shovel

Of all the segments of the North American newspaper business slammed by the Great Recession and the industry’s subsequent contraction, few were hit harder than press suppliers.

The industry’s mantra to cut costs left a particularly large swath across the press vendor landscape. As a result, press suppliers were forced to retool their own operations to better meet the new marketplace.

That reassessment wasn’t painless. Some were forced to file for bankruptcy and then reorganized under new owners. Many shuttered facilities and laid off employees. Almost all focused on emerging technologies to complement their legacy businesses.

But as 2013 begins, the messy work of realigning operations to the new marketplace has largely concluded. Today, the newspaper industry’s press vendors might be smaller, but they are more nimble, much better capitalized and more rigidly focused on serving the needs of their customers as partners and not vendors.

To get a sense of how press vendors view the challenges facing them, and their plans to offer services and technologies aimed at helping their printing customers become more efficient in an era where economics reign like never before, News & Tech polled suppliers’ top marketing and corporate executives.

Their comments illuminate the reality in which their companies are operating today, but they also are cloaked with anticipation of where they will be tomorrow, even as the newspaper industry makes its transformation from big iron to big data.

Comments, which were edited by News & Tech, are in alphabetical order.

Tom Loesch, president of Impressions Worldwide

Q: What is your principal priority as we enter 2013?

A: Our priorities have not changed. We are focused on building our reputation by providing products and services that will lead to success for our customers.

Q: What are the technologies and services you are counting on to grow your business?

A: We are counting on the power of print and the continued growth of singlewide printers [and the services they can offer].

Q: What role should press vendors be playing to help newspapers promote print?

A: We are always working behind the scenes to help our customers to produce more color pages and higher-quality print. We support them so they can hit their deadlines.

Q: In light of all the speculation about the industry’s press vendors, are you still optimistic about your company’s future?

A: The pessimism regarding the future of print is nonsense. Never underestimate the power of a printed newspaper. Each year has been our best — for the last four years. Most everybody I know predicted I would be out of a job years ago. Instead the market has migrated from all angles toward the singlewide products and services that we build and remanufacture. The global and U.S. markets are booming for us. While the competition has all moved overseas, we have opened another facility in the United States [in Tupelo, Miss.] and remain solely owned and operated here in the United States.

Claus Bolza-Schünemann, CEO, Koenig & Bauer agAG

Q: What is your principal priority as we enter 2013?

A: In view of the current global economic uncertainty, stabilizing our business on print markets under pressure is a central target for 2013. Clear goals for the new year are a moderate growth in sales and again a pre-tax profit (positive EBT) in the fifth consecutive year, which is not the rule for major press suppliers today.

Q: What are the technologies and services you are counting on to grow your business?

A: Mainly printing technologies for growth markets like packaging printing or digital printing with our new KBA RotaJet. In addition we see still growth potential in some of our niche markets, e.g. in metal decorating, industrial coding and flexible packaging. In media-related and advertising-oriented market sectors, such as newspaper and commercial web printing, we don’t expect much growth in the coming year.

Q: What role should press vendors be playing to help newspapers promote print?

A: Print can secure additional brand advertising with creativity. The newspaper industry is looking for new, eye-catching advertising formats for brand owners and trade companies. So KBA continually launches new technology and innovative processes into the market to strengthen the printed newspaper’s role as a brand carrier for additional online activities, to make it more attractive to readers and advertisers and to open up new sales opportunities to media enterprises for printing extraordinary supplements and semicommercial products. Today, KBA delivers more and more newspaper presses with modules for stitching, gluing, half covers, four-page center spreads plus Zip’n’Buy perforation, hot-air dryers including quarterfold capabilities for semicommercials and hybrid production in coldset/heatset.

Q: In light of all the speculation about the industry’s press vendors, are you still optimistic about your company’s future?

A: KBA has the widest product range of all major vendors and addresses very different market segments. KBA expanded very early into less cyclical, less media-dependent and more profitable print markets, such as security or packaging printing. In a couple of these sectors KBA now holds the pole position and can build on a substantial global customer base. This guarantees a more stable business base, the cash flow and the financial stability you need in these times. Today, web presses contribute only 15 percent to 17 percent to our turnover. However, we still regard the newspaper industry as one of our core target groups and do everything necessary to get along with the market development.

Peter Kuisle, executivevice president of sales, service and marketing and member of the executive board, manroland web systems

Q: What is your principal priority as we enter 2013?

A: To provide total customer care by remaining one step ahead of technology trends and developments.

We now offer the youngest and broadest array of products and with this, we can offer our customers the most attractive solutions for their needs both today, and with our pressupdate program, for the future.

We believe our Colorman e:line press development sets a new benchmark for the industry. Our R&D focuses on helping our customers earn money [through their printing platforms].

This requires analyses of all production-related costs as well as the highest flexibility and quality to fulfill customers’ requirements.

We are also focusing on our new ControlCenter control platform and our printnetwork workflow system; we are transforming the press operator into a highly sophisticated quality-control person.

Our autoprint functions, meantime, have automated production with such features as automatic plate change, robotic systems and fully automatic logistics aimed at minimizing production and changeover.

Finally, we are developing solutions that allow our customers to be one step ahead with their existing presses. Performance upgrades and other flexibility enhancements permit safe production without increasing fixed costs.

Q: What are the technologies and services you are counting on to grow your business?

A: As you know, the world’s market for presses has shrunk by approximately 70 percent over the past several years. To that end, we’ve had to adapt our company. This process has helped us to become more competitive and to put our money into R&D to frame our future business. We still see a lot of opportunities sin our core business.

Our new operating concept is proof of both the power and the speed of our product development. Its high level of innovation and its orientation to usability, production efficiency and ergonomics — for both newspaper and commercial web presses, and for new presses as well as for retrofits — certainly put us in the forefront of the market.

In addition to automation and flexibility, we are also focusing on digital press technology. In cooperation with Océ, we are installing two digital presses at Rivet Presse Edition in France (see News & Tech, November/December 2012).

Q: What role should press vendors be playing to help newspapers promote print?

A: The newspaper must be attractive for advertisers and readers to be competitive to other media. Our part is to offer creative ideas and workable solutions that are efficient and attractive. We consider ourselves as long-term partners with our customers.

With our “creative newspapers” activities, we share business ideas and concepts around the world. These examples provide for our customers additional ideas out of the box to create new possibilities for their customers, whether it’s just a combination of creative folds, some very special content effects or different papers or inks, including augmented-reality effects.

We are also a part of the Print Power project, which promotes print media in Europe, providing direct information and influence to advertisers and readers.

Q: In light of all the speculation about the industry’s press vendors, are you still optimistic about your company’s future?

A: We are not only optimistic; our company is now sized perfectly to meet the market. We continue to make money, even through the difficult year of 2012. We have the most modern technology and solutions to offer to our customers so that they can be at least one step ahead of their competitors. We are a world market leader in newspaper and commercial printing presses, we have a strong financial backbone and we believe in print.

Brian LaBine, president, Manugraph Americas Inc.

Q: What is your principal priority as we enter 2013?

A: Our key priorities are to strengthen our parts and service offerings while also introducing singlewide towers with market-leading pricing. By combining state-of-the-art equipment with our manufacturing platform, we can offer the best value for new equipment in the market.

Q: What are the technologies and services you are counting on to grow your business?

A: We’ll grow our parts and service business with efficient manufacturing and sourcing and we will introduce solutions that can help publishers and printers maintain their equipment within constrained budgets. The development of our new press drives is a good example. These drives use common-sense technology, off-the-shelf components and non-proprietary parts — all packaged and offered at prices below other solutions. Thus, a publisher can replace drives cost-effectively knowing that the equipment won’t be obsolete in future years.

On the new equipment side, we’ll leverage our global manufacturing and sourcing to offer high-quality equipment at market-leading price points. But pricing alone — and conversely, high-quality alone — don’t make for long-term strategic growth. It’s the combination of the two that will build market share and grow our company. The M360 tower, which we will introduce in 2013, is a good example of this strategy. Rather than have customers pick and choose options, we’ve loaded the tower with standard features, thus giving customers the features they want while driving value via efficient sourcing and manufacturing.

Q: What role should vendors be playing to help newspapers promote print?

A: First, we have to be realistic about our relative strengths in the market. We are extremely efficient at producing high-quality equipment and providing cost-effective, quality parts and service. We also know, however, that we are not better than our customers at classic promotion of the print medium. Thus, our best way of helping newspapers promote print is to make high-quality printing as cost-effective as possible. Whether it be the cost of maintaining equipment or adding/replacing equipment, our role will be to help publishers equip and maintain pressrooms that offer excellent color reproduction at the lowest cost possible.

Q: In light of the speculation about the industry’s press vendors, are you still optimistic about your company’s future?

A: We are very optimistic about our company’s future. We have a combination of strengths which are unique to the market, and which give us a sustainable competitive advantage.

Manugraph invested heavily in state-of-the-art machining and manufacturing over the past decade, creating what is arguably the highest technology manufacturing platform in the industry. Regardless of what we build, it will be among the most cost effective in the market.

Mattias Andersson, CEO, Tensor International LLC

Q: What is your principal priority as we enter 2013?

A: To support existing markets and to guide new markets into automation.

Q: What are the technologies and services you are counting on to grow your business?

A: We find that that printers are generally focusing on stabilizing profitability and also looking for other ways to increase utilization of existing equipment and their organization. There is an anxiety in projecting new press installations and I think we will continue to see investments in extensions of existing presses, especially adding semicommercial capabilities to traditional newspaper presses. Our market segment is getting more and more differentiated and will continue to grow on our advantages and provide highly automated solutions for existing and new customers.

Q: What role should press vendors be playing to help newspapers promote print?

A: I think the newspaper industry is very conservative: newspapers have always looked more or less the same. I think there is a lot that can be done on both format and editorial content to make the product more attractive. I also believe that print and digital media are dependent on each other; in this way the best opportunities publishers might have are to combine the two, offering both print and digital in a single package.

As a press vendor, we should be a natural part of the discussion on how to develop future products, but I think the initiative should come from the publishers.

Q: In light of all the speculation about the industry’s press vendors, are you still optimistic about your company’s future?

A: Yes. We see many printers requiring equipment that will produce a high-quality newspaper as well as semicommercial products. Our singlewide equipment fills this requirement well and with added UV capability printers can offer advertising with UV quality and also produce short-run commercial products. Our industry is going through what most other industries have already done over the past years. We can no longer rely on old merits, but I believe we have a unique offer in many aspects that suits our industry’s future needs. We have a very effective organization today, minimal overhead and a flexible structure. This is also a key for a long-term stability in varying business climate.

Nobuyuki Nakajima, president, TKS (USA)

Q: What is your principal priority as we enter 2013?

A: There are several items upon which TKS will always place the highest priority:

  • Continuing with our marketing and R & D efforts for all product lines. We are in a very good position with a full line of offset press formats from single to triplewide. Adding to that, our JetLeader1500 digital ink jet press has quickly positioned itself as an industry leader for newspaper and commercial printing. I think this kind of product portfolio brings a lot to the table when customers are looking at all options. TKS was the first press vendor to fully embrace the platform of digital inkjet printing and we were the first to introduce a digital machine. We feel like we are in a great position with the knowledge and experience we have gained in such a short amount of time.
  • Continuing to place the highest priority on service and support to our existing customers. We know most customers have come to depend more and more on the vendors they do business with. Besides generating new equipment sales, we will always do our best to maintain the highest level of support within our family of customers. I know this is easy to say, but our track record and customer relationships speak for themselves. I never get tired of hearing from prospective clients that TKS builds a great press and has a very good reputation.

Q: What are the technologies and services you are counting on to grow your business?

A: The most important new technology for TKS is the JetLeader 1500. That said, the transition to digital printing is not an overnight phenomenon. We’re committed to providing a complete system that relies on an open-source approach that gives customers the ability to get ink and paper from multiple vendors. There is a lot of interest in this technology and we will continue to emphasize our position in the marketplace.

For offset presses, we are offering machines that have been improved to fit in existing buildings and thus offer a smaller footprint. As we all know, the tradition of analog printing is not growing to the extent it did formerly. But, it’s not going away either. So there are needs in that market as well, especially as newspapers redefine their business models and continue to want and leverage the assets like the press. Customers are not looking to build greenfield sites as in the past, so existing production real estate becomes more important.

Q: What role should press vendors be playing to help newspapers promote print?

A: Two things come to mind. The first one is digital production. Having the ability to print with variable data and format gives the printing company the ability to compete against online content. Now companies have the ability to print products with personalized content, allowing readers to have a user-defined print publication. We think this will be a very positive factor in driving people back to print. In my opinion, the experience of meshing print with user-defined content is a better experience than reading something online.

Additionally, printers can use digital machines to produce products — such as short-run, targeted and niche publications — that might not have made economic sense on a conventional offset press.

Q: In light of all the speculation about the industry’s press vendors, are you still optimistic about your company’s future?

A: Most definitely. TKS has been around since 1874, so we are doing something right. We have new installations, such as the JetLeader now running at Newsweb in Chicago. Two years ago, we built a state-of-the-art manufacturing center and upgraded our other main factory near Osaka, Japan. There are many forms of print that will be around for many more years to come.

We think the technology that allows newspapers and printers to produce new products they weren’t able to economically print before is another reason to be excited about the future. And finally, I also see a new breed of newspaper ownership coming in — owners who have a positive attitude to promote print — an encouraging trend.

Brian Haun, president, WebPress LLC

Q: What is your principal priority as we enter 2013?

A: Our principal priority for 2013 is to continue last year’s success in selling new press lines, while continuing to support existing customers with excellent service.

Q: What are the technologies and services you are counting on to grow your business?

A: We have upgraded our compact four-high tower, the Quad-Stack, with a new oscillator mechanism, optional spraybar dampening, and the latest in controls. These technologies, combined with our dedicated service team and intense customer focus, will sustain our future growth.

Q: What role should press vendors be playing to help newspapers promote print?

A: WebPress can best support the promotion of print by helping newspapers improve quality, add color, and reduce costs. Newspapers face competitive pressures like never before, and mediocre quality is not a sustainable option. In order to win advertising business, print quality and bright colors have to “jump out” of the page at the reader. Also, production runs are shorter and more locally oriented, so quick start-ups and low waste are paramount to low cost. Press vendors have to provide simple, reliable solutions that meet these requirements.

Q: In light of all the speculation about the industry’s press vendors, are you still optimistic about your company’s future?

A: We are optimistic about our future because we believe our press model serves the ideal market niche of tomorrow. The Quad-Stack is perfect for regional and local newspapers with their short, specialized runs. The continuous paper to blanket contact ensures tight registration, no fan-out and excellent quality. These attributes are more important than ever to our customers, and we intend to provide them with exactly what they need to succeed.

Jorgen Karlsson, CEO, Wifag

Q: What is your principal priority as we enter 2013?

A: We want to be as commercially successful as we have been in the last two years, because this enables us to partner with and serve our customers long term. We contribute to our customers’ success by offering high value-added products and services at competitive pricing.

Q: What are the technologies and services you are counting on to grow your business?

A: We are focusing on our recently released S-Line smart presses.

When an investment is made in new equipment, publishers and printers are seeking a solution that is competitive in price, cost-effective in operation and reliable in quality and productivity under industrial conditions. The S-Line range was launched to meet these stringent requirements. Equipped with Wifag machine controls and press consoles, the S-Line is optimally automated for industrial printing.

We also see a growing potential to provide automation and retrofit solutions for existing Wifag and third-party presses. We’re well positioned to offer customized solutions at competitive pricing for almost all press brands.

Q: What role should press vendors be playing to help newspapers promote print?

A: To provide competitive printing solutions that enable newspapers to produce new and better-printed products cost-effectively.

Q: In light of all the speculation about the industry’s press vendors, are you still optimistic about your company’s future?

A: In spite of the difficult market conditions, Wifag has many reasons to be optimistic about its future. Among them:

  •  Rightsizing and a successful turnaround. In the past three years, Wifag has produced and delivered 470 printing couples (58 towers), 17 new folders and 58 autopasters. In April 2011, meantime, Wifag acquired Solna and the Chinese sales integrator, Ekpac, to better serve the Chinese market. The integration process has since been successfully concluded.

We have also developed in-house automation resources and we have generated a profit from our business operations for the past two years.

  • Part of a strong group. The integration of Wifag into the Wifag-Polytype Group is successfully completed. Wifag-Polytype provides volume of scale and provides us with in-house manufacturing and sourcing competencies. Wifag-Polytype is self-financed and has no debts and no need for external financing and we are well-positioned to serve customers worldwide.
  • Service commitment: We are striving to new levels of excellence in all our products and services; in the past 18 months 40 percent of Wifag customers have signed up for service contracts. 

 

Editor’s note: Goss International was unable to get its answers to News & Tech by our deadline.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.