07 October 2018 Finishing

Heidelberg's plans for MBO should ease user concerns

MBO will retain its distinct identity, easing fears for printers and trade finishers who can be fiercely loyal to their folder suppliers.

Heidelberg has agreed to buy MBO, producer of folders and rival to its own Stahl portfolio of folders, but will keep the brand separate.

However, there are no plans for changes to production and distribution of the MBO product line. Mark Bristow, managing director of Friedheim International, UK distributor for MBO since that company was started in 1967, says: “It’s business as usual.”

Heidelberg plans to retain the MBO brand, much as Muller Martini has retained the Kolbus brand following its acquisition of the German perfect binder company earlier this year. Muller Martini branded machines will go to printers with high levels of network connectivity while Kolbus will be the brand for trade finishers where there is less need for this level of integration.

Like that deal, this has the potential to alienate some printers and finishers: there are loyal adherent for both brands, printers seeming to prefer Stahl, finishers MBO.

With Heidelberg, MBO will be the standalone brand with fast set up between jobs, while printers who want the integrated systems approach will be directed towards the Stahl portfolio. But there is more to the deal than simply this.

MBO builds the largest sheet folders generally available, including the Herzog + Heymann machines for pharmaceutical folding. This appeals to Heidelberg's strategy of expanding into packaging markets. More than 50% of its Anicolor presses are sold to pharmaceutical packaging printers.

MBO also has a division comprising reel handling technology, acquired from Ehret, and Digifinisher technology that delivers variable content mailers from inkjet printed reels. Heidelberg has steered clear of any kind of webfed printing since selling its commercial web offset operations to Goss.

Rainer Hundsdörfer, CEO of Heidelberg, says: “By acquiring MBO's digital portfolio, we are closing a gap for our customers and helping them achieve a smooth industrial process in the digital future. We also expect to see synergies in our own value added chain, which will bring about tangible benefits for customers, too.”

The Digifinisher (combining MBO foiler with Hohner stitching heads) has been joined by larger format folders that operate automatically. The UK Hydrographic Office has a twin production line for printing charts on demand. The sheets, printed in HP PageWide printers are linked by conveyor to MBO folders which move buckle plates according the information contained in barcodes printed on each chart. MBO folders are also used inline with digital presses for newspaper production, seamlessly switching between formats and paginations

Adding such technology inline to the Primefire 106 B1 inkjet printer would shift the press towards a lights out operation. At a recent open house for Herzog + Heymann, one production line was set up with twin feeders at right angle to each other. These included Technifold rollers to crease heavier stock for greetings cards and menus. Non stop production was achieved through running sheets through one feeder, with simultaneous set up using the second feeder. This line was sold to Onlineprinters.

The open house also showed off collaboration with other equipment producers that have had close ties to MBO, including Bograma, to create a mailing line for printing and enclosing of a mailer comprising personalised plastic cards.

The deal brings Heidelberg 450 staff, two production sites in Germany and one in Portugal, set up to producer folders more cost effectively than was possible in Germany. Heidelberg will be able to make use of this capacity to help productions of its own folders.

The move follows a refinancing of MBO and appointment of a new management team at MBO in 2017. Sales are put at €50 million.

Gareth Ward

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UK Hydrographic Office

UK Hydrographic Office

The UK Hydrographic Office has two production lines for navigational charts comprising HP printer and MBO folder which can change on the fly to fold sequential charts in different ways, adjusting plate positions according to information on a bar code.

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