True to the chosen slogan “sprinting ahead”, the second-largest printing press manufacturer in the world, Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA), has planned a veritable innovation firework to light up this year's Drupa exhibition. A press conference on March 20, at the opening of a special sneak preview for invited users at the company's sheetfed offset facility in Radebeul, announced many of the Drupa highlights for offset and digital print to a wider audience for the first time. Around 1,000 print professionals from Europe and overseas took advantage of the open house to experience the latest sheetfed offset generation during impressive live demonstrations. With the unveiling of its new, highly automated large-format press series Rapida 145, represented on this occasion by a six-color model tailored for packaging and an eight-color perfector press for commercial and magazine printing, KBA underlined its technical supremacy as market leader in this format class. An example for meaningful synergy effects between offset and digital print was given with the new inkjet printing system for the new Rapida 105 medium-format generation. The Drupa curtain was naturally not yet raised on everything the engineers have up their sleeves in Radebeul, but the exciting innovations placed on the table so far have definitely justified the Drupa slogan “sprinting ahead”. KBA has booked a 3,500m² (37,700ft²) stand in Düsseldorf (hall 16, stand 16C47) as the showcase for its many new and further developments for sheetfed, digital and web offset printers.
Bolza-Schünemann: print needs innovation
In his opening address, KBA president Claus Bolza-Schünemann drew attention to the tense market situation which still burdens the advertising- and media-dependent segments of the industry, and to the excess capacities which still exist in some areas on the manufacturer side, despite the painfully extensive workforce reductions. Years of unhealthy price competition were identified as a significant contributing factor in the recent bankruptcy of the former number-two German manufacturer. KBA, by contrast, has always rejected and continues to reject this path of problem solution on the shoulders of others. Through timely capacity downsizing at the group's own expense, intensification of the internal division of labour, an increased proportion of in-house production, development of the niche segments established over the past decades, and expansion into the field of digital print, the foundation has been laid for improved plant utilisation. KBA is the only one of the three major German manufacturers to have weathered recent storms by its own efforts, and was likewise the only press manufacturer to post a pre-tax profit in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The sums, however, are still insufficient to finance all the necessary investments and innovations, and so work continues on the optimisation of structures and processes, the broad and modern product portfolio, and the group sales organisation. Negotiations with a Chinese partner, for example, are already well advanced and envisage the local manufacturing of entry-level sheetfed offset presses for this enormous market, alongside the high-tech presses imported from Germany. Bolza-Schünemann emphasised that KBA would be maintaining its commitment to innovation, because an abandoning of technical progress would in his opinion worsen rather than solve the problems of the print branch in the online age.
Sprinting ahead: KBA active in shaping the future of print