Less radical, albeit with the same objectives as the Latvian company Linovia (see our blog post from Monday, March 16), is the Swiss bookbindery Bubu AG, which has been relying on a constant process of change for years.
“What may seem unspectacular during the individual steps, leads in its entirety to a special and unique positioning in the market”, explained Dr. Christian Burkhardt. He manages Bubu AG as a third-generation owner and Co-CEO. In this function, he continues the digital transformation that was first initiated in the 1990s with the market entry into automated short-run production. From a technical point of view, digitization began in 1995 with the introduction of individual book production for libraries.
“Every path begins with the first step”, Christian Burkhardt said, quoting the Chinese philosopher Confucius. This was followed by the founding of the photo book portal, Bookfactory, in 2004 as a Swiss pioneer with its own digital workflow. The PDF-to-book portal established in 2011 is currently being expanded in its third version with an online configurator and a wide range of design options. “We have also renewed our shop and introduced an online editor at the same time. Today, we are on the verge of replacing our back end with a modern workflow management system, which offers us further automation perspectives”, Burkhardt described. “Change is a continuous process and is never complete – change management is the key factor here.”.
However, he also admitted that the development initially led to a division of the company: The digital versus the traditional. “The change from a production company to a sales company still shapes our everyday life today,” said Burkhardt, describing the transformation process, to which the following ultimately applies: “Change is not an individual sport! Change begins in the mind – the mindset of the employees affected is crucial,” says Burkhardt. In the process, “holy cows” have to be slaughtered occasionally. However, transparent and above all honest communication is crucial.
The transformation process from a bookbindery to an e-commerce company is particularly interesting in that Bubu has long since established itself in the photo book market and, unlike many of its competitors, does not come from the photo service sector but rather from the craft of bookbinding. The industrially positioned Bubu AG and the Bookfactory are based on the “bookbinder’s thinking”. The know-how of handling different papers and binding materials, being able to process thick book blocks and unusual formats while using different techniques is an advantage for Bubu as it continues to develop. “The love of the haptic, the joy of the diversity of the book and the passion for the customers’ stories will always remain the drivers for our development steps,” Christian Burkhardt asserted.
Let’s make it better
Ten years ago, the kartenmacherei was founded in an attic near Ammersee. Today an annual turnover of almost 50 million euros is generated with individual greeting cards, invitations, thank you cards and photo products such as calendars. The kartenmacherei is not only a popular brand – it is also one of the most modern employers in Germany as a pioneer of new work. An unprecedented success, but one on which its creators by no means want to rest on their laurels.
For over a year now, the cardmaking shop has been the heart of the better ventures group, under whose roof further successful companies are to be created. In his presentation, Patrick Leibold, COO of the better ventures group, who joined the kartenmacherei in 2017, gave insights into the company’s business model and explained what the next steps will be and why investing in new business areas could be the right step at this time.
During his presentation he did not hide the fact that mistakes were made. They had streamlined the cardmaking shop so much that the Christmas business in 2018 was a disaster and orders could not be delivered on time. “Pure amateurism, which our employees made up for with great personal commitment,” admitted Leibold. “But this also showed us that we have much more confidence in people and that we have to support them with intelligent structures in the company.” In 2019, in a combination of efficiency and autonomy, the mistake of the previous year was ironed out, the cardmaking business grew by 90% and was once again in a brilliant position at the end of last year with a turnover of around € 50 million and obviously sufficiently large profits.
At the turn of the year, the better ventures group acquired the digital printing division of Straub Druck+Medien AG based in Schramberg, including the Metaprint24 brand. The operational business of the resulting Better Print Production GmbH, which will remain at the Black Forest location, will continue to be managed by Straub Managing Director, Francisco Martinez. Patrick Leibold completes the management team and is also responsible for web-to-print activities relating to the kartenmacherei brand. The offset division of Straub Druck+Medien, including its B2B online portals for industrial customers, was sold to Bosch Druck.
Since Straub Druck+Medien had already been cooperating with kartenmacherei for many years, the purchase was therefore a logical step in combining forces. “So, we are now geared for rapid growth,” Leibold explained. After all, in the long term, the printing company’s production lines will not only be operated for the better ventures group but also opened up to other major customers and online portals. According to Leibold, the goal is to build up a network of companies around the card making industry.