– Heidelberg and Masterwork Machinery
As a result of its strategic partnership agreement with Chinese manufacturer Masterwork Machinery Co Ltd (MK), Heidelberg has ambitious plans to extend its range of post press equipment for the folding carton market. Partnerships are the key according to management board member, Harald Weimer, referring to how even a manufacturer the size of Heidelberg needs to form strategic alliances with specialist manufacturers to ensure success. From the supply side, he believes that no one company can have the expertise to meet all the expectations of a global market in which customers look increasingly for a single-source provider.
Responding to comments that Heidelberg might be diluting its brand image and reputation by allying with an Asian manufacturer, he stated robustly, “Anyone who has visited the MK plant cannot fail to be impressed by the quality of its research, design and manufacturing facilities. We set a high benchmark for quality here at Heidelberg, but we had no qualms about working with MK, because we detected a similar working philosophy.”
Need for alliance…
The need for such an alliance was justified by Kilian Renschler, head of global account management at Heidelberg, who gave an overview of the global packaging market to an audience of invited converters at Heidelberg’s Print Media Center Packaging in Wiesloch-Walldorf. Separating the emerging from the developed packaging markets, he commented that while population drives the former, it is differentiation that is responsible for growth in the developed world.
He told the audience, “In a global packaging market valued at 619 billion in 2013, almost one third is paper based products such as labels, folding cartons and corrugated. The prediction is that by 2018 the total market will have grown to 757 billion, but with major changes in regional consumption. Where currently Asia Pacific consumes 35 percent of the total, Europe 31 percent and North America 22 percent, the estimates for 2018 show Asia Pacific well ahead of both Europe and North America, with the biggest country growth coming from India, China, and Indonesia.” To respond to these changes and support the global packaging industry will require a high degree of cooperation amongst technology suppliers, and Heidelberg intends to be at the forefront of this process.
As the emerging markets become more industrialised, so the need for reliable business partners increases. “MK is the largest manufacturer of die cutters in China with a 90 percent share in the tobacco market, and 50 percent of the overall Chinese packaging market. But, it has only a limited export business because it lacks a network of sales, service and parts support – and this is where Heidelberg can step in and bring its expertise and the professionalism that customers demand from a supplier these days,” commented Weimer. Another attraction of working with MK is its commitment to R&D that has created a wide range of carton finishing equipment. He said that while for many years the post press department had been a production bottleneck through lack of investment, converters are now seeing the benefit of matching state-of-the-art finishing to all that has gone before. “Post press is when the sheet is at its most expensive – spoiling it at this stage is very expensive,” he added.
Automation in finishing: need of the hour
Dr Frank Schaum, head of post press at Heidelberg, told, “Because the finished product is key, the whole process is vital and in post press this involves a greater involvement of labour than elsewhere in production. With run lengths shortening worldwide there is a real need not only to strip out cost, as wages are rising everywhere, but crucially to simplify and shorten make-ready – and increased automation offers the solution as well as providing better quality control.
Responding to the demands of ‘lean manufacturing’ is uppermost in the minds of most suppliers, and Heidelberg is no exception. “It is important to attack it from the right direction,” explained Weimer. “It’s all about understanding production and the importance of accurate data – you need the knowledge before you invest, otherwise you risk wasting money.” Having the right technology and responding to changing market conditions are critical, but they need to be supported by a service organisation that can cope with 24/7 production. What begins with professional consultancy by the sales team, relies on the performance of the after sales team to maximise output from the customer’s technology. In many cases, significant improvements in productivity can be achieved with contract servicing and improved parts support. This is especially the case in post press where the main variable cost is labour. As run lengths shorten and expectations grow higher, the pressure for more automation is at its highest because margins are so tight. It is this need to constantly manage the portfolio of technology and respond to market changes that Heidelberg sees as key to its future growth in the packaging post press sector. The partnership with MK forms the platform on which it can build its business globally, but it is keen to point out that while its new MK Promatrix and MK Easymatrix die cutters will become its volume sellers in the carton market, the existing 100 or so users of the Dymatrix and Varimatrix ranges will continue to receive full support.
“What the new MK die cutters will do is allow us to tap into the volume market as well, where high levels of sophistication and performance are not as important as reliable day-to-day production at a price level that more can afford,” explained Weimer.
If Heidelberg believes partnerships are more important than ever, what was it about MK that was impressive? Dr Schaum, who has an engineering background explained, “We visited several Asian manufacturers but were in no doubt that MK was the standout company. They have more than 80 technicians working in R&D alone.
Sales and after sales support…
It is the sales and after sales support that Heidelberg’s global network can bring to these products that clearly excites both parties, as Wells Fu, International Trade Department manager for MK, and Heidelberg’s liaison man with the Chinese factory explained, “We are delighted to be working with the market leader. Heidelberg offers MK the opportunity to grow our business in the global market in a way that we could never have achieved alone.
The Heidelberg assurance…
Despite most of the MK machines being CE compliant, Heidelberg is running its own thorough checks on the design and build quality of each range to ensure customers that reliability will be up to the customary standard before they are shipped. Field trials are complete on the MK Promatrix line, and the MK Easymatrix is anticipated to hit the market later in 2015. Both will be offered initially in B1 sheet format.
“The two machine ranges are pitched at the volume sector of the market and are definitely priced to sell,” said Weimer. “All of our people who have visited the Chinese factory have returned with high expectations for the MK equipment that we can offer because of the build quality and that all important price and performance ratio.”
The MK Easymatrix, will appeal to the developing markets, and be an entry-level machine for carton converters, as well as a crossover option for commercial printers in the established regions. The MK Promatrix, which has a top speed of 8000 sheets/hour, is predicted to sell well in the developed and industrialised countries.
On the folder gluer side, Heidelberg has taken the decision to rebrand all models as MK Diana. All are manufactured at Nové Mesto in Slovakia, including two new models, the MK Diana Smart 55 and MK Diana Smart 80. Both feature a compact design that gives a space saving footprint and have a maximum running speed of 450 m/min. Capable of handling cartons up to 600 mm in length on 200 - 600 gsm solid board (or Eflute corrugated), the new machines produce straightline, crashlock, double wall, multi compartment, miniature cartons and mailing sleeves. Both can be fitted with inspection control, a Braille module, a stack turner, feeder, and semi or fully automatic packers.
Asked if Heidelberg has plans to extend its product portfolio in post press, Dr Schaum explained that the intention is to focus on the extensive MK range already available. “Within that portfolio, we will look at offline inspection, hot foil stamping, and blanking, but for now we will focus on the introduction of the MK Easymatrix and MK Promatrix technology to the wider market, which will in itself extend the Heidelberg offering.”
On a concluding note…
Harald Weimer says, “We see this partnership with MK as an entirely positive move for Heidelberg as a manufacturing supplier and for the global carton converting market. Their technology is first class, and our sales and support network is second to none. I see it as a ‘win-win-win’ situation–Heidelberg benefits from having new technology to sell, MK from having foreign markets to develop, and the converters by having an exciting range of competitive machines to improve their businesses.”
First installations in Europe
- In just six months, over ten machines have been shipped to customers, primarily in Europe, reflecting the Heidelberg and Masterworks partnership’s success.
More than ten Promatrix 106 CS and Easymatrix 106 CS die cutters have already been sold. Both die cutters offer an excellent price-performance ratio and are aimed at customers with small and medium production volumes. The first purchaser of the Promatrix 106 CS was a Polish print shop Arka-Druk. “The Promatrix has proven its worth in our production operations. We’re so satisfied; we purchased a MK 1060 ST hotfoiling machine which has just been installed by a team from MK and Heidelberg. As a result, we can now offer high-finish packaging,” explains owner Artur Bach.
In the UK, the first Promatrix 106 CS was shipped at the end of July to Zenith Print & Packaging, a print shop in Treforest, north of Cardiff, where it will replace two older die cutters. “We expect the new die cutter to deliver much shorter makeready times and greater productivity,” explains managing director Ken Bell. The company is also looking to harness the enhanced quality to increase its competitiveness. Zenith is renowned for high-quality packaging for coin collectors and packaging for the gift, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industries.
Heidelberg Poland has sold not just one but two Easymatrix 106 CS die cutters that will be installed shortly. Piotr Krzych, president of Szczecin-based print shop COMgraph expects top quality and durability from the new die cutter. Half of production by the just under 100 employees is for commercial jobs for the domestic market, while the other half is made up of packaging for export.
Economic aspects were the main factor in the investment decision by Drukarnia WL Leszek Wojtczuk. “This is our second die cutter from an Asian manufacturer. We’ve been using the first one for nine years and hope the Easymatrix will be even better,” says owner Leszek Wojtczuk. His company’s workforce of more than 65 employees mainly produce cosmetic and food packaging, with 85 percent going to customers in Poland and the remainder being exported.