Bird is leaving Kolbus UK where he has been sales director alongside managing director Robert Flather. “We would have been delighted to have him stay with us,” says Flather. “Though as Muller Martini will buy components from Kolbus, he is still working to our benefit. He has been an excellent ambassador for Kolbus.”
Bird has deep experience of Kolbus. Before joining as sales manager in 2008, he had been manufacturing director of Butler & Tanner, working for the Frome book printer for 24 years. It was a strong Kolbus house.
And Bird says it will be a wrench leaving Kolbus. “Muller Martini kindly made me an offer to help with the integration of Kolbus, and a big project for me if I wanted it,” he says. Kolbus was also keen to retain his services, but the continuing proximity to books and print finishing proved the bigger draw.
“Muller Martini is in a position where it can concentrate on developing machinery with healthier margins than before,” says Bird. The potential of a wider role beyond the UK also appealed.
It was a decision that has been welcomed across Muller Martini. Dirk Deceuninck, managing director Muller Martini Northern Europe, says: “Greg will bring us a lot of expertise while strengthening our sales team. Greg will also assist us, where needed, with the integration of the Kolbus customers in our region.”
Bird takes up the new post on 14 May.
Meanwhile Kolbus managing director Kai Buntemeyer has been speaking about the decision to sell the Kolbus book bindery operation to its Swiss competitor.
It will reduce group turnover by 15% this year, but provides an opportunity to expand its component production business which generated €12 million of €135 million total sales. It will also focus on development and supply of box making equipment.
He says: “We have deliberately sold to a traditional company that plans for the long term, and not to finance investors. The market for bookbinding systems is saturated and is stagnating. It has become a so-called "sunset industry". In contrast, we foresee double-digit growth rates in manufacturing custom machines for packaging,
“The packaging sector will feel like a start up for the next three to four years. We will need to set up a product range quickly, act creatively and grow dynamically. It isn't that we see no future for printing and paper technology but the growth forecasts are, to put it mildly, modest. Market volume will remain huge and ensure good business in the future but I see a problem for us machine manufacturers in that the printing industry will continue to rationalise and will need to massively boost its productivity. This makes it difficult for equipment suppliers.”
Greg Bird will be UK sales manager alongside David McGinlay, and will also have a broader role across the northern Europe region assisting with the integration of Kolbus and its customers into Muller Martini.