• Sha Jumari

Heidelberg – The Digital Transformation Through Asia

Heidelberg has been focusing on implementing its digital transformation strategy to be fit for the future. We find out what this means and how it bodes for the Asia Pacific region.

For about two years, Heidelberg has been going on a period of digital transformation. At the end of financial year 2018/2019, Heidelberg reported a successful end and expressed its aim to continue its pursuit of digital transformation.

“Since the last drupa, it has been known that Heidelberg is embarking on a digital journey. We are transforming the company and making it fit for the future. What we are doing now is that we are extending the scope of our activity,” said Thomas Frank, managing director for Heidelberg Asia Pacific.

In the past, Heidelberg was focusing on printing stability and manufacturing high performance printing machines. The company expanded their range to produce software modules for various steps in a print job and they had their first inroads in digital printing.

“We are now integrating all of the various production tools into one workflow to allow our customers to be much faster than they were in the past. Nowadays, that is highly valued by their clients. Everybody today wants to have it all, and have it now - nobody wants to wait any longer. Our customers are under tremendous pressure to have it really controlled and to achieve this performance level,” said Frank.

“In the past, we made a plate change on the machine faster by a few seconds and that’s improvement. Today, our approach is to give the print shop a fully integrated workflow which begins already with the order intake from their clients, until the delivery of the printed goods.”

The Intelligence behind Integrated Workflow – Prinect

Prinect is Heidelberg’s integrated workflow that links together all aspects of a print shop to create an intelligent automated system. The core of the system is the Prinect Production Manager which gives the customer access to Heidelberg’s full suite of software in the form of a monthly subscription. Depending on the customer’s needs, he can pick and choose various software modules, which will always be automatically updated to the latest versions.

“All major production steps are integrated where we reduce the manual points of intervention and make the printing process more automatic. By doing so, we reduce the pain points of our customers such as interruptions, presses sitting idle or lengthy delays because their customers calling in with last minute job changes. We provide them with a digital platform that will make them much faster and stronger and in turn, this is also an opportunity for us to be fit for the future because that will be the customer demand: asking their suppliers for a fully integrated system of equipment and data workflow,” said Frank.

When asked about the reception in Asia: “Like in any other place in the world you'll always have the frontrunners who really want to have new technology and then you have others who are more hesitant, that's very clear. And we respect any approach. Our job is to consult the customer and inform them on what's possible and what’s available,” said Frank.

“For the past two years, we have seen a growing demand for the Prinect software across Asia. What we see specifically - when it comes to our Push to Stop technology that we showed last drupa, customers are very receptive and very open,” he added.

Push to Stop Concept

The Push to Stop philosophy was first unveiled at drupa 2016 with a Speedmaster XL 106. At the show, the whole changeover job process was shown without the usual operator interventions. Then, visitors saw how the integrated workflow was able to incorporate all processes and optimize the overall equipment efficiency (OEE). Since its drupa introduction, Heidelberg has sold over 850 machines suitable for Push to Stop.

“Another aspect of our digital transformation is to have our printing presses, such as the Speedmaster 106, 102, 92 or 75 size machines, and the Prinect workflow, connect with each other. We are running a system called Push to Stop, which allows the whole changeover process to be highly automated and minimises the number of operator intervention. Push-to-stop basically means the only manual intervention is when the operator presses a button, if something goes wrong,” said Frank.

“There are more than three thousand sensors in a modern Heidelberg press. All of these sensors are delivering data, and these data are used by a software to give all of the automatic action back to the press which is set up automatically. This is how we are able to implement Push to Stop, so the whole interplay between software and press is fully automatic,” Frank continued.

Data Decodes with Heidelberg Assistant

The data provides intelligence in several other ways, and the Heidelberg Assistant platform translates that into usable information. Heidelberg Assistant in a cloud-based online portal that provides technical and operational information, performance and predictive data, and contracts and invoice details, which can all be viewed anywhere, anytime, on PC, smartphone or tablet.

“With the Heidelberg Assistant you have access to a lot of data Heidelberg is having such as performance data from about ten thousand printing presses installed worldwide. Of course, the data is made available on an anonymous basis. If you are a printer and you want to know how well-performing your Speedmaster press is, you can compare yourself with other printers in the same segment you are. You’ll be able to see where you are positioned and make improvements based on that,” explained Frank. These machine data are safely stored in a cloud which is ISO-certified and fulfilling strict data protection rules of the European Union.

In addition, the system can detect and predict technical difficulties. Not only are service specialists activated should there be technical difficulties on the press, they can also perform predictive monitoring steps. The system can discover a certain stage of wear and tear on the machine, and be able to signal the necessary replacement of a failing component early enough before it causes breakdown.

With the Heidelberg Assistant, customers get access to the Heidelberg e-Shop, an online platform where customers can order consumables and selected service parts around the clock. The platform makes consumables available for the printer on a completely different basis than before.

“In the past, the sales representative would come, offer the scope of consumables they were discussing, and the printer makes the order. Alternatively, and more efficiently, now we do it via the e-Shop. The intelligence behind it is the Heidelberg Assistant. The press configuration, the job structure, the performance level is known by the Heidelberg Assistant, which is then used to make the right offer when it comes to consumables. The shop is already tailor-made in a way that the customers can see all the consumables required for his individual production,” explained Frank.

According to Frank, the Heidelberg Assistant functionality is still at the beginning stages in Asia Pacific, though it already has about a hundred active users in Japan: “We informed customers to showcases, invited them for seminars and a lot of them asked us to make this functionality available. With the rest of Asia, we are going to introduce around drupa 2020 step-by-step.”

Digital Fires up in Asia

Although Frank emphasised that the digital transformation is more about integrated workflows and software, he does not discount the headways that Heidelberg is doing with digital print.

“We do a lot with software for our offset print environment, but we also have digital print methodologies. We have three offerings. The toner-based Versafire, and two inkjet presses for industrial production, the Primefire and Gallus Labelfire,” said Frank.

The Heidelberg Primefire is a B1-format machine based on the Speedmaster XL 106 platform. It is targeted for folding carton printing with short runs, and personalised printing.

According to Frank, there are currently six Primefires installed worldwide, with more installations coming. Within Asia, Heidelberg has signed two deals in Japan, and the first press is already installed. The first Primefire in Asia has already been announced in June this year and just put into operation at Japan’s Kyoshin. The second press is expected to be operational in the next six to seven months.

The Gallus Labelfire is a hybrid machine consisting of a digital printing system with seven colours plus white inkjet capabilities and added conventional flexo units. Thus far, there are three Labelfire presses running in Asia Pacific; two in Australia and one in Singapore. A fourth Labelfire has also just been signed.

Three Subscription Contracts in Asia Pacific

Heidelberg established the pay-per-use model in its industrial offset printing as a result of the company’s digital transformation in moving away from just selling presses. Under the Heidelberg Subscription model, customers pay for a monthly fee plus an impression charge depending on the sheets actually printed.

Worldwide, there are 20 subscription contracts; two of which are in Asia Pacific. The first customer is Rajams Digital, located in Chennai, India. The press installed is the Heidelberg Speedmaster SX 74 and has been up and running for more than a year.

Frank explained Rajams Digital’s decision process: “Being a digital printer, he noticed that more and more long jobs were coming on the digital machines, which is not economical, so he wanted to have an offset machine for the higher runs. An offset machine is a big ticket item for a digital printer to make an investment. He was considering whether to go for a used machine, but then he learned of our subscription system. He liked the idea and now we have a four colour machine installed there. He is running the machine at very high output levels, and this is a true win win situation for both of us.”

The second installation of the subscription model is with Soar Print, a commercial printer in New Zealand, where a six colour unit and coater is installed.

A third press, a Speedmaster CD 102 four-colour, just started operating in Japan.

“The subscription model is about the customer not buying the press in the conventional way. Through a subscription, we make the press, the software, our service expertise and all consumables available to the customer. The customer pays a monthly base fee that includes a certain number of printed sheets, and if he exceeds that number he simply pays a fee per printed sheet on top,” Frank continued.

The price per sheet under the top configuration level of the new digital business model includes all equipment, all consumables required – such as printing plates, inks, coatings, washup solutions, and blankets – and a comprehensive range of services.

“And this of course takes away the investment burden from a lot of customers. What you have available is the latest technology, the latest software versions, and the full Heidelberg expertise when it comes to bringing the press to the highest level of productivity. The press is sitting in our books so it's a joint responsibility for the production output. And a lot of customers like that,” said Frank.


First published in Issue #11 of Print Innovation Asia.

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