WhatTheyThink, along with 15 other members of the press, was invited to visit the headquarters of Onlineprinters in Neustadt an der Aisch in Germany, and, via European correspondent Morten Reitoft from INKISH.TV, was the only American media outlet represented. 

Onlineprinters is one of the three biggest online printers in Europe with annual revenues exceeding US$233 million. The company was founded in 1984 as a general commercial printing company. In 2004, they sold their first online order and growth—in the double digits year after year—has been explosive from there.

Acquisitions have also become part of the growth path. Recently, Onlineprinters acquired the UK’s Solopress and Scandinavia’s Lasertryk. Just a few weeks ago, the company announced that it had added its one-millionth customer.

With 183 offset printing units, several HP Indigos, and a strong partnership with Horizon, Onlineprinters is a tremendously efficient printing company that can handle 5,000+ orders a day. 

All these positive numbers have of course led to an interest from not only the industry but also from investors. The owners of Onlineprinters today are founder Walter Meyer, Bregan Unternehmerkapital, Project A, and the original founders of both Solopress and Lasertryk. 

From an American perspective, Onlineprinters is a good case study for multiple reasons. Onlineprinters told us during the two-day event that shipping time to the East Coast of the United States is sometimes even faster than to some parts of Europe. That alone is interesting since the same mustapply for American printing companies interested in selling in Europe. However, we can only speculate about cost, bureaucracy, customs handling, and other logistics. Onlineprinters is also interesting because print has become truly globalized. Book publishers have for years been printing in Asia—but now that even commodity print is feasible at these distances, it will give globalization a new dimension. 

In this video interview, we take a look inside Onlineprinters’ operation and ask CEO Dr. Michael Fries whether his company—and others like his—should be feared or embraced. Is what online printing companies do today just a step in the same direction taken by companies in many other industries, and therefore more of a business opportunity for printers than a threat? If so, how?