On 26 January 2018, a press release announced the Muller Martini take over of Kolbus. This includes the perfect binding and book-line business and also includes the service and spare parts business for all Kolbus bookbinding systems installed worldwide. Kolbus will henceforth set its focus on the packaging and case making business, parts manufacturing and foundry business.
“Structural change has changed the graphic arts industry in recent years and our market has become much smaller and versatile at once,” says Bruno Müller, CEO of Muller Martini. “Customers need innovations on a regular basis, which have to be financed with lower sales quantities. Above all, our customers benefit from the efficiency gains bringing together the bookbinding activities.”
Market changes are directly affecting commercial and book printers who are faced with new business models including digital print and digitization. By combining the personnel, know-how, technology and infrastructure of the two companies, Muller Martini says it can provide the market with innovative solutions in the long term. “This secures the future of the softcover and hardcover business of both the customers and the two machine manufacturers – and thus also jobs in the graphic arts industry,” Bruno Müller says.
Continued production in Rahden
The bookbinding business of Kolbus is transferred to the new business unit Müller Martini Buchbinde-Systeme GmbH, which will be integrated into the Muller Martini group with all dedicated employees as an independent factory with domicile in Rahden. Kolbus will remain under the direction of CEO Kai Büntemeyer. With 900 employees, Kolbus sets its focus on the packaging and case making business, parts manufacturing and the foundry business. Kai Büntemeyer is convinced that with this step Kolbus creates good opportunities for a successful future, “In recent years, the packaging market was growing consistently. We see a good potential and will vigorously expand our current activities in this business. There are also very good perspectives in the segment of component manufacturing for sophisticated mechanical engineering companies including Müller Martini Buchbinde-Systeme GmbH and Kolbus Luxury Packaging.”
Machine portfolio and know-how remains
The know-how of the Kolbus machine portfolio is taken over, backed up and further developed by Muller Martini. The approximately 250 Kolbus employees from the bookbinding department will be taken over by Muller Martini in Rahden at the same employment conditions. The staff in the packaging and case maker segments will continue to work for Kolbus.
Kolbus traces its history to 1775 while Muller Martini was started in 1946 and remains in the hands of the Muller family. It is clear that consolidation in every graphic arts equipment segment is on the cards and especially so in the commercial printing segments. In India too, we anticipate that the distribution of the Muller Martini and Kolbus equipment by the Muller Martini subsidiary in the country will make sense since the market for new binding equipment is rarified. Domain, sales and service expertise as well as spare parts inventories are expensive. The sorting out of the various products and the technology push to 4.0 and variable binding paradigms will take time to sort out.
Interestingly, Kolbus retains its case-making manufacture and its foundry which will be useful to Muller Martini which does not have any foundry of its own. Kolbus is aiming at the luxury packaging market where it will likely find the Indian market challenging with competition from other European and Asian suppliers.