Exclusive ad hoc conversation with CEO Rainer Hundsdörfer by INKISH DACH

Paradigm shift on the Neckar, which brings the Rhine level near Düsseldorf/Germany to low water: Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, once - in 1951 - the engine and enabler of drupa in order to establish itself as the world's leading trade fair for the printing and paper industry, canceled its participation in 2021. This was succinctly announced this morning, Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in a press release

The decision was not made easy, Heidelberg CEO Rainer Hundsdörfer said in an exclusive ad hoc conversation with INKISH D-A-CH. "If customers can’t join, then it makes no sense," the company boss continues. 

However, drupa as the 'Festival of Printers' needs an audience. According to Hundsdörfer, the fatal consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic would have a longer impact than previously thought. As a result, it can be expected that visitors, especially from the most important US and Chinese markets, will not be able to travel to Düsseldorf. 

Heidelberg has developed and successfully established a number of digital formats in recent months in order to establish new and, above all, effective contact options for customers. According to Hundsdörfer, this is to be developed in a targeted manner in order to hold an Innovation Week from October 19 to 23, 2020. Heidelberg's original drupa 2020 motto, 'Unfold your potential', will be retained. 

The main topics are innovations, demonstrations, training and support services. And this in view of the fact that the development cycles would have been radically shortened. That means: Companies like Heidelberg must have instruments that allow real-time, effective and sustainable dialogue with customers. 

By the way: A few hours after the publication of Heidelberg, Messe Düsseldorf published a press release entitled "Ready for a new start: Messe Düsseldorf is developing a hygiene and infection protection concept". It was stated that the trade fairs would be restarted from September 2020. However, drupa was not mentioned. 

It is doubtful whether the principle of the trade fair organizer, "only the will counts" can prevail. Because even before the Covid 19 crisis, especially with the end of IPEX (UK) and Print (USA) in the area of ​​print and the end of CeBIT, it was evident that there were hardly any more for exhibitors worth taking part in fairs in the usual way. The trade fair newcomer Printing United in the USA, which was successful in 2019, has also turned its traditional trade fair event planned for October 2020 into a virtual trade fair event. 

It remains to be seen what the alternatives will actually look like and how they can prove themselves for the benefit of the visitors. 

My Take 

The decision at Heidelberg appears to be logical after Bobst and Xerox have already canceled drupa 2021 participation. 

Because drupa had redefined itself many years ago: once it was the goal to be a marketplace for print experts and enthusiasts from all over the world, since 2000 drupa has been transformed into a kind of provider exchange that is less frequent cared for the concerns of the visitors rather than getting exhibitors to maximize their investments in the trade fair presence. 

No wonder that even without the COVID 19 pandemic, the number of visitors decreased significantly.