Online print also harbors potential for print companies that have operated offline for more than 30 years. The packaging and niche-product print provider, Schmid, is well aware of that fact and can also tap into an almost unrivalled logistics network.
It’s been a while since I last interviewed an online print business CEO. And given that Initiative Online Print welcomed all of three new members in the fall of 2017, I am continuing this series of interviews in this blog in 2018. I’m kicking off with the head honcho at Schmid Druck + Medien: Sven Burkhard, CEO of the Elanders Group subsidiary based in the Bavarian town of Kaisheim. I talked with Sven about his take on the online print market. Schmid Druck + Medien has been owned by Sweden-based Elanders Group since 2015 and is therefore one of the largest companies represented in the IOP. So what makes this interview all the more interesting is how the speciality print provider, which has been in business for more than 30 years and has a broad international customer base (thanks to its parent company), rates the opportunities available in the current and future (online) print market.
Bernd Zipper: Keeping it short and sweet – what is Schmid Druck + Medien GmbH all about? What distinguishes your business and what are your print specialties?
Sven Burkhard: We regard ourselves as a full-service provider and as THE go-to contact for all conventional, creative, high-end quality print media. Every day our in-house product development team comes up with the perfect solution for any product. Our main product groups include conventional packaging as well as products like functional cards (promotional media made of cardboard featuring folding, pop-out and sliding details that you wouldn’t normally expect), displays, standees, folders and a wide range of very different mailshot options.
As part of the Elanders Group, which has 16 branches in nine countries on four continents, we provide global solutions for all kinds of printed information to our clients with worldwide operations.
Bernd Zipper: What made you join the IOP, which specializes in online print? Does your business, which was originally an offline print provider, view online print as having a particular importance in the print and media industry of the future?
Sven Burkhard: Of course dedicated offline print customer care and the product development that goes with it will be at the heart of what our company does in future. Nevertheless we see online print as an opportunity to showcase our products and services to an even wider audience and therefore to achieve growth in the future of a similar magnitude to what we have achieved in the past.
Bernd Zipper: And what is your take on cooperation between to some extent competing print providers? As a member of the Initiative Online Print you must have a fixed idea of what that involves, or not?
Sven Burkhard: I regard cooperation as an immensely important factor in future success. My initial experiences in the Initiative Online Print have shown that sharing information involves much more in the way of sharing experiences rather than competitive issues. Major online print providers will in future also enlarge their product portfolios by adding what are perceived to be “niche products” and will require the right specialists and collaborative partners.
The network within the IOP provides the perfect opportunity on the one hand to play the role of service provider to market players and on the other to extend one’s own product portfolio by acquiring new partners.
Bernd Zipper: Enhancing service provision plays an important role in the print industry alongside product quality. How do you ensure that you stay up-to-date both in terms of technology and mindset?
Sven Burkhard: Clients’ insatiable demand for new product developments and innovative solutions challenge and encourage you to keep on updating your mindset and to keep on striving to generate the best product and production solutions. In addition to its purely print business the Elanders Group also provides a full fulfilment service worldwide and associated logistics services. This approach rapidly transforms print items themselves into secondary products and shifts the focus on to issues like the enhancement of services along the entire supply chain. These challenges are forcing us to review our workflows every day and to break new ground.
“If you combine a healthy view of the market with the cooperation opportunities in the online print market, you can be successful online, even as a former offline print provider. The prerequisite for that of course is sound production know-how, preferably involving specialty products (too).” – Bernd Zipper
Bernd Zipper: As a part of the Elanders Group, you are also experiencing firsthand how the European (online) print market is evolving. Are there similar developments apparent on other continents – or are things done differently there?
Sven Burkhard: In terms of digitalization, print-run size reductions or market consolidation, other continents are undergoing processes that are similar to what we have here in Germany. However we are meeting very different requirements in the different markets (countries). In addition to various product requirements, the issues of delivery lead times and product quality play a very country-specific role.
In this respect it is important to determine the requirements of each continent in detail and to deliver the appropriate solutions.
Bernd Zipper: What do you believe are the key investment issues for print providers in the next three years? Are these the issues in which your company will be investing?
Sven Burkhard: We will also be pursuing the objective in the next few years of reducing process costs in order to meet demand for smaller and smaller print runs and shorter delivery lead times. In addition to expenditure on machinery assets and marketing activities, investment in automation and modularization of complex processes will in future be a priority.
Bernd Zipper: Is there a piece of advice you would like to give small and mid-sized print providers for the future?
Sven Burkhard: I can only advise every small and mid-sized print provider to focus on their strengths and find their niche, and as a result of which define a strategy and pursue it with consistency. With the right products, the right partners and the necessary consistency of approach in place, online print provides an unprecedented opportunity to showcase your products and services. Even smaller businesses should not miss out on this opportunity!
My take: As a print provider under the Elanders umbrella, Schmid Druck + Medien has a place in the structure of the European print market. But not just for that reason – above all because it is pursuing a steady course as an established expert in printing premium-quality specialty applications, packaging and promotional media. And I can only agree with what Sven Burkhard advises in respect of how many print providers should shape their future – identify what the real strengths of your print business are and enhance them. Not everybody can do everything – at least not comprehensively well. And Sweden-based Elanders Group has recognized that that approach works well, not just in exclusively online business terms, and therefore tied Schmid Druck + Medien in to its own organization to benefit from the consistent approach taken by the “broadly based” print specialist. In the next few weeks I will again be providing you with information “from the horse’s mouth”. So till then, don’t you go changing.