well as its own manufactured offset presses and prepress technology. The company has divested its binding equipment to Muller Martini and its diecutting technology to Chinese manufacturer Masterwork even as it sees the folding cartons driving the offset sheetfed market and as much as 30% of its own sales.

“Folding cartons and labels is driving our growth,” said Hundsdörfer. “More automated processes are also very important. The technology is young although the quality is already there. When it comes to cost of productivity, there is room to grow.” Heidelberg also revealed that it was engaged with brand owners to boost the digital market. “When we develop something new then we must make sure the customers of our customers need it,” said Hundsdörfer.

Editors note: Our live coverage of Metpack and interpack by Ron Augustin, Shardul Sharma and Naresh Khanna will appear in the print and eMagazine versions of the June issue of Packaging South Asia dated 7 June 2017, which goes to press on 30 May 2017. Editorial inputs and advertising queries for both web and print channels can be sent to

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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