Unhealthy food is good for us,” says Sven Strzelczyk, Koenig & Bauer’s VP sales, for the region that covers the UK. The company’s presses produce an awful lot of this type of packaging, whether for fast food chains or for supermarkets. And it is expanding its footprint into packaging.
At the end of 2018, Koenig & Bauer finally bought Turkish supplier Duran, aided, he says, by the collapse of the Turkish Lira. It brought the world’s second largest provider of folder gluers into the stable along with the Iberica platens. Then last year it entered a joint venture with Durst to add inkjet printing to its packaging bow. The fruits of this collaboration will be seen at Drupa.
This came after a partnership with Xerox announced four years ago came to an end. “Our previous partner did not perform to our expectations,” says Strzelczyk diplomatically.
Nor, perhaps, has Koenig & Bauer, which like other press manufacturers has suffered due to trade wars, Brexit and the turmoil in the German car industry. In the first nine months, while the order intake is described as ‘wonderful’ and 10% higher than a year earlier, revenue had dipped compared to the first nine months of 2018. This is blamed on problems with sub suppliers which had held up deliveries or presses.
Koenig & Bauer’s typical press is no longer a four-colour straight machine. While it produces a B2 press, it has not had a great deal of success with this format in the UK. Instead it has made inroads into independent carton printers and more recently into B1 commercial printers, with an eye to demanding quality applications: Park Communications, APS, Taylor Bloxham and most recently DG3/Leycol. “The UK has had an excellent sales result,” he says.
These are perfecting presses, machines with makeready and colour control aids and with SIS, currently Koenig & Bauer’s unique sidelay free sheet infeed system which tends to be loved by minders that have worked with it.
Now comes a new remote device that will allow press operators and managers to check how the machine is running without being tied to the press console. The device is a hand held monitor, about the same size as a mobile phone, but without the SIM card that would allow calls to be made.
The app that is linked will allow both operators and service engineers to access everything about the press, its performance and service history, its set up and live data which can be fed into MIS or other reporting systems, says Andy Rae, a former Heidelberg executive who has crossed to the other side and is now VP, global strategic selling. “We are working on ways to present bespoke reports, allowing users to build their own dashboards in time for Drupa,” he says.
The analysis helps users identify where faults may exist and helps point people in that direction while also alerting the K&B service desk, triggering an engineering visit if this is needed. It might be a sensor problem or something as potentially serious as a recent problem that was flagged up.
A printer had used the wrong grease in the machine, causing heat to build up and potentially leading to it seizing up and a hugely expensive repair. “But an engineer was called and the issue dealt with before it became a problem,“ says Rae.
He has been looking into the reasons that printers base investment decisions on. Some are swayed by the brand image, or that they are a long term customer of a supplier. Some look at the service levels, some at the levels of technology included on a press or the potential resale value of the machine, though, says Rae, the old attitude that the press represents my pension is slowly dying out. “At heart the only reason people buy a press is to make money,” he points out.
That allows the conversation to switch to potential output, improved efficiency, new markets and into the effect that colour controls will have on productivity, and now connectivity. It becomes an argument to invest rather than run an existing machine for a further year or three. “On older presses you cannot find out what is going on to help improve the business, and an older press will become very expensive to keep running. So the business reason for buying new is simple: new means increased uptime and the potential to sell more sheets.
“There are three Cs that printers should consider. First Capability – how many sheets can the press deliver over the five to seven years of use; Connectivity – its ability to provide the data to help the company understand what is going on; and Commercial success, being the feedback from printers that are already using Koenig & Bauer machines.
“To a large extent Koenig & Bauer has been hiding its light under a bushel. We have a lot more success than before I came here, more than I ever believed Koenig & Bauer could have.”