Evolving with the Times: Heidelberg India

The roads have been bumpy, but the journey has been incredible for Heidelberg India Pvt Ltd, a 100 percent, wholly-owned subsidiary of Heidelberg Druckmaschinen AG – Germany. Heidelberg, a trusted name among the printing fraternity, has taken huge strides forward and continues to evolve with the changing times. What makes the company tick? Klaus B Nielsen, MD, Heidelberg India, talks to D Ramalingam from P&P on the changing dynamics of the Indian Graphic Arts Industry and how Heidelberg India has managed to stay ahead of the challenges...

Madras (now Chennai) and Heidelberg (as a brand) go way back in time. In the first-ever International Printing Exhibition held in 1955, at the YMCA grounds in Royapettah – Chennai, Heidelberg showcased its OHP (Original Heidelberg Platen), an automated machine capable of printing colours in perfect registration. East Asiatic Co., the distributors for Heidelberg equipments at the time, helped sculpt the success story by selling the OHPs, followed by OHCs (Original Heidelberg Cylinder machines), a unique Single Revolution Cylinder Letterpress Machine. The robust technology paid off. The rest is history. The saga continues… DR: How do you see the current buying trends of the Indian printers?

KN: Today, printers are more conversant with latest technology across the globe with exposure to overseas exhibitions and internet. The more-flexible import policy, compelling economics of new machines and the shift in consumer behavior is motivating more printers to opt for new equipment against used. Print buyers are more quality conscious today than ever before. To cater to this demand and to stay competitive, printers are willing to invest in new machines, which provide a better ROI.

DR: Could you explain for the benefit of our readers, the integration of prepress, press and postpress operations by Heidelberg? What’s your take on it?

KN: We introduced the concept of integrating prepress, press and postpress operations in drupa 2000. Combining the three verticals of printing makes a lot of sense, if you want to provide your customer with a competitive advantage in terms of productivity, faster turn-around times and print quality. From a management perspective, the integration helps in fully monitoring and optimizing production. To implement the integration we offer our Workflow-Software ‘Prinect’ as well as complete set of on-demand services.

DR: What motivated Heidelberg to come up with the concept of the Print Media Academy (PMA)?

KN: Print Promotion courses were quite popular in Germany, but pretty expensive as well. It was not economically feasible for most printers to travel to Germany for print-related training. That made us think, why not establish an academy in India to cater to the training needs of the print industry here? The idea of PMA took root and the academy was established in 2008.

DR: What are the courses offered by the PMA?

KN: In the early days, the PMA offered courses to cater to the requirements of all sectors in printing, including management. PMA also offered hands-on training for operators. Then, the focus turned to onsite training, which became increasingly popular with our clients. The PMA underwent a structural change and the training is now incorporated as a value-added service under our Systemservice business division.

DR: How would you rate industry response to PMA in the last 6 years?

KN: Overwhelming. The training is comprehensive and covers a lot of ground in prepress, press and postpress. Some of our flagship courses are a big hit with the printers. These include Material-related printing problems, Prepress workflow & Standardization, and Press Adjustments & Standardization. The potential for print training is huge in India, which has about 4 to 5 lakh printers. If printing associations require customized training for their members, we will be more than glad to help.

In line with our objective to promote print education and training in India, recently, we contributed the Prinect Workflow solutions software to the Institute Of Printing Technology at Shoranur. The software, which automates the entire printing process, is worth around Rs 10 Lakh, will be used towards the training and education of students.

DR: How will you describe Heidelberg’s reach in Tier 2 cities?

KN: Excellent. The printing business in India has undergone a makeover in the last few years. Tier 2 cities are rapidly adapting to the shift in the printing landscape, by addressing the quality and production requirements of their local print buyers.

Quality consciousness is driving the potential in these markets. Heidelberg frequently conducts seminars, workshops and demos for B &C cities. In fact, in the last three months we addressed printers in Kochi, Sivakasi and Madurai. The strong response and the business generated out of these events stand testimony to the shifting dynamics of the industry.

DR: Heidelberg has announced various collaborations with Landa, FujiFilm and Ricoh. What is the update with each of these?

KN: As for Landa, nothing concrete I can say at the moment, since they have postponed their market launch. FujiFilm collaboration is still at an early stage. We are currently testing the Jet Press in our labs in Germany. Our goal is to combine the strengths of FujiFilm’s inkjet technology, with our strengths - substrate handling and process controls, to come up with new printing presses for the label as well as for the commercial market. As for Ricoh, distributorship is very much on. In India, we have completed several installations last year; globally we have sold almost 400 units of digital equipment. The idea is to help printers in the digital arena by marrying the digital and offset technologies through our Prinect workflow solutions.

DR: How is your consumables business performing?

KN: Our consumables business has grown beyond expectations in the past 12 months. This has encouraged us to set the bar higher for fiscal 2015.

At the recent PAMEX, our emphasis was on the consumables business. Today, we are focusing on pressroom consumables like Inks, Coatings, Rollers, Blankets, Fountain solutions and Wash-up to meet the needs of Indian graphic arts industry.

DR: The mention of PAMEX brings us to the next question. At PAMEX 2010, Heidelberg won the “best stall” award. The next year, you showcased a complete set of Heidelberg prepress, press and Postpress equipments. But, in 2013, we saw a much smaller stall and virtually no product demo. Was the downsizing in tandem with the slowdown in the Indian printing industry?

KN: At PAMEX 2013, the key strategy was to promote our ‘Service Spares and Consumables’ offerings. Hence, we focused on these product lines. Also, you must take into account the fact that consumer-buying patterns have changed radically. Customers have access to a lot of product information from the internet while assessing their needs. For the same reason, tradeshows attract lesser visitors than before. We had to keep this in mind as well. Heidelberg decided to showcase our services and spares offerings that were more suited to the current market climate in terms of potential and demand.

DR: Can you comment on your performance for the 2013-14 fiscal?

KN: Since January, sales have trended up and we are happy to have ended this fiscal year on a good note. Our focus on after sales services and consumables is going very well. We also see lot of green shoots in our packaging equipment business. By delivering 321 printing units to packaging printers in the last 5 years, we have established market leadership in the packaging segment. The main contributor to this accomplishment I would say is our expertise in color management, lean printing and UV printing, in combination with our production-ready press concept. We are happy to confirm three more Packaging Printing installations are reaching completion by April in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

DR: What is your outlook for the Indian graphics arts industry?

KN: There are signs of revival. Innovations like web-to-print are catching up. Increasing business from B&C cities is a harbinger of good things to come. Packaging printing is coming back with a roar. Heidelberg is also coming up with innovative ideas like 4D printing in the near future. This means individualized printing with inkjet-technology on any 3D object, therefore adding a fourth dimension.

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