Commentary & Analysis
FREE: The Shape of the Market: Bill Blair, Heidelberg's SVP of Digital
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: September 26, 2003
(Part 2) (See Part 1) by Noel Ward, Executive Editor of OnDemandJournal.com and Managing Editor of trade show coverage for WhatTheyThink.com September 26, 2003 -- In the days leading up to a major show, industry execs from the major print engine manufacturers are very busy guys. That makes it hard to get them to sit still long enough to give us some answers. So schedules being what they are, Part 2 of our Shape of the Market series is a one-on-one with Bill Blair, Senior Vice President, Digital at Heidelberg USA. WTT: Other than the economy and sales, what do you see as the most important issues for printers today? Blair: Workflow is the biggest challenge for printers integrating new digital equipment into their operations. Printers must understand, and be able to implement, a workflow across all platforms. The difficulty arises in connecting with other workflows and equipment – and integration can be equally challenging with offset or other digital solutions. In fact, Heidelberg views this issue as so critical for a customer's success, we have formed a Workflow Consulting Group as part of our Professional Services support for digital customers. This group is composed of Heidelberg engineers and application specialists who provide workflow customization, helping customers define the specific workflow requirements to achieve their long-term business goals. WTT: Are there any particular types of applications your customers are asking about and trying to implement? Blair: Variable data remains the key area of interest for digital application development. Heidelberg has identified seven levels of digital printing and at Graph Expo will be demonstrating applications in each level, which vary from basic to highly complex. Mostly, customers ask our advice on which applications will make them the most money. The answer varies based on many aspects of a customer's business and goals, but there is one consistent piece of advice we give. Variable data projects are most successful with businesses that that have control of their data. Businesses in industries such as manufacturing and banking are logical targets. Heidelberg's Business Development Services works with customers to develop an individualized digital business model designed to achieve profits and long-term growth opportunities. WTT: Do you see pent-up demand for new equipment and applications, but that printers are hesitant due to the soft economy? Blair: Heidelberg has experienced steady demand for our digital solutions. Many printers looking to upgrade their digital equipment have leases that expire prompting them to act, so we have been less affected by the soft economy. We are seeing an increase of activity in the past few months as customers are realizing more sustained order books. And we continue to be proactive in our education efforts, hosting events such as our Digital Roadshow series, to demonstrate the value of digital printing and why printers should act now. WTT: Other than leads and sales, what are your company's goals at Graph Expo? Blair: Exposing and educating new audiences about the power and potential of digital printing is one of our top goals. For printers, we have asked some of our current customers to share their successes and ‘how to' advice for building profitable digital businesses and developing effective applications. Heidelberg's Business Development Services group will be on hand to offer one-on-one advice as well. We will demonstrate our NexPress 2100 and Digimaster 9110cp to show the variety of applications possible through digital printing. Finally we're reaching out to the local design community. Heidelberg will host a special event for creative audiences with the highly regarded graphic artist Charles S. Anderson to help stimulate interest and demand from the people who design marketing campaigns and make print buying decisions. Part of this event will include demonstrations that will expose creatives to digital printing for the first time and highlight features of specific interest to this community, such as NexPress's recent PANTONE licensing, which ensures accurate color matching for their designs. Thank you, Bill, for taking the time to share your views on the shape of the market. We appreciate your insights and perspectives. Have a great show in Chicago.