Printers talk about Heidelberg’s subscription productivity benefits

Heidelberg’s Innovation Week – the subscription model

Kohlhammer managing director Steffen Franzisi

During the Heidelberg Innovation Week held from 13 to 15 October, the German press manufacturer provider featured two leading print companies that have benefitted from its subscription model. The companies featured were W Kohlhammer Druckerei and WEIG Packaging, both based in Germany.

The 140-year-old Kohlhammer specializes in manufacturing print products. Based in the Obertürkheim district of Stuttgart, it mainly produces magazines, brochures, catalogs, annual reports, and books. The full-service production company’s services range from repro, print data/quality management, sheetfed offset printing, print on demand, and postpress operations through to warehouse and shipping logistics.

To make the best possible use of capacities and reduce the administrative workload, Kohlhammer has opted for a Subscription Smart contract model with Heidelberg. The agreement covers Saphira consumables, the Prinect Production Manager workflow system, service operations, and consulting for three Speedmaster XL 106 8-color sheetfed offset presses. The services provided under the Subscription Smart contract are charged per printed sheet, with a pre-agreed print volume already included in a fixed monthly sum.

“I used to be the one of the biggest skeptics of this model since you become dependent on one supplier. You are also giving up a bit of your independence and freedom of choice. What convinced us in the end was the transparency in cost. We now know what we have to pay for per printed sheet and can therefore calculate much more accurately,” Kohlhammer managing director Steffen Franzisi said. 

Since introducing the program, Kohlhammer has significantly reduced the number of waste sheets during setup on the three presses. “Based on 500 makeready jobs per press in the space of a month, we saved up to 25,000 sheets of paper,” said Franzisi. He also stated that work of the sales team has improved because of the subscription model. The purchasing activities have become simpler, he added. 

Vendor-managed inventory constitutes a key part of the contract. It means Heidelberg assumes full responsibility for inventory management and automatically supplies Kohlhammer with consumables as required, as soon as stocks fall below a particular level.

“By passing responsibility for warehousing to Heidelberg, our company saves considerable resources – from ordering all the way through to the inventory – which reduces our purchasing team’s workload significantly,” he said. 

With vendor-managed inventory, the ordering process takes place automatically. Kohlhammer staff simply need to scan a QR code to book items in or out. 

WEIG Packaging achieves record production

Heidelberg featured another subscription customer, WEIG Packaging, during the Innovation Week. Mayen-Germany based WEIG Packaging is a specialist in manufacturing packaging cartons. The company, which has been in operation since the 1930s, services customers in both food and non-food segments.

WEIG Packaging operates two Heidelberg XL 106 presses, bought in 2018. The company has opted for a Heidelberg Subscription Plus contract which covers the presses as well as other components, the service component, and consumables.  

“Subscription is a model that allowed us to develop a very good partnership with Heidelberg. We are not just talking about a supplier of equipment, but we are also talking about a partnership for daily processes and for minor issues that happen every now and then,” said Stefan Leonhardt, managing director of WEIG Packaging. 

WEIG Packaging shopfloor

Leonhardt added that WEIG Packaging has been able to reduce set-up times by 25% over the last three years in which the subscription model has been running. “This has helped us raise output. Thanks to the close cooperation with Heidelberg and regular meetings, we have been able to significantly increase the number of sheets printed. Our new monthly record result in the print shop reached 16 million sheets, which is about 10% higher than the previous record,” he said. 

Just like in the case of Kohlhammer, Heidelberg also assumes full responsibility for inventory management at WEIG Packaging. Leonhardt said that his company will continue to focus on automation because that is the is only way to increase productivity and efficiency. “This means that we will continue to build on the good relationship with Heidelberg and continue to use this partnership to increase our numbers and improve the results,” Leonhardt concluded. 

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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