Of course, when he opened the first day of OPS with his keynote speech, he could not have known that drupa 2020 would be cancelled. The content of the keynote speech was aimed at the upcoming major events in the industry.
Rainer Hundsdörfer, CEO of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, outlined his vision of how print must function in the future. Simultaneously, he pointed out the hurdles still to be overcome by the industry in order to master the next stage of the print evolution. He shared his vision of the new “DNA for Print” exclusively, and for the first time publicly, with the participants of OPS 2020.
Of course, Hundsdörfer did not miss the opportunity to address the current economic situation of the company in his keynote speech, which has recently been severely torn apart by the German business press. “Heidelberg is far from collapsing, even if there are strange articles wandering the scene,” said Hundsdörfer. With a global market share of 42% in sheetfed offset presses, Heidelberg is more than relevant to the market and can still be seen as a technology leader, he stated. He added that the company’s range of products has long gone beyond pure mechanical engineering and now includes the consistent digitalization and automation of all production processes.
“Our path forward is to take the next step towards the smart print shop, and then move from the smart print shop to the smart print media industry,” said Hundsdörfer. However, this would require clarifying a few questions and seeking answers: How do I process more and more jobs in the shortest possible time? How do I achieve consistently high productivity regardless of the operator? Where do I even get the personnel from? How do I further advance the digitization of processes? And how do I automate supplier and customer management?
His answer to this bundle of questions: “Push-to-Stop – from prepress to the ramp. This is because process automation creates more productivity and digitization creates better cooperation between man and machine.”
However, individual modules for increasing efficiency and productivity alone have not been sufficient to take the leap towards the smart printing industry. A unifying, global and agile platform that opens up and makes use of all these technologies must be created for cooperative work in a network of customers, printers, fulfilment partners and logistics. “But we can’t do this on our own,” admitted Hundsdörfer. “It must be a cross-vendor project with a uniform access for all systems, with a standardized data format, a uniform interface, IoT machine data acquisition and Vendor Managed Inventory” (the supplier-controlled inventory management of consumables).
He made it clear that finding a common data exchange format will be a huge task. “We know that JDF doesn’t work,” said Hundsdörfer (incidentally, Heidelberg played a major role in the development of JDF). “Our vision is a central platform for automated supplier and customer management that connects all partners involved in the value chain,” argued Hundsdörfer. There is no question that such a project is quite visionary. So, let us be surprised with what will become of this vision
The ratios are reversed
“We are already in the middle of the transformation process towards a Smart Factory,” stated Trond Erik Isaksen, owner of Livonia Print SIA, which was founded in 2007. Up until now, the Riga-based company with 600 employees has been offset-oriented in the publishing business. But the conventional strategy has its hooks, since the book industry is facing great challenges. This affects the entire value-added chain of the book product across all market participants – suppliers, publishers, printers, logistics providers and retailers. It is therefore of great interest to publishers to keep print runs and thus inventories as low as possible while at the same time ensuring the availability of titles.
The Latvian printing company produces 45 million books a year, 99.7% of which are exported. The average run length in offset printing is now only around 1,500 copies per job. This means that print runs are declining noticeably, while the number of titles is increasing simultaneously. In certain areas, such as reprints, only a few hundred books per title are needed.
This also leads to a shift in ratios. “In the past, production took up about 80% of the order time, 20% of administration. That has now reversed,” says Isaksen. “That’s why we are investing in a completely new and automated platform that enables our customers to order books cost-effectively, regardless of product and order size. The conversion to a Smart Factory goes hand in hand with the digitalization of processes and production.”.
Digitalization is therefore the biggest issue at Livonia, which is applying a completely new networked platform to the entire company. Marc Freitag, Head of Business Development Digital at Livonia, is the person responsible for the digitization project and explained how the goal of the data and machine process has been established to enable cost-effective production in any run length without restrictions. Prior to his current position, the graduate industrial engineer spent several years in the IT industry and nine years as a product manager for Muller Martini in the hardcover segment. The focus of his work is on the complete digitalization of the company from customer contact to delivery. This step is necessary in order to automate processes to the maximum possible extent and to create the transparency that is absolutely essential today.
“However, highly automated printing and finishing systems can only reach their full potential if they are fully integrated into an intelligent workflow system,” says Freitag. This requires highly automated press and postpress equipment. But this alone would not help if the machines are not supplied with the right data at the right time to generate actions. The comprehensive solution at Livonia is therefore also a joint project of various manufacturers.
He did not mention it explicitly, but according to our research Canon, Muller Martini, Hunkeler and Crispy Mountain are involved in the project. And JDF and JMF are apparently being used successfully. “For order acceptance, we have developed our own portal that publishers can use to place their orders. This portal transmits all data to the ERP system, which initiates the respective production. This allows us to display a dynamic calculation in real time for each product in our portfolio,” says Marc Freitag.
The transparent integration of systems and machines and a controlled workflow across all stages of the value chain create the basis for a future-oriented business. The technical basis for this are networked systems at all process stages. On the software side, a modern ERP system is needed to monitor and control all production steps from quotation costing to delivery of the finished product. “Digitization means a hundred percent rethinking of everything that has been done in the past”, says Marc Freitag: “If you digitize a crappy process, you only get a crappy digitized process”.