Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG has recently acquired software start-up Crispy Mountain, which offers Keyline, a cloud-based management platform. According to the press manufacturer, the takeover is part of the company’s strategy to further expand its digital business models.
Keyline has been on the market as a management information system (MIS) for the printing industry since 2015, is designed for operation in the cloud, and uses web-based and mobile technologies to cover all stages of the value chain in digital and offset printing. This enables printing companies to calculate significantly faster, produce more reliably and at the same time reduce costs and minimize errors. The application is now to be expanded with all the necessary functions for the commercial, label and packaging market segments.
Conventional MIS have had their day
So far, so good. This topic has already been published by others. But we asked ourselves, what does Heidelberg really want to do with Crispy Mountain? Considering that fact that Heidelberg already has an MIS (that’s what ERP systems strangely call themselves in the printing industry) with the Prinect Business Manager. This is based on the technology from Belgian software manufacturer CERM, which Heidelberg acquired at the beginning of 2011, and whose expertise was established as an integrated MIS within the Prinect workflow solution. The Business Manager organizes a print shop’s order processing and commercial processes, determines the most cost-effective production route and calculates an offer. So why a second MIS?
The answer is comparatively simple: conventional MIS have had their day. The days of bulk jobs with lucrative margins are largely over, customer behavior has changed, demand is falling, costs are rising – and the air is getting thinner. Trends such as digitization and individualization are leading to a growing number of jobs and shorter runs – a vicious circle for many printing companies.
However, this situation cannot be resolved with traditional processes and processes that have become very popular, since the administrative effort involved in an order does not depend on its requirements. And the money is no longer earned in print shops by the print run itself, but rather in the processes before and after the press, in prepress, finishing and logistics. Print shops therefore have to work hard to handle their jobs with maximum efficiency.
Traditional management information systems do not achieve this because they are overloaded with functions that have become an important requirement for traditional MIS providers over time. They have also implemented everything and packed it into a single system. This has resulted in software bottlenecks that are highly complex and incredibly difficult to operate.
In view of the many small-volume orders, however, these MIS are no longer up-to-date and flexible enough. And above all, MIS lacks openness for integration with other applications or machines – not to mention solutions in a cloud environment and browser-based applications.
Designing event-driven process chains
But that’s exactly what Keyline from Crispy Mountain offers, openness and the ability to integrate. Keyline uses current IT technologies such as the cloud and powerful interfaces for possible extensions. And the team around Matthias Prinz, CEO of Crispy Mountain, is pursuing completely new approaches: “We approach the topic from production and go backwards into costing, warehouse management and logistics. Keyline is the data backbone of a modern print shop – sustainable thanks to an open cloud architecture and as easy to use as apps that are used in our spare time,” explained Prinz in an interview with beyondprint last October.
Keyline constantly sends information in the form of so-called “events”, for example when objects are created, changed or deleted. An app can pick these up and trigger processes and workflows. In this way, event-driven process chains can be designed, and processes automated. In addition, the Keyline AppStore offers a growing range of apps for the simple and fast integration of Keyline with applications and machines. This integration capability is a cornerstone of the Keyline philosophy.
Keyline is continuously and agilely further developed. There is not a huge release every few years, but daily updates. The feedback of the customers flows in continuously. And since Keyline is a cloud-based software, the improvements are automatically available to all users.
“It would also have surprised me if Crispy Mountain, with its innovative ideas and agile approach, had not quickly become the object of desire.” – Bernd Zipper
Heidelberg, in turn, is gradually converting the sale of individual software licenses to a user-oriented subscription offering. The software business will focus on cloud technologies and their usage-oriented value creation. In this context, Heidelberg offers all Prinect modules on a subscription basis in the form of Software-as-a-Service.
Mainz helps Heidelberg
And now it’s supposed to click. After all, Heidelberg management has repeatedly indicated that it wants to establish a global and digital ecosystem in the form of its own platform. “For Heidelberg, the acquisition of Crispy Mountain is a further step in the expansion of cloud-based and usage-based digital applications,” says Heidelberg Management Board member, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hermann, in his press release on the acquisition of the Mainz-based company. “With Crispy Mountain’s qualified team and solutions, we are accelerating our developments around our new industry platform HEI.OS”.
This platform (the name HEI.OS has not yet been made public by Heidelberg) is intended to be open to all manufacturers in the printing industry and will enable print shops to access various services with as little administrative effort as possible. The platform will enable third-party providers to draw up offers for print shops and print shops to obtain a wide range of applications from an App Store.
What will this look like in detail? We don’t know, but we will stay tuned.
My take: I would have been surprised if Crispy Mountain, with its innovative ideas and agile approach, hadn’t quickly become the object of desire. Although switching from classic client-server systems to browser-based systems is not a one-day process, it is all the more important for digital transformation. When Heidelberg describes the acquisition of Crispy Mountain as a strategic step on the road to the digital industry platform, it is more than just strengthening the team. Crispy Mountain brings important competencies and new thinking to the development processes, so the ambitious plan of a dedicated ecosystem seems achievable. At the same time, Heidelberg now has a foot in the door of Sappi’s OctoBoost transformation project.