KBA Helps German Printing House Plan for the Future
Monday, March 22, 2004
March 19, 2004 -- How can I raise my competitive profile? How can I safeguard the future of my business? Dirk Ackerknecht, managing director of German printing house Meinke Druck in Neuss, near Düsseldorf, has already seized the initiative by installing a 14-unit Rapida 105 which visitors to Drupa can arrange to see in action. Ackerknecht has a long-standing policy of using quality as an effective instrument for product differentiation and, in addition to upgrading production technology on a regular basis, even employs two full-time proof-readers. Almost four years ago, during Drupa 2000, the company moved out of Düsseldorf city centre, where it had been situated for 74 years, to new premises in Neuss, installing the first of a number of Speedmasters in the process. This is now the oldest item of production equipment in the entire company, pre-press included. Cornering a share of the promo market The relocation was part of a strategic realignment aimed at establishing a new customer base in the promotional print market. The gamble has paid off, and today a string of agencies and prominent names in the automotive, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, fashion, photographic and audiovisual industries, from BMW and RTL promoter IP to Victoria Insurance, are listed in the books. But despite the technology upgrade Meinke still faces tough competition in its designated markets. The course it has adopted has been to specialise in the exceptional. Dirk Ackerknecht explains. ”If we were to continue as before, with production equipment indistinguishable from that of all the other print providers, ie 4c plus a fifth colour and/or coating, we’d be dead and buried in no time. We believe that uniformity in the marketplace will kill off a lot of printing firms. This is why we re-oriented our entire production strategy by streamlining the workflow to support both volume and specialisation. Printing technology today offers a lot of potential for rationalising the workflow and it would be criminal not to exploit it.” He continues: ”Technology has made enormous advances since Drupa 2000, from new FM screens, high-speed workflow systems and CTP in pre-press to new inking systems, high-pigment inks, hybrid UV and coating options in the press room and inline double coating or embossing in post-press. Automation and networking now play a major role, and it is here that progress has been most rapid. Many of these new developments are now mature enough to be taken on board, enabling us print providers to offer our customers value-added products.” New options for brochures and leaflets Ackerknecht sees all sorts of ways to create totally unique products, each one an effective tool for raising product profile above the run-of-the-mill ‘4c plus x’. ”I believe the firm’s future – and a new brochure culture – lies in combining advanced perfecting technology with hybrid inks, Staccato screening and double coating. Being production specialists, we are confident we can do all this with just one machine.” He is happy to reveal how he envisages print products should look in the future, brandishing as examples an issue of Pancrom News, a glossy magazine devoted to the upper echelons of Brazilian society, and a book – deprecatingly described as a brochure – which DaimlerChrysler presents to customers signing on the dotted line for a new SLR. The magazine is unique in many ways, boasting not only gold and silver embossing but also luminous and gold ink and a variety of coating effects including structured coating. EffectPress: 5-colour perfecting plus two coats Ackerknecht has set his sights primarily on the cosmetics, fashion and automotive industries with which, as he freely confesses, he feels a personal affinity. And strategically he is well positioned within the region. The fashion and cosmetics industries have adopted Düsseldorf as the centre of their European activities and a similar concentration can be seen among car manufacturers: Nissan, Toyota, Mazda, Renault and Citroen have all located their German headquarters on the Cologne-Neuss-Düsseldorf axis. Meinke‘s ”secret weapon” for cornering the market is what Ackerknecht dubs his ”EffectPress” – a name which, among members of the German print industry, calls to mind the ”DuoPress” with which the Thomas group in Gelsenkirchen has created some innovative and highly imaginative coating effects. But whereas Günther Thomas’s brainchild was engineered to maximise its coating capabilities, Ackerknecht’s strategy goes beyond this to enhance the finished product in a variety of ways, most notably by producing sophisticated and unusual special effects. Ackerknecht wanted a production tool capable of printing and inline coating on both sides of the sheet in one pass, with the option of additional coating effects, also on both sides, using flexographic gold or silver varnish, or gloss and/or matt coatings on top of standard aqueous or UV. The press offering this formidable range of options – the 14-unit Rapida 105 he recently installed – represents a milestone in sheetfed engineering. One of the reasons Ackerknecht opted for a KBA press instead of a Heidelberg was that a similar press line has already been installed in South Africa, though even this was not ambitious enough for his purposes. The Rapida can apply five colours and add two coatings to the eight standard pages on both sides of a 700mm x 1,000mm (27½” x 39½”) sheet in a single pass. But Ackerknecht is not out to conduct experiments. He believes that, if he is to print and coat products cost-effectively, the graphic artist must be involved right from the word go. Going by the book Customers can order from a catalogue or, preferably, from a book of samples consisting of printed sheets demonstrating the many different combinations of print plus special coating effects that are possible. These can then be mixed and matched to suit customer specifications. The extensive choice means that they can see the result prior to placing an order. Ackerknecht believes that the greatest potential for growth lies in the reliably reproducible and automated production of perfect printed and coated five-colour brochures, catalogues, leaflets and magazines in mid-length runs and with medium page counts. The 39-year-old entrepreneur calculates that exploiting such advanced technology and press automation, in tandem with a streamlined workflow to support one-pass production, enables him to offer substantial value added at a surcharge of just 10 - 15 per cent on the price of standard four over four. Targeting the high end of the market in this way is profitable from a print run of around 5,000 sheets. ”Customers looking for the extra visual impact that imaginative ink application and coatings can offer, but at a moderate price, will welcome the ‘EffectPress’ with open arms.” Meinke has also placed an order for a new-generation Rapida 105 five colour with coater, delivery extension and hybrid package, with delivery scheduled for after Drupa.