Heidelberg sets up Digital Unit

Heidelberg, still best known for its offset presses, is continuing its aim to transform the company into a major supplier of digital products and services with the announcement of a new Digital Unit.

Heidelberg has set up a 50-strong Digital Unit at its Wiesloch-Walldorf plant to oversee its digital products and services portfolio.

The idea is that the Heidelberg Digital Unit will handle all of the sales and marketing relating to digital products, including managing contacts with customers. It will also oversee the ecommerce activities which covers consumables and services, with Heidelberg saying that it wants to significantly increase its global e-commerce sales, which currently amount to €100 million.

Professor Ulrich Hermann, member of the management board and chief digital officer at Heidelberg, explained: “In an initial step, customers can order and pay for all key consumables, services, spares, and wear parts required for print shop operation online on dedicated websites. We’ll gradually be extending the portfolio in the direction of our new digital business models such as the subscription model.”

This is a logical extension of the cloud-based Smart Print Shop concept that Heidelberg introduced at Drupa 2016, which saw the company move away from one-off equipment sales in favour of ongoing service and consumables contracts. The machines connected via the cloud and the data/software expertise provided by Heidelberg lay the foundation for the Digital Unit to offer customers continuous service and additional benefits, providing they pay for them. It also gives Heidelberg precise knowledge of what its customers are doing with their equipment and where presses are not being fully utilized.

Heidelberg has partnered with another German company, iQ!, based in Munich, which specializes in dealing with the Internet of Things (IoT). It looks as if iQ! will underpin Heidelberg’s Digital Unit, giving it rapid access to digital expertise as well as e-commerce and big data know-how.

The Digital Unit will be run by Rainer Wiedmann, the owner and founder of iQ! who is also chief marketing officer at Heidelberg. He commented: “We see Heidelberg as being ideally placed to create the print media industry’s number one ecosystem. The company’s leading position on the global market and the executive management’s commitment to the digital transformation are key factors in this respect. We’re also contributing our experience from over 20 years of digital marketing, including the creation and operation of e-commerce platforms.”

The Digital Unit is based at Heidelberg’s main Wiesloch-Walldorf site but with branches already established in China, the United States, and Asia.

Separately, Heidelberg has also officially launched its B1 inkjet packaging press, the Primefire 106, now commercially available.

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