I can't help thinking of Airbus and Boeing. Boeing used to be the airlines industry's dominant player with considerable market shares in both military and civil. The company was known for its fantastic engineering and great passion for the technology, the achievements, and working for Boeing was simply not only a job but a lifestyle. Airbus, on the other hand, was a politically driven idea. Though it took some time, today, Boeing and Airbus compete over the majority of the business and with market shares almost split evenly.
It reminds me a bit about Heidelberg and Koenig & Bauer. Heidelberg, the company that almost owned the printing industry. Known for superior technology, arguable tough sales- and marketing methods, but regarded as an excellent supplier. Koenig & Bauer is a smaller company yet among the big boys, and what stroke me today was how different these two companies are these days.
Heidelberg is under dramatic pressure from the market. They, of course, develop amazing technology and have a strong global position - however, their communication - or in my opinion - lack of same, leave the company behind as a wounded animal shot during a hunt. A couple of weeks ago, Heidelberg had to present one of the largest losses recorded in their history, and almost every story is not very convincing. It's like reading a sad book, where you know the end is near, and there are no solutions to the misery. It's like the Titanic. The band is playing in the saloons, and the icebergs are dangerously close.
Then Koenig & Bauer announced their LIVE program during the entire drupa week. You can argue over the very slim program (2 times a day, English/German), but one thing that strikes me watching the carefully planned presentations is the drive. You see the same passion as I see when Airbus presents their machines. Passion, emotion, engagement, and a will to show the innovations they have prepared for years.
Where Heidelberg is downsizing, Koenig & Bauer are moving forward. First, they deliver a positive result - yet not fantastic, but positive. Second, they update their Rapida series of printers. Then they showcase the strong partnership they have with DURST and present a motherf***** of a digital packaging machine (take that Heidelberg). Then they present their new line of products - well to die for :-) All presented with smiles, courage, and a belief that make you believe in the Koenig & Bauer story.
Of course, Koenig & Bauer had to move into a broader segment of the market since MBO is now with Komori. Heidelberg has its own binding equipment. Müller Martini is still independent, but could they be open for the right take-over, or what could the plan be?
When vendors talk about consolidations among printers, it's only natural that consolidations will also occur among vendors.
Back to Koenig & Bauer. Some people believe that our coverage of Heidelberg has been - well - I don't know what they think. Most probably think that criticism isn't necessary and that it doesn't bring anything forward. I'm afraid I have to disagree. I believe that all discussions lead to a new state. A state where you either agree, disagree, change opinion, or split as good friends since the discussion itself also can be encouraging.
Koenig & Bauer have pulled off a great presentation, and I believe they present and represent their company with pride. However, they don't talk about the most important issue in the printing industry - order intake and sales. Indirectly they do since packaging is in the center of all the things they have presented. Koenig & Bauer already have a great position in the packaging market, and with a new stronger product offering, I am pretty sure they have good growth potential.
I wish that some of the money Koenig & Bauer invest in such a presentation, in the future will be spent on education and something that focus a bit more on future challenges!
My good colleague Andreas Weber and my friend Peter Sommer, has mentioned that Heidelberg doesn't have a digital mindset. I am not 100% convinced that Koenig & Bauer are any better, but I am confident that, like Airbus, Koenig & Bauer is driven by a winner mentality and a passion for their products, and that can be a lethal combination in a decreasing market.
Congratulations, Koenig & Bauer. Great product presentations, exciting new products with many great ideas. We look forward to meeting the machines in the market in the years to come.