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Interview with Michael Deml of Druckhaus Mainfranken's Klipphausen plant

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Press release from the issuing company

In 2007 Druckhaus Mainfranken opened a production plant with adjacent flyeralarm finishing facility in Klipphausen near Dresden, with easy access to the A4 motorway. Alongside a 46 Karat press and a Winkler & Dünnebier envelope machine, Works III, as it is called, operates eight large-format KBA Rapida 142s, all of which are four-colour versions with automatic plate changing and other automation modules for high-speed job changes and consistently high quality. In just a few years flyeralarm and Druckhaus Mainfranken have fired up a total of fourteen Rapida 142 four-colour presses. Other equipment at the companies' production plants includes large-format presses from another manufacturer, small-format Genius 52UV und Anicolor presses, two Kodak Nexpress digital presses, offline coaters and high-performance pre-press, finishing and mailroom technology.

During a visit to the Klipphausen factory KBA marketing director Klaus Schmidt spoke to plant manager Michael Deml about his work in the Mainfranken subsidiary and the peculiarities of web to print:

Schmidt: Michael, with flyeralarm and Druckhaus Mainfranken largely focussed on Franconia and the rest of Bavaria, the Klipphausen plant could be seen as a diaspora in Saxony. Does it mean you're planning to serve flyeralarm customers in the new federal states and points even further east?

Deml: No, we don't see our business as regional. Production and logistics at each of our plants are highly specialised. In Klipphausen we print flyers, leaflets, posters and letterheads, and also make envelopes. Our equipment is engineered for maximum cost efficiency and speed in both production and distribution. At the same time the pace at which our company is growing frequently forces us to adapt and shift production at our various locations, and we are at pains to maintain this flexibility. A lot of the products offered online can be delivered anywhere in Europe within 24 hours. So if you order business cards by midday on one day they'll probably be on your desk by midday the next.

Schmidt: Can you briefly describe the Klipphausen plant? How much production space, how many employees and what sort of kit do you have there?

Deml: We have around 5,500 square metres of production and storage space. The hall housing pre-press and press was already there when we took possession, and had previously been used by a haulage company. The second hall was built to our own specifications and contains the entire finishing department, the mailroom and the paper and board store. So basically there are two companies at the Klipphausen location – Druckhaus Mainfranken with roughly 65 employees engaged in pre-press and press, and flyeralarm with around 110 employees engaged in everything relating to post-press.
In the pre-press department we have a Kodak Prinergy workflow with three Magnus VLF platesetters plus automatic pallet loaders because we consume between 6,000 and 7,000 plates per week. The press hall houses eight Rapida 142s, all for four colours. Then there are seven full-scale Perfecta guillotines and nineteen folding machines. Each of the folding machines is preset for specific jobs so it doesn't usually have to be converted.

Schmidt: Looking at the press technology in flyeralarm and Druckhauses Mainfranken production plants it is evident that large-format, 6B presses dominate – something which is more generally associated with packaging production. What is the advantage of large format for web to print?

Deml: We were quick to realise that, for certain products, this format is more cost-effective. Large format gives us much greater flexibility, which is important for the gang formes that make up part of our job structure. Also, it enables us to minimise fixed costs. This is why we went for large format right from the start – and were among the first in our sector to do so. The print quality and makeready times associated with big presses like our Rapidas can easily stand comparison with medium format, and their productivity is awesome. Alongside the fourteen Rapida 142 four-colour presses our press fleet includes ten B2 and six small-format presses, so we have the right format for every product.

Schmidt: What does it take to be as successful as flyeralarm and Druckhaus Mainfranken in a new, high-growth sector like web to print?

Deml: Whatever sector you work in it is vital to maximise your time and cost efficiency. Which is why we have equipped all our presses with automatic plate changers for maximum speed and flexibility during job changes. The new Rapidas also feature inline density control. When printing flyers this can cut waste by as much as ten per cent. Also, the press crews feel more confident because they don't have to pull sheets so often for colour control. But our efficiency extends beyond the press room. Much of our success may be attributed to scrupulous preparation: a lot of printers print gang formes, but we optimise imposition not only with regard to maximum format utilisation but also job volume. By staggering jobs we ensure that the print run is the same for each of the products on a gang forme, so there is no waste.
And there is a third point: customer proximity. We maintain a number of regional service centres – in Dresden, Würzburg, Munich, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Salzburg, Vienna, Valencia, Bolzano and, shortly, in Berlin – where less experienced customers can get advice on design and production. Each of our production plants has a quality department to address irregularities in production and also customer complaints, though these are on the decline. This is one of our top priorities because if a customer is dissatisfied with your online service, you've lost them for sure. In general we undergo a continuous process of improvement and development aimed at maintaining our market position and growing market share.

Schmidt: Are you and your press operators pleased with the big Rapidas? Is Klipphausen's proximity to KBA's factory in Radebeul an advantage?

Deml: We are delighted with the Rapidas. They are reliable, easy to handle and deliver a superb print quality. We have certainly bet on the right horse. Our proximity to the manufacturing plant is definitely an advantage. Contacts at every level, from fitters to print instructors and management, are much closer than they would be if we were several hundred kilometres apart.

Schmidt: You recently had the Baden-Württemberg Printing and Media Industries Federation carry out a post-commissioning acceptance test on your new Rapidas. This seems to be standard practice at Druckhaus Mainfranken. What are the benefits?

Deml: Acceptance tests on presses are all part of the routine at big companies because they promote trust between the user and the manufacturer. Everyone, the press operators included, knows that the press has been inspected and approved by a neutral authority. We receive a report that objectively describes the current state of the press. I believe this a benefit for both sides. If we subsequently sell the press on we can prove that it was in perfect condition when we acquired it.

Schmidt: Why aren't the large-format Rapidas at Druckhaus Mainfranken and flyeralarm configured with coaters? Normally we rarely deliver non-perfecting versions without a coater in Europe. On the other hand you have just bought a second Colibri unit for offline coating. Why is offline better than inline coating in your line of business?

Deml: The main reason we dispense with coaters is process optimisation: for most of our products we can save not only on coating but also on energy by allowing the prints to dry for a few hours prior to finishing, which eliminates a lot of potential problems. However, it does mean that the data supplied by the customer must comply in full with our quality specifications. We try to pre-empt errors via quality control and by offering a free basic data check or low-cost professional data check. If an aqueous or UV coating is expressly specified we can deliver a high standard of quality using the two offline systems.

Schmidt: Flyeralarm in Würzburg uses KBA-Metronic Genius 52UV and Heidelberg Anicolor small-format presses for short runs and special products. Why are digital presses the exception rather than the rule at big online printers, setting aside the photo books that are often cited as successful examples of digital print?

Deml: While there is no doubt that the digital print market is spreading from small to large format, in web to print it is still a peripheral phenomenon. We only use digital presses for runs of 1 to 100 prints, so a handful of presses is enough for the whole group. Anything above can be printed in offset, which has the edge in unit costs.

Schmidt: While global players were the first to be hit by the financial and economic crisis of September 2008, it was not long before domestic print providers felt the knock-on effects, which continue to this day. Did you also notice demand subsiding in your online business or is this market bucking the trend?

Deml: The economic crisis had only a minor impact on our business. Market pressures forced a lot of print buyers to forego extras or individual products and to focus on price, which brought us additional custom. You must realise that over 80 per cent of our customers are businesses, which have their print work designed by professional agencies or freelancers, while we handle the actual production. A lot of smaller printshops also advise their customers and prepare their data, but have us print the products.

Schmidt: , flyeralarm and Druckhaus Mainfranken are successfully exploiting the internet to win new orders. With online players increasingly contesting print's dominance as a vehicle for advertising and information, how do you view print's long-term prospects?

Deml: Yes, we are very close to the internet. But despite online competition we believe print has a future. Although a lot of print is moving online, the volume of paper consumed by the print market remains relatively constant. The main difference is that print runs for individual products are shrinking and they are becoming outdated faster.
Having said that, our low prices and quick delivery have enabled us to create an additional volume of print where nothing existed a few years ago. Today a lot of private individuals and small firms have business cards, envelopes and letterheads printed, mostly in four colours. Previously, such short-run work would have been too pricey. Updates are also more frequent because they are now relatively cheap. Our own web shop is continually being updated by an in-house team of experienced programmers, so we can rapidly respond to a surge in requests for a product that is not yet in our portfolio. Parallel to this we also work proactively, constantly asking ourselves if there are any products we could offer that are not yet on the market. That's a signal to our colleagues in smaller printshops: while we may take some customers from you, we're also generating new demand! We give print pros in smaller businesses that can no longer keep pace with technological advances in press technology the chance to offer their regulars competent advice and service even if they do not have the necessary equipment – and could not compete on price if they did.
Print is tangible, it is emotive and an indispensable part of the media mix, particularly in customer communications. Online printers strengthen print, create new categories of customers and products and open up new markets.

Schmidt: Thank you for this interview.




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