A Traditional Manufacturer Surpassing Itself: Exceeding Print

The world is in a constant state of flux. On the face of it, there's nothing new about that. What is new, however, is the increasing speed at which changes are being manifested and becoming tangible in everyday life. Social and economic processes are becoming increasingly dynamic, both individually and in their interactions. And however paradoxical it may seem, the COVID-19 pandemic is acting as a catalyst on the complex and global phenomena that are determining and transforming life in the 21st century. While the past two years have, at times, been characterised by complete standstill, both at individual level and for industry and trade as a whole, the changes affecting social and economic structures and factors have been occurring all the more rapidly. This is especially apparent when we take a look at the megatrends of connectivity, new work and digitalisation. Before the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19, mobile and remote work were for the most part alternative models implemented only as an exception. But with the first lockdowns at the latest, everyone was suddenly working from home if this was in any way reconcilable with the requirements of their job.

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And that is just one of many developments that have been accelerated by the pandemic and are having an impact on both Koenig & Bauer as a company and our employees. To be able to define a successful, future-oriented strategy, Koenig & Bauer has therefore not only entered into an intensive dialogue with customers and industry experts, but has also given particular consideration to the global megatrends in its ideas and analyses.

Three of the 12 megatrends were identified as decisive phenomena for the focal points that Koenig & Bauer is concentrating on: Sustainability, individualisation and digitalisation. The new “Exceeding Print” strategy therefore aims to harmonise the interests pursued with growth and sustainability. As already promised by the name that was chosen, it underlines once more the transformation from a traditional printing press manufacturer to an agile technology provider.

It is no easy task to define a strategic course for a company in today’s times. Society, politics, the economy and industry find themselves at a historical watershed, at the threshold to an ecological, sustainable era that is increasingly adding digitalisation and growing individualisation to the existing challenges of globalisation.

One tangible example of all these pivotal topics that characterise our age is the field of e-commerce. The already rapid growth in online shopping has been further strengthened over the course of the pandemic. It is not merely demand, but above all supply that is increasing. Whether you are looking for a case of wine or fresh milk, a yoga mat or painkillers, a winter coat or an e-bike: you can order almost anything online today and have it delivered right to your doorstep. Consistent shaping of the customer journey assigns packaging a central role as a brand ambassador, with its messaging embodied in individualised print. At the same time, the demand for sustainable packaging is increasingly important.

The sum of the various challenges, alongside the resulting impact on both print production and company orientation, calls for an all-embracing strategy and targeted measures that go beyond the mere production process or printing presses. Accordingly, “Exceeding Print” is based not just on sustainable manufacturing and sustainable print production, but also on enhanced efficiency through digital processes and increased modularity in the product portfolio.

Bearing Responsibility: "Exceeding Print with Sustainability"

The role played by packaging has evolved. In the past, safe product transport was often the only concern, whereas today’s producers have discovered its use as advertising space. And that means more than just printing a brand logo on the box. For many customers, brand image is almost as important as the product itself. If a company or supplier demonstrates sustainability by placing value on climate-neutral, recyclable packaging, then this also includes an element of positive image-building. Awareness for sustainable packaging solutions will therefore be one of the driving issues for the industry in the coming years. 

Koenig & Bauer is contributing to the development of sustainable packaging solutions as a member of the 4evergreen alliance. Through a partnership with ClimatePartner, we are also promoting efforts to compensate CO2 emissions by supporting certified projects to protect the climate. At the same time, the company is a partner in the ‘BlueCompetence’ sustainability initiative organised by the VDMA, and was the first manufacturer of printing machinery to become a member of the ‘Healthy Printing’ network in 2021. CO2 emissions at the Koenig & Bauer production facilities are to be reduced by 75 per cent by 2025, and the whole group is expected to become carbon neutral by 2030. Last but not least, an energy management system also helps customers of Koenig & Bauer to reduce their own ecological footprint.

Individualising Innovation: "Exceeding Print with Modularity"

Koenig & Bauer has been an industry pioneer and innovation champion for more than 200 years. This forms the basis for a unique tradition pairing technical expertise with a diverse product portfolio offering solutions to cater to all customer needs. When we speak about modularity as an answer to the challenges of individualisation, the approach might initially seem to be paradoxical. How can a modular principle be the response to the megatrend of individualisation? 

The basic situation is similar to that in the automobile industry: Future machines will be designed on a modular platform that is used for all models. In this way, new technologies can be implemented as broadly as possible and optimum use can be made of synergy effects. The reduced design outlay for standardised elements also opens up room for innovations, and the potential for group-wide applications will shorten their time to market. Another benefit arises from the optimised planning and control functions for service and maintenance. The resulting process optimisation will minimise downtimes and permit customers to increase their efficiency even further. At the same time, customer orientation naturally remains an integral aspect of Koenig & Bauer’s core competencies; “Exceeding Print” will, in fact, strengthen the focus. The standardisation of a number of elements opens up more opportunities for innovation and individualisation – while maintaining the same high quality at the same time.

Enhancing Efficiency: "Exceeding Print with Digitalisation"

The digital revolution is in full swing and is transforming both society and industry at a rapid pace. If we want to remain successful, as a company with long-standing traditions, it is important to embrace digitalisation on all levels and to incorporate it profitably into our own strategy. From digital new workspaces for the employees to the focus on markets that are set to gain most from digitalisation, such as packaging: there are plenty of starting points.

The decisive factor for the transformation from a printing press manufacturer to a high-tech solutions provider is software. After all, digital services are becoming more and more important as a means to link up machines, to collect and analyse data, and to control processes efficiently. Analyses of production data permit evaluations of machine performance. Customers of Koenig & Bauer can therefore not only set benchmarks, but also work with significantly greater efficiency. Faults are detected at an earlier stage, the initiation of service and maintenance is automated, and downtimes become planned service times. Koenig & Bauer relies on the cloud-based CRM solution from Salesforce in this regard.