Heidelberg gets it!

Digital marketing cannot work without appropriate human interventions

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Rainer Hundsdorfer, chief executive officer at Heidelberg
Rainer Hundsdorfer, chief executive officer at Heidelberg

Heidelberg gets it! Most companies talk about digital marketing, but how many do something about it that actually leverages their brand and domain knowledge? Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Heidelberg was still in the middle, or should I says in the mature phase of its restructuring, which is essentially based on the decline of commercial offset printing in the past 15 years and the shift to digital in that segment – although packaging continues to grow for sheetfed multicolor offset presses. 

At the same time, Heidelberg’s human resource costs in Europe were (and probably still are) too high. So its current chief executive officer, Rainer Hundsdorfer, has continued to downsize and simplify the company. By divesting various ventures such as the B1 digital press and divisions (such as Gallus, which has come back since the potential investor didn’t pay up), and even real estate in its home city and home plant, he brought the company back to the edge of viability. Moreover, the company has openly come out with plans for manufacturing expansion jointly in a new plant on the campus of its anchor investor, Masterwork in China – its biggest market. 

This year it has taken on digital marketing in a big way, with the third of its global virtual marketing events from 13 to 15 October 2021. It is creating a simultaneous global event. While it is not as interactive as some would prefer, the Heidelberg events are backed by human interventions with experts by appointment, not really unlike a real fair. 

But this is a fair of one company that has a lot of variety in terms of hardware, software, and knowledge. It could take a person a couple of years to learn everything they are trying to communicate to various needs and application segments. So if you have good people in your company, get as many that are ambitious to learn and understand, to register.

In these events, Heidelberg shows its new productivity and automation technologies generally based on data continuously gathered by its cloud from running presses in the field. It leverages big data and the company’s colossal domain knowledge with some valuable insights. Its productivity tools show how to use their presses in the field better. And to learn how to fully realize the profit potential of the hardware and software they already have. 

I am struck by one of Heidelberg India’s local salespeople’s excitement about what the data shows about printers’ inefficiency and poor productivity. It seems there is a lot of headroom to utilize highly automated fully and modern offset presses. This salesperson was happy to help customers improve their productivity even if it meant that purchase of a new machine could be postponed.

He was sure that helping make his customer more productive and more profitable is good business – it would lead to a sale that he could feel good about maybe a year or two from now. Above all, it would make the customer more innovative (and more profitable) – one who understands the benefits that are now built into these valuable machines and is motivated for the right reasons to go for higher technology. 

Hence, I encourage printers and especially packaging companies to register and look at the next event. (I know you are busy with the economic and industry recovery.) Ask questions from the experts relevant to your situation, your market, the presses you have, and how to be more profitable. Of course, we all know that they cannot help you too much unless you know how to pick their brains for experience and new ideas – but you can try. And you can yourself get some ideas of what the future machines and technology look like and what your competition will be using. 

Lastly, can you afford to keep your head in the sand and not know where the industry is headed and what you are up against when you are ingeniously leveraging your current hardware by using your expertise and market strengths? 

Let me know if this makes sense, even if you are not a Heidelberg customer. Also, in case you do take part in any of the virtual excercise, let me know afterward if you learned anything or it was a waste of time.

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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