Heidelberg has pulled out of Drupa 2021 and cites a combination of timing, changed market conditions and financial pressures for the decision.
The company will instead demonstrate the line up that ought to have been shown in Dusseldorf this year at an Unfold Your Potential innovation week at its factory in October. This will combine socially distanced demonstrations of the technology with online presentations for those unable or unwilling to travel to the Wiesloch Print Media Centre.
Heidelberg believes it will be able to deliver a more personal and tailored experience for customers, covering autonomous printing, workflow updates, its smart print shop concept and the 2020 version of the Speedmaster XL106, than is possible at an event like Drupa. The presentations at the innovation week will appeal to commercial and packaging printers, says the company.
There is an olive branch to the exhibition organiser, with the company commenting that it “will be happy to continue to offer its experience when it comes to bringing future trade fair concepts into line with new digital possibilities and customer requirements.” It will participate in the Print China event, a country where there is stronger potential for growth, but participation in other commercial events is cancelled. Heidelberg already had no plans to take part in Interpack and the decision about Labelexpo will be left to Gallus.
Heidelberg had planned a restricted presence this year in Dusseldorf, sharing the newly opened hall 1 with Muller Martini, Polar, Masterwork and other Chinese exhibitors. It was expected to show just two presses while simultaneously demonstrating its full portfolio at the PMC, with video links between the two. Long haul visitors would have been encouraged to spend a day in Heidelberg either after landing at Frankfurt or on the return journey.
The company’s focus is shifting to more frequent events staged at its own showrooms in Atlanta, Shanghai, Sao Paolo and Tokyo. Heidelberg does not mention London and only Sao Paolo is in the southern hemisphere. The four year interval between Drupa is simply too long for the rate of innovation currently underway.
“The main focus for innovation now is on software and process improvements rather than on new mechanical features and these cannot wait until the show takes place,” says a spokesman. “Developments in subscription services, the Heidelberg Assistant, Internet of Things and the Cloud are happening faster than the show cycle: Prinect in the Cloud can be constantly updated.”
There are concerns too that the effects of the coronavirus pandemic will linger beyond next April when the rescheduled Drupa is due to take place. “In 2021, Drupa will be a very different event – global travel restrictions and hygiene regulations mean significantly fewer visitors and constraints on communication,” says the company. “Traditional international trade fairs with busy booths and halls will very probably be difficult to implement and will likely lose their status as global meet up events for customers and manufacturers.”
The show organiser is aware of this and has been taking steps to ease concerns, with frequent deep cleaning, temperature checks, sanitising stations and wider aisles with control on the direction of travel. The German government is allowing exhibitions to open again, but with restrictions on numbers on the site, the enforced wearing of face masks and avoiding physical contact. These regulations may be relaxed if the impact of the pandemic eases further.
The current measures alone would prevent numbers reaching the 260,000 visitor headcount that came to Drupa in 2016. And the importance of the event to strike deals with new customers is receding, according to Heidelberg. It spent €10 million on its stand at Drupa in 2016 and was rewarded with an order intake of €804 million compared to €629 million received in the same quarter a year later.
However, over the year the order intake evens out the company, says a company spokesman, and any Drupa spike is not noticeable. With the focus now on recurring revenues from subscriptions and consumables, Heidelberg wants to smooth out order intake over the 12 months. And with a deep recession widely predicted, Heidelberg is keen not to stretch itself financially. “We had allocated the budgets and resources for this year, now nobody knows things will change next year,” says the spokesman. “Our customers and our suppliers understand it fully.”
The organiser of Drupa has made no comment as Heidelberg joins Xerox and Bobst in deciding not to take part. Koenig & Bauer, on contrast, has pledged its participation and others remain committed, if not to the same extent as planned for this year.