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KBA-Digital & Web at World Publishing Expo 2015 in Hamburg

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Press release from the issuing company

KBA-Digital & Web Solutions was present as an autonomous company at the World Publishing Expo (WPE) newspaper trade show in Hamburg for the first time after the completion of the Group restructuring. It has been spun-off from the Parent Koenig & Bauer (KBA). Little has changed in the management of this web division responsible for the segment digital and offset printing, but there have been many changes to its structure, range of tasks and company philosophy. Managing director Christoph Müller, who remains a member of the Group executive board, drew attention to this during the company’s press conference on the first day.

Christoph Müller: “Higher market shares with losses within the shrinking web press business are not a long-term entrepreneurial option. KBA-Digital & Web has therefore been restructured and has adjusted its capacities. The union of offset and digital printing in the web division enhances strategic flexibility. Furthermore, spinning-off production activities reduces fluctuations in capacity. KBA-Digital & Web Solutions serves shrinking and growing markets. This permits synergy effects and the continuation of R&D for both fields, which offers our customers greater security.” With this in mind he referred to the KBA Group’s exceptionally broad product spectrum and its significantly lower dependence on the shrunken web offset market compared to competitors. The segment which has been under pressure for many years today only contributes almost 15 per cent to Group annual sales of some €1.1bn. 

Offset expertise helps with high volume digital printing

Müller emphasised KBA’s competence in web offset and publication gravure printing built up over decades with the mastery of sensitive substrates in large web widths. KBA-Digital & Web benefits from this also in the field of digital printing with the development of the widest inkjet web presses on the global market. By way of example the managing director named the successful entry into digital decor printing with the 2.25m-wide (7.38ft) RotaJET VL series and its partnership with Hewlett Packard for the development and production of the 2.80m-wide (9.18ft) high-volume HP T1100 Simplex Color inkjet web press for the growing corrugated packaging market. This giant inkjet press is built in Würzburg and is currently being tested. It will be unveiled to an audience of print experts in early December. 

Digital and offset under one roof

KBA-Digital & Web continues to distribute, develop, engineer, carry out project planning, assemble and install offset web presses in the mid- and high-performance classes for commercial printing (16 to 80 pages), newspaper and semi-commercial production (single, double and triple wide) and high-volume digital printing with the RotaJET 76 and RotaJET L (89 to 130cm/35-51in web width) for book, advertising and publication printers (including magazines and newspapers). This is in addition to the RotaJET VL press series (= Very Large with a web width of up to 2.25m/7.38ft) for decor printing and other industrial applications.

There are also new business fields and partners. This includes the alliance with HP for a digital press for the corrugated packaging market. Manufacturing and assembly of web presses is carried out in Würzburg by the subsidiaries KBA-Industrial Solutions and KBA-NotaSys which have also been spun-off from the Parent. The first RotaJET VL with a web width of 1.68m (5.51ft) has been in operation at decor printer Interprint in Arnsberg, Germany, for over six months. Renowned book producer Kösel in Altusried-Krugzell, Germany, also recently fired up a RotaJET 76. 

New press market stands at around €200m p.a.

At the beginning of the press conference longstanding KBA marketing director and company spokesman Klaus Schmidt described the situation on the newspaper market. He reported that cyclical patterns in demand with long decision-making periods which are difficult to assess do not make the situation any easier for the supply industry. The global market for offset presses (not including commercial presses, retrofits and upgrades) came to around €200m in 2014 and is unlikely to increase in 2015, whereby single-width presses in the lower performance class accounted for almost 50% of the market in 2014 and only a few high-tech presses went to industrial countries. KBA does not offer low-cost presses for threshold countries which is why its market share temporarily fell from far over 30 per cent in past years to under 10 per cent. This year KBA was again able to win most of the contracts awarded in the upper market segment with the further sales of the Commander CL launched in 2011 to Oppermann Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft in Rodenberg and Aschendorff Druckzentrum in Münster (both Germany) as well as orders for single-wide Comet presses from China and the Middle East. Nevertheless, Schmidt made it clear that short-term observations when analysing market shares in the significantly shrunken new press business can lead to wrong conclusions. KBA has built up its reputation as technology leader over the past 15 years with numerous fundamental innovations and corresponding market success.

Technology leader through fundamental innovations

The user-friendly compact press design introduced in 2000 with the waterless KBA Cortina and the wet offset Commander CT in 2007, automatic plate changing and dedicated drive technology delivering benefits in terms of makeready times, print quality, operator ergonomics and economy have established themselves in high-performance web presses. KBA transferred these fundamental innovations to the Commander CL with classic H-type printing units in 2011. With 14 press lines sold it has also proven particularly successful in Europe.

Individual automation modules, such as automatic plate changing for the Commander CL, can even be retrofitted based on the various production demands of printing houses. Since 2002 60 double- and triple-wide Cortina, Commander CT and Commander CL press lines have been ordered with a total of 256 printing towers – including ten lines with hot-air dryers. All of the press lines are already in operation, apart from the last four Commander CL orders. 

Positioning the printed newspaper more actively

KBA’s 19 Cortina users in particular make headlines time and again with spectacular, often coated print products. Other customers also take advantage of technical facilities offered as retrofits by KBA-Digital & Web for new products and ad formats. Half-cover, Superpanorama, Zip’n’Buy, NaturalPrint on packing paper, SmartFlap, 12 page Double Gate and 12 page Letterfold are just some of many examples. In Hamburg KBA-Service unveiled panorama formats for Tabloid products as a further world first. It comes with the recommendation to use extraordinary folding variations and formats more in order to position the printed newspaper as a sustainable and versatile advertising medium optically even more actively in the media arena.

Digital newspaper printing remains the exception

Furthermore, at the show KBA again campaigned for newspaper houses to look more intensively at new business models associated with high-volume inkjet printing and possibly in combination with offset printing. The press manufacturer, who offers a robust and practical solution for digital newspaper printing with the RotaJET L, sees an opportunity to expand print portfolios for increased reader and customer loyalty, to reach new customer circles as well as a stronger networking of print and online media. Notwithstanding recent investments at Mengis Druck in Wallis, Switzerland, and at KP Services (Jersey) – a joint venture company of Kodak and the Guiton Group on the Channel Island of Jersey – the newspaper industry which is used to high circulations continues to predominantly invest in offset printing due to cost reasons. 

Expansion of service portfolio

In the new press market which has stagnated at a lower level the expansion of its service portfolio has gained in importance for the press manufacturer. Christoph Müller: “The machines in the market are getting older, the demand for service is increasing. Many printing companies are reducing their own technical staff. KBA-Digital & Web has expanded its offerings for own and third-party presses (via the subsidiary PHS) and markets its after-sales services more actively than in the past. Service sales with retrofits, repairs, upgrades, relocations, consulting, training are rising continually. Long-term service and maintenance contracts are on the rise. KBA-Digital & Web and PHS also offer carefree packages with on-site personnel if needed.” A few days before the start of the trade show KBA-Digital & Web signed a big service contract with Tamedia, Switzerland, for 3 sites over 4 years


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