Sha Jumari catches up with CEO Rafael Penuela to discuss Manroland Sheetfed’s performance in Asia, the success of ROLAND 700 EVOLUTION presses and the company’s stand on digital.
In early February 2019, Manroland Sheetfed GmbH's parent company, Langley Holdings, published its IFRS Annual Report & Accounts for the year ended 31 December 2018. At the end of 2018, the group recorded a profit of €103.5m versus €111.8m in 2017. Net assets at the year end were €722.6m and cash €379.5m - both record highs.
“I would say that the year 2018 has been a difficult year for the printing industry due to the overall declined market performance. We have nearly achieved our targets with regard to revenues,” said Rafael Penuela, Manroland Sheetfed’s CEO, when asked on the company’s performance in 2018.
“When it comes to results you might say that they could always be better, but we are satisfied with the expected results and the achievement of our financial targets. But more than this we could convince many new customers to rely on our products and fulfil their expectations. In general terms I would say yes, it is another satisfactory year,” Penuela continued.
Manroland Sheetfed has been present in the Asian region for decades. The organization has subsidiaries in China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. On top of that, Manroland has representation in The Philippines and Vietnam.
“China plus Asia together is representing at least 1/3 of the total production of offset presses today. It was only 10 to 12 years ago that the volume represented by Asia was less than half of today’s business volume,” said Penuela.
China still counts as Manroland’s largest clientele, although Southeast Asia is developing well.
“I would say that the Southeast Asian market is maybe less dynamic than it was ten years ago. It is not as dynamic as the Chinese market has been and still is,” Penuela continued.
“But we see the same trends from international print buyers that are visible in Asian countries, similar to what we have seen years ago in China. For example, the demand for high-end packaging products, integrated production processes, demand for quality and lower cost of production. I expect a very similar market trend.”
The ROLAND 700 Evolution Update
The ROLAND 700 Evolution is Manroland’s highly flexible platform of the long established series of B1-plus format presses. The Evolution was first unveiled to the global public at drupa 2016. Since its launch, it has been on an upward trajectory, and does not appear to be slowing down. Recently, the company celebrated the 1000th unit of the press in the market.
Although no specific number was provided for ROLAND 700 Evolution machines in Southeast Asia, Penuela said that they have presence in each country. He added that China is the market where the company has sold the most of ROLAND 700 Evolution.
“The ROLAND 700 EVOLUTION is one technical platform that we are using in this size to cover the needs of our customers for all type of applications. We are talking from a very simple press with basic automation to highly automated nine colour press with double coating and special configurations for very unique applications. The platform of ROLAND 700 EVOLUTION was developed exactly to serve printers with very different demands from different regions and applications,” said Penuela.
“We are quite satisfied with the development of this product. We gained trust in our early efforts and we would like to expand and transfer the learnings from the successful ROLAND 700 EVOLUTION now to the next product line. We will keep our R&D principles by focusing on print quality, solid construction and high reliability in operations,” Penuela continued.
Adding value with ProServ 360 Performance
One of the more unique value-add feature of the EVOLUTION is the ProServ 360 Performance service. First introduced in 2017 as part of a global launch, the ProServ 360 Performance is an integrated, 24-month partnership program. It is a preventive and corrective service that will provide continuously during the lifetime of the press. It assists the customers to increase the productivity and reduce the unplanned downtime.
“So far the ProServ 360 performance program is very successful and we are very happy about that. Many customers are convinced by the service during the first two years, and when it is due time, they chose to prolong this service. ProServ 360 performance program is very successful and so far the response is very positive not because of the warranty and normal repair work which is included, much more because of the performance analysis which we do remotely,” said Penuela.
According to Penuela, all Evolution customers are using the ProServ 360 Performance service. The program also enables Manroland to work together with their customers to improve their performance.
“The analysis of the machine and job data are discussed regularly with the printer in order to identify fields of improvement. Why was the press standing still for 20 minutes? What was wrong? Why are you always using the longest washing program? Can’t you use a shorter one? Why are you not changing the sequence of print jobs to improve your productivity? Why the press was standing still because apparently no plates were available?” Penuela explained. “Meanwhile we are learning every day from our customers about processes and also about our weaknesses which help us to better understand customer demands and improve our products.”
On Going Digital
In the advent of digital printing, many offset manufacturers are either developing the technology or adding digital presses in their portfolio by way of partnerships or acquisitions. Manroland Sheetfed worked out its first digital press in 1995, called DicoWeb. It was the first press without plates. However, Penuela asserted that developing digital presses are not their focus. They are more interested in integrating digital technology into a conventional offset press.
“We had different exercises to cooperate with other digital companies for many years. I'm talking about a technical cooperation, not sales and distribution channel. I know that our competitors have had similar experiences over the last 20 years. So far no sheetfed manufacturer has succeeded to establish a solid and commercially successful digital product,” said Penuela.
Years back, Manroland Sheetfed and Landa signed an agreement before drupa 2012, which fizzled years later. According to Penuela, the agreement was based on the integration of Landa technology into its conventional offset presses.
“We are still very interested to evaluate such an integration once the conditions are given. The hybrid machine could become reality once we have identified the right technology to integrate variable data into a conventional offset-press. To achieve this, we need to consider substrate-variability, high speed and offset-like print quality. The combination of both technologies under those conditions would create real value for printers,” said Penuela.
According to Penuela, digital printing can add real value for printers by personalizing data, which Manroland Sheetfed is already working on: “We have developed with partners the possibility to create numbering systems so that we can use numbering on our sheet applications, such as small personalization barcodes or others type of variable data integrated in the offset-process. But it still remains an offset press with supporting systems to make some type of personalized application.”
Beyond 2019 - Drupa 2020
When it comes to developments, Manroland Sheetfed will continue to focus R&D efforts to further automate the ROLAND 700 press, and to extend the learnings to subsequent product lines.
“And more important, we should always take into consideration that the product development is not always related to the heavy metal. It's more or at least equally important to develop products which are supporting the integration process or the data exchange to help customers to be competitive and better serve print buyers,” Penuela asserted.
When prodded about drupa 2020 previews, Penuela remained tight-lipped, but said that: “We are looking forward to drupa 2020 already. We will present some new products. We will focus on our main business which is the all-round offset press focused on ROLAND 700 EVOLUTION which still has a lot of market to gain and satisfy new demands from our customers.”
First published in Issue 02/2019 of Print Innovation Asia.