Don't worry. This title is a 100% click bait, and of course, it's not fair, but I was inspired to have this title for two reasons. Some time ago, I was wondering about creating a film-format on INKISH.TV
titled "What If". The idea was to create a series of films, discussing "what if" some of the leading technologies or companies didn't exist? Not because they are not needed but on the contrary, since they are so vital that you from time to time forget how vital they are!
The other reason is because of the changes that happen with Heidelberg. One of my good friends and frequent writers, here on NEWS Andreas Weber
, wrote an article today about Heidelberg
and conclude: "Things are going much better at Heidelberg than it looks at first glance. The new strategy is in place. Now it has to be implemented correctly. The course has been set for this!"
I don't believe this is the right conclusion and I, therefore, want to do some speculations for us to talk about!
When almost the entire board has stepped down, a new board will most likely have to take an in-depth look into the strategy, and a new board rarely decides to adopt the previous board's strategy without alterations. So it is not just about implementation - it is about developing a strategy that can be implemented and show it's strength. In my opinion, this is a major drawback for Heidelberg
, since they have spent both time, energy, and money - and well maybe also a portion of their reputation.
Heidelberg is a maybe trying to reinvent themselves, and of course, the subscription/service model is new in this segment. But it's maybe nothing more than a financing platform that enables Heidelberg to sell machines under new terms. When printing companies today only utilize their devices, 20-25% the overall problem is sales, and maybe less financing. From a purely Heidelberg perspective, and what has also been bespoken publicly, the new strategy is essentially how can Heidelberg "own" a more significant percentage of the total value involved with their customers production? As now, former CDO Ulrich Hermann
states in the interview with Andreas Weber; "...towards Eco System and business model from transactional to recurring business." - so since the subscription model includes blankets, inks, and other consumables, Heidelberg will obviously increase their revenue, and who knows profit? However, are this model really an advantage for the printing companies?
Since 2007/2008, printers have been able to adjust to market-demands by having the ability to freely buy the consumables that could ensure the margins - this is most likely not the case with Heidelberg's subscription model. All of us also know that having a variable pricing model comes at a premium. The higher the risk is, someone has to pay the premium, and I am confident this isn't the shareholders of Heidelberg.
Another question you have to ask is what happens to the machines in the market when a subscription customer goes out of business? Will these machines end up flooding the market and put pressure on the printers who were able to finance the equipment themselves?
Another, maybe, more important questions is Heidelberg's readiness for the future. The hottest topic everywhere is inkjet - and all the vendors who have sold toner-based equipment for years, don't talk about replacing toner, but how to take offset machines down. Speed, quality, and the price are for sure starting to be attractive, and if you look at current offerings, you can get both sheetfed, and roll-based inkjet machines, and all available in many different formats. At drupa 2020, I am pretty sure we will see even more, and what is very different from the past, is the fact that vendors across build machines based on OEM technology supplied from everywhere. Heidelberg has some digital printers OEM'ed from Ricoh and they OEM the print-heads from FujiFilm for their Primefire. But are they developing core-technology themselves? That is, of course, not something we know, and of course, Heidelberg can surprise everybody at drupa - but think about it? If they were introducing some groundbreaking new technology at drupa, would the board then step down just 100 days away from drupa?
If you look at Heidelberg, it's kind of sad that one of the major vendors and most influential companies in decades seems to be so in trouble. They produce some of the best offset machines in the market, and their focus on making the devices more and more productive is excellent - it just doesn't solve the underlying problem. The declining sales require their customers to focus on getting more customers, more valuable orders, etc.
Heidelberg also has an amazingly old-fashion marketing approach - and though adapting Social Media, Vidoes, etc. it's so badly performed that I wonder if they at all understand who their future customers are? And it's a shame. With acquisitions like CrispyMountain
, and a truly great platform in Prinect, why are they so misaligned with their market?
Well - speculations - and my personal opinion. To answer my headline question - Heidelberg is one of the "too big to fail" companies in the conventional printing industry, and it would be sad to see a company like Heidelberg not in the market. I don't think it will happen, and I hope that Andreas Weber is right, and that everything is only a few obstacles on the road to a greater future. Nothing, however, comes for free, so Heidelberg, please wake up and use your smart, and clever people to actually deliver what the market needs, and support your customers in their need for growth.