A press conference marathon in the first few days of drupa is a fact of life for journalists. Most companies work very hard to make these sessions as concise and informative as possible, and most do a great job.

While I didn’t attend every press conference – it would be very difficult for one person to do that – of the ones I did attend, four stood out, each for different reasons.

Emmy-Worthy Press Conferences

Two companies did an outstanding job of incorporating fun and energy into their press conferences while still conveying the needed information.

I always look forward to EFI press conferences, and this one was no exception. The company had a ton of news to share, from its breakthrough Nozomi digital direct-to-corrugated press to AquaEndure ink, an extended partnership with Esko and many additions to its Fiery platform. The theme of the conference was built around the burning platform – if the platform is burning, do you stay on it and burn up, or do you take a leap of faith and jump off. Kind of an interesting approach considering the name of its initial product! CEO Guy Gecht talked about some of the difficult times the industry has seen of late, including segments that are continuing to decline such as long run printing and office printing, but also highlighted the growth opportunities provided by digital production, including packaging. EFI’s approach? To reinvent high speed inkjet and digital front ends, taking productivity to the next level for its customers.

And he presented a clear case for optimism for the continued growth of digital:

  • The packaging market is forecast to more than double over the next five years.
  • 11% of packaging printers reported digital making up 25% of revenue.
  • 38% of commercial printers reported digital represents 25% of revenue
  • 59% of functional printers reported digital to make up 25% of revenues
  • 2/3 of all profitable print businesses utilize more than one print technology.

Clearly, he is recommending taking the leap to digital and not staying on the burning analog platform. They put together a high energy song to end the performance based on Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire, with words tuned to our industry. Fun and inspirational!  Join the fun.

And when talking about the Emmy’s, I have to include Benny Landa’s extravaganza. This was a professionally choreographed 45-minute Star Trek like show that ran five times a day to packed audiences.  For the press conference, Benny used a truncated form of the show, which talked about the company’s history, the technology and why it is important, and the products.  He also highlighted some of the other R&D work being done in his companies with nano technology in the medical and energy fields. The Landa presses are still not available, having been announced at drupa 2012, but he did announce beta sites, with one of the customers being in the audience at the press conference. And he introduced his team to us, including CEO Yishai Amir. Watch the show.

Touching the Future

Touch the Future was the theme of drupa 2016, and two companies stood out as embracing that theme: Heidelberg and KBA.  As offset press manufacturers, both have been through tough times of late.

Heidelberg pegged drupa 2016 as the birthday party for the new Heidelberg – a more open company that encourages dialog with customers. The company declined to use the term Industry 4.0, which many others were touting. Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, is the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. Instead, the company preferred to characterize the current state as represented by its offerings and at drupa as Smart Printing. The press conference was entertaining, though not quite at the level of Landa’s extravaganza, using robots to get across the message of automation and smart collaboration. The new Heidelberg also has a new logo.

Kudos to the company for hiring good designers – the Peter Schmidt Group – and for listening to them. The three different colors on the left of the logo represent equipment, consumables and service, while the dark blue represents the solid heritage of Heidelberg.  Like many equipment vendors, Heidelberg has recognized the fact that companies must provide total solutions. Management Board Member Harald Weimer stated, “A machine alone is not enough to support our customers.” 

The Heidelberg booth reflected this new openness and emphasis on solutions beyond the press.  It was very clean, lots of white and good lighting (it seems like last drupa, it was pretty dark in Hall 1, in more ways than one!) There weren’t that many presses, and the exhibit was well organized into sectors, including digital printing (mostly OEM’d from Ricoh, but the Primefire developed in partnership with Fujifilm had a prime position on center stage).

My colleague Patrick Henry wrote a great article about the new Heidelberg at drupa, and I encourage you to read it for the full story.  One thing I would say to Heidelberg, though, two hours is too long for a press conference!

KBA President & CEO (and drupa President) Claus Bolza-Schünemann conducted a very frank discussion during the company’s drupa press conference about the transformation the company has undergone. While KBA had a significant newspaper presence in the past, with the contraction of that industry, the company made a concerted effort to restructure the business to take advantage of growth opportunities. Today, the media business only represents 10% of the company’s business, with 70% being in packaging.  In fact, 60% of the company’s Rapida presses go into packaging operations. The company has also reinvigorated its corrugated business with flexo and digital offerings.

KBA has been very aggressive with partnering to enhance its digital position, including co-development efforts with Xerox and HP that were recently announced, as well as its own RotaJET family. Bolza-Schünemann characterizes KBA’s key product as progress in this video interview.

This restructuring wasn’t easy, but the company had the courage to do what needed to be done. You could hear the emotion in Bolza-Schünemann’s voice when he talked about having to reduce headcount from 8,200 to less than 6,000. The company also added a restructuring expert to its board.

All of these efforts have turned the company around, and I give Bolza-Schünemann and his team a lot of credit for the several years of hard work this required and for its openness during this press conference about what it took to get to what he characterizes as KBA 4.0.

Both KBA and Heidelberg have also taken significant steps to expand customer service.  Both are leveraging data and a digital infrastructure to deliver much more than just remote access to a press. This includes analyzing performance data and using it to help point customers in the direction of improved productivity based on benchmark performance across their respective networks.

Looking Ahead to 2020

We are already looking ahead to drupa 2020 and what it will bring – in terms of innovation in products, services and press conferences!