Kodak last week became the latest significant name to withdraw from Drupa, joining Fujifilm and Screen as the more recent refuseniks. And it was joined almost immediately by MBO and other members of the Postpress Alliance of German equipment manufacturers.
But wider problems may be on the horizon for the show. German authorities are not allowing unrestricted travel from North or South America, China, Japan and other parts of Asia. While this may change within the next few months as the incidence of coronavirus eases, allowing travel to be opened up, this is unlikely to happen in the US where infection rates remain high.
In a brief statement, Kodak executive chairman Jim Continenza says: “The continued concerns and impacts of the pandemic make it difficult for us to commit resources for such an event in these uncertain times.” Progress in tackling the pandemic has been slower than anticipated and with transmission rates on the increase with the onset of winter, the feeling is that come next spring, Covid will still be a problem.
“Kodak's commitment to the safety of our employees and customers during the Covid-19 pandemic is paramount,” he adds. That comes despite reassurances from the Drupa organisation that everything possible is being done to make the Messe site Covid secure, including invitations to Drupa exhibitors to attend the recent caravan show to demonstrate how it is keeping exhibitors and visitors safe.
This does not account for safety beyond the exhibition site, nor for government decisions. Currently travellers from most countries worldwide, the EU and UK excepted, must quarantine for two weeks. If this remains in place by April next year or seems likely to be the case, printers from other continents are unlikely to travel.
The companies that compose the Post Press Alliance, MBO, BaumannPerfecta, Wohlenberg, Bograma, H+H and Hohner, have not been convinced that the measures put in place will be sufficient. “Responsible thinking and a lack of planning security were at the heart of this difficult decision,” says a statement.
The intention had been to launch the collaborative venture at Drupa this year. Instead there will now be the inevitable online open house, Alliance Days, running from 24-27 November. This will showcase the rotary die cutting prowess of Bograma used for fooling cartons, a 13,000cph HSB saddle stitcher from Hohner along with its HHS Futura capable of individualised brochure production, the MBO CoBo Stack used to enable a single operator to run two folding lines, Wohlenberg with digital binder and the launch of the Baumannperfecta brand for guillotines, along with the latest generation of BASA handling equipment.
In a joint statement the partners say: “We need and seek contact to our business partners and are happy to be able to launch something so new in such a short time. It is uncharted territory for everyone involved. Neither we nor our dealers and end customers have much experience in this encounter on a virtual level.
“This concept means a lot to our management. They are firmly convinced that, even after Covid, targeted marketing concepts will require this duality of virtual appearances in combination with analog physical events.”
Beneath these a host of other smaller companies would be giving serious consideration to withdrawing from the event if it did not mean losing a deposit of several thousands of euros, which many cannot afford to do.
The slow but steady exodus of major names from Drupa has continued, but a larger problem looms. Travel restrictions may dissuade long distance visitors from making the trip, particularly if governments are not able to show that infection rates are in decline well ahead of the show opening in April.