Last week I was at a Heidelberg event in which Gerard Heanue, managing director of Heidelberg UK, laid out the state of the industry. Heidelberg is well placed to do this, partly through having a very large chunk of the UK market for offset presses, but also through its finishing system sales. According to Heanue, Heidelberg’s customer base has shrunk, from around 10,000 printers in the year 2000 to a little over 2300 now. Given that Heidelberg has about 60 percent of the market, this means there’s around 3,600 printers left in the UK. This has been largely due to consolidation amongst printers, particularly following the 2008 recession, as well as printers replacing multiple older presses with a single newer, more productive model.
That said, Heidelberg claims that this year has been its best in 13 years. Heidelberg has sold 20 digital presses in the last year, roughly 20 percent of Ricoh’s sales in the UK. Heanue commented: “Customers like the relationship with Heidelberg and still want to buy it from us even though it’s a rebadged machine.”
Jim Todd, Helidelberg’s sales director, says that customers are becoming more process orientated and that that’s driving consolidation.” He adds: “We are seeing the adoption of digital printing technology across the board.”
Heidelberg has had some success this year selling the bigger formats, including the world’s longest B1 press, the 17-unit Speedmaster XL 106 perfector installed at Chesapeake East Kilbride, which includes ten printing units, three coating units, four drying units and an inline cold foiling option. Customers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves in all sectors, which means longer presses.
However, it would seem that there’s very little demand for B3 offset, with both digital and B2 being more attractive to customers these days. Todd adds: “Printers have to be manufacturers and they have to have all the processes under one roof.” He also notes that there’s a greater interest in working to standards and that most successful printers have learned how to get the most out of using web to print systems to drive jobs through their workflows. This in turn has helped Heidelberg reinvent itself as a service-led company, with more customers opting to take out service contracts.
It’s an interesting snapshot of the market and clearly shows that customers are squeezing the most out of the technology, particularly in terms of process control for better efficiency, combined with offering extra capabilities to differentiate themselves.
PS: It’s worth noting that there is a margin for error on the industry figures, given that two other journalists who were at the same event reported different numbers, with one claiming that Heidelberg has 3,300 UK customers, and another stating that Heidelberg had 2000 customers last year, with a 60 percent market share suggesting there are around 3,300 printers in the UK. That’s the value of shorthand notes for you…