Look back at…July 2023

Much of Europe has been gripped throughout July by a dangerous heatwave while the UK has mostly experienced wind and rain, though apparently this mismatch is nothing to do with the continuing fallout from Brexit. I confess to suggesting that more rain might help England’s chances in the Ashes, only to watch in horror as the chance of victory was washed away in torrential rain for the fourth test in Manchester.

Cricket aside, we can blame the weather on the climate crisis and the continuing hot air generated by empty promises from politicians. The government lost another two seats in by-elections but inexplicably managed to hold on to Boris Johnson’s old seat in Uxbridge and Ruislip. This appears to have been due to public unhappiness at the Mayor’s plans to expand London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone across the capital. Consequently, both main parties are now pulling back on their commitment to green policies with the government approving 100 new licenses to drill for oil in the North Sea. Just to underline this point, Rishi Sunak, who is still prime minister, flew to Aberdeenshire in Northern Scotland on an RAF jet to make this announcement as part of his one man mission to wreck the planet’s climate system by flying everywhere in helicopters and private jets at the slightest excuse.

A slight reduction in core inflation has led to hopes that the economy may yet rebound though all the signs are that this is a temporary relief since the main causes are beyond the government’s control. The start of the northern hemisphere winter will bring further demands for heating and transport, leading to rising energy and oil costs. Russia’s recent decision to end the Black Sea grain deal and attack Ukraine’s port and grain storage facilities in Odessa will push up food prices in many parts of the world.

As expected, the bank of England has raised the base rate again, now up to 5.25 percent, with a warning that there will be no short term reduction in interest rates. However, the UK government has postponed Brexit plans to check food imports from the EU for fear of pushing prices up even higher. 

A further round of strikes has hit national train services, while strikes by junior doctors and consultants have led to cancelled appointments and operations for the health service. The government’s position is that there is no more money and that most public sector pay rises will be limited to 5-6 percent and funded out of existing budgets. At the same time, the government has decided to hand King Charles a 45 percent pay rise, by raising the Sovereign grant, which is funded by British taxpayers, from £86m to £125m in 2025. 

A snap election in Spain has left a hung Parliament balanced between two poles, far right and socialist left. The last ten years have seen a tendency towards extremes in democracies around the world, which has threatened the stability of those democracies, from America to Israel. Strangely, the main opposition in the UK is going the opposite way…

China has placed export controls on metals such as gallium and germanium, which are used to produce semi-conductors as well as for manufacturing electric vehicles and some aerospace applications. This is a direct response to measures taken by the USA, including last year’s Chips Act, to fund the development of semi-conductor manufacturing in the US, as well as export controls to prevent US companies – and those wishing to do business in the US – from selling chip designs, software and equipment to China, and prohibiting American citizens from working with Chinese chip manufacturers. 

Recently, the CIA director Bill Burns, commented: “Russia’s aggression poses a formidable test. But China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do so.” In other words, we can expect to see more restrictions on trade and technology as China and the West face off for a new Cold War.

From left: Michael Scheu, Koenig & Bauer purchasing, Konstantin Schmidtke, director of business development at hubergroup, Frank Nowak, head of service, Dirk Winkler, head of process technology, product management and product marketing – both Koenig & Bauer

Otherwise, the summer is traditionally a quiet news period. Koenig and Bauer has teamed up with ink company Hubergroup Print Solutions to develop inks specifically for the Rapida sheetfed offset presses. The agreement covers the development of a joint sustainability strategy and the development of customised concepts for brand owners as well as the joint development and marketing of printing inks for primary packaging for food products plus strategic and technological development projects. The hubergroup inks will be supplied as a starter kit with every new Rapida press.

Xitron, which is a US-based subsidiary of Hybrid Software Group, has re-introduced its interest-free payment plans for RIPs, Workflows, and CTP interface kits to help customers cope with the inflationary pressures and rising interest rates. This program was originally introduced to assist printing companies affected by Covid shutdowns. Xitron is offering scalable payment plans based on the cost of the system. Printers can choose plans from 90 days to 18 months — with no interest or fees. Unlike leases or subscriptions, the user owns the software license and hardware at the end of the scheduled payments.

Karen Crews, president of Xitron, says that many printers want to update their prepress systems, adding: “They’re under pressure to become more efficient and maintain margins while material and labour costs continue to rise, which is difficult to do with aging prepress systems. By spreading the costs over several months, they’re able to get the solutions they need with little impact to their bottom line.”

The Spanish press manufacturer Comexi has opened a new hub in Bangkok to help with its expansion in the southeast Asia market, which will be followed by further hubs in Dubai and Monterrey in Mexico. This new hub hub has a spare parts warehouse, sales team, and technical services. 

Pau Xifra, Comexi’s chief transformation officer, explained: “The opening of the Thailand hub is an important event in regard to the almost 70 years of Comexi’s history. It is not only the inauguration of these offices, but it represents a pivotal moment to be increasingly present in the Asia Pacific. This is an emerging region that already has a capital weight in reference to the world economy; we want to achieve a leading position.”

Apex International has expanded its headquarters in Hapert, Netherlands by buying the building next door, giving it a further 2500 square metres to its existing production facilities. The new building houses expanded areas for office functions, increased research and development spaces, and added manufacturing capacity for rotory screens, rotogravure cylinders, anilox rolls, and glue sets. 

Thijs Smudde, Director Apex-PNH and Marian Waterschoot, Managing Director of Apex Embossing BV.

Marian Waterschoot, Managing Director Embossing at Apex International, explained: “This expansion means we can bring even more tailored and efficient solutions to our customers. With more room for advanced screening and embossing technology, we can meet specific customer needs faster and more effectively than ever before. This is a thrilling period for our customers and us, and we can’t wait to explore what we can achieve together with speciality products in new markets.”

Fujifilm South Africa has opened a new custom-designed Head Office and showcase the company’s Graphics and Imaging technologies. As well as a new, larger technology centre, this facility also houses boardrooms, a training centre and a 35 seater auditorium. 

Mutoh has chosen Graphtec GB, based in Wrexham, as a UK distributor for its sign and display and UV LED product range. Phil Kneale, Director of Graphtec GB, says: “Our team have spent a lot of time learning all they can about the Mutoh products and we are now ready to invite our resellers to check them out, test them in action and bring customers to see them. We have appointed a dedicated product manager for the Mutoh range, and we will be in regular communication with our resellers to give them all the help they need to promote the Mutoh products and to win more business.”

Installations:

SwissQprint has installed the 1000th model of its Nyala flatbed printer. The Nyala 4, complete with CMYK plus light colours and white channels, was delivered to De Resolutie / Van Zijderveld, based in Rijswijk near The Hague in June 2023. The machine was bought to increase print production capacity and quality but also allows the company to expand its printing of rigid media.

Horizon Digital Print has installed a Vanguard VKR3200HS 3.2m wide roll to roll large format printer.

Horizon Digital Print, based in Dublin, has won Ireland’s national Green Manufacturer Award, which it puts down to its decision to install a Vanguard VKR3200HS 3.2m wide roll to roll large format printer. 

Derek Gillen, Managing Director of Horizon Digital Print, said: “As an already established Durst production house, investing in yet more state-of-the-art technology – this time from Vanguard – is an important step forward. Our big focus has been on energy reduction, which is why we were even more delighted to win the Green Manufacturer Award this year, in the process beating the likes of household names such as Coca-Cola and others. The decision to purchase the Vanguard was at the centre of sustainability drive – it’s because of its green credentials.”

Horizon Digital Print, which employs 100 people and has an €11m turnover, has now also invested in Durst’s Lift ERP software.

Mad Colour, a commercial and large format printer based in Belfast in Northern Ireland, bought a HP Stitch S1000 dye sub machine in April 2023. The company already operated an EFI Vutek GS3200 3.2m wide UV printer as well as three smaller HP printers, a Latex 800W, Latex 360 and DesignJet Z6200, but was still having to outsource textile work. Managing Director Jamie McMinnis commented: “We are using the machine to create products such as flags, air mesh banners, tablecloths, fabric frames and event backdrops.” He added: “The printer means that we have better control of the supply chain, have reduced the risk of logistical complications and are better in tune with the very time-sensitive event and hospitality markets.”

Appointments

Akihisa Ogawa, who is currently the Managing Director in charge of overseas sales at Mutoh Japan, has now also taken on the roles of Managing Director and Chairman for Mutoh Europe. However, Mitsuo Takatsu will continue as Mutoh Europe’s Managing Director in charge of daily operations while Ozawa concentrates on long term business objectives – primarily to drive more growth in the EMEA region.

Ogawa, who is 64, holds a Master Degree in Economics from Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. He joined Mutoh in 2019, having mainly worked previously for Panasonic. 

Drytac has appointed Kieran Blacknall as Academy Manager in the UK where he will oversee the curriculum of training courses for display graphics professionals. He started out as a Copy Shop Assistant at Minuteman Press Bath before working his way up in the business to take on more senior roles including Visual Communications Manager and, most recently, Operations Manager before joining Drytac.

He commented: “Educating workers about the latest technologies and techniques is absolutely key in ensuring they can produce the highest quality of print possible. I’m delighted to be taking on a role that will allow me to work with professionals across a wide range of markets and advise them on how Drytac and its partners can support them moving forward.”

The European Tissue Symposium, which represents 90 percent of total European tissue production, has made changes to its governance model that have seen the introduction of two new roles. This includes a non-executive rotating Presidency elected among the members of the Board, which has been filled by Volker Zöller, President Consumer Goods EMEA, Essity Group. At the same time, Carlos Reinoso has been appointed executive Director General. 


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