Muller Martini’s drupa motto is “fitness”. Could you describe what that means exactly?
Bruno Müller (CEO Muller Martini): The structural transformation of the media industry is putting pressure on the printing industry to change. By “fitness” we mean the ability to adapt flexibly to market needs, to recognize market opportunities quickly and exploit them in the spirit of Charles Darwin’s “survival of the fittest”, according to which those species survive that adapt successfully to the environment, rather than those that defy everything and eliminate other species.
Muller Martini is positioning itself with the slogan “your strong partner”. Why is Muller Martini the right partner for the graphic design industry?
We combine our many years of experience as a manufacturer of high-quality machines and system solutions for the graphic design industry with the professional process, technology and consultancy expertise of our local partners on all continents. In addition to advising on expansions, optimization and new investments, as a “strong partner” we also support our customers in the long-term preservation of their equipment. Our modern, modular industrial solutions take account of the latest technologies and offer the highest possible investment protection.
Many graphic design companies are not (yet) thinking in terms of new investments right now given the difficult economic circumstances. Why is it still worthwhile for these customers to pay a visit to the Muller Martini stand?
The graphic design industry is experiencing a period of transition. It will continue to change in the coming years, with print media coming under increasing pressure. Personally, I believe that the possibilities of print media are far from exhausted. That is why it is essential to make the best possible use of new technologies in order to position print media optimally. That does not necessarily have to mean investing in new machines. Our modular systems can be expanded progressively and given new functions. We will present ways in which existing machines can be expanded and operated more successfully in order to get the most out of them in daily operation.
At the IPEX 2010 in Birmingham, Muller Martini debuted MMServices, which comprises seven modules. How successful has that proven in the past two years?
Our worldwide service network, coupled with the large number of installed Muller Martini systems, provides the ideal basis for a successful service business. Through MMServices we have successfully stepped up our activities since the IPEX 2010. For instance, through MMStartup we have been contracted by customers to relocate several hundred machines within plants and to rebuild them in a targeted way in the process. We have also supported customers who have opted for used Muller Martini machines both in the purchasing process and during the subsequent installation, reconditioning and commissioning of the equipment. We will continue to increase our activities in this important field, with the declared aim of providing the best possible support to our many customers worldwide in optimizing their production equipment.
In addition to service, digital printing is another focus point for Muller Martini at the drupa. What solutions will you present in that field?
Since the market launch of our SigmaLine digital book production system at the drupa 2004, we have continued to develop our solutions and have kept pace with the innovations of manufacturers of digital printing presses. The first SigmaLine gave rise to a complete system, which has equipped our product range optimally for the future thanks to its uniform automation solution and continuous workflow. Today we have installations on all continents in the field of digital printing for industrial production, in saddle stitching as well as softcover and hardcover production. That is why we are presenting systems that are designed for both offset and digital at our drupa stand under the slogan “digital ready”.
In your opinion, where will digital printing take the graphic design industry over the next few years?
It is clear that the development of digital printing is far from over. Three factors are critical to its future prospects: printing costs, printing quality and usable substrates (in particular paper). Due to the massive fall in run sizes, the book market offers the ideal entry to digital printing. Even individual products such as photo books are produced today on our machines with high performances. The fact that content can be varied dynamically from page to page means that the possibilities for the design of print products are almost unlimited. We ensure that print finishing supports these new forms of print products.
As a leading manufacturer of print finishing systems, Muller Martini also offers innovative solutions in (variable-size) web offset printing – with VSOP technology specifically in the packaging market. What will you show to (packaging) printers at your stand?
We will demonstrate how quick the changeovers at our VSOP printing presses can be between various print jobs with different section lengths. The Muller Martini VSOP is an infinitely size-variable web printing press designed for sleeve technology. Thanks to extremely quick size changes, a cost-effective image carrier and first-class printing quality, it is ideal for smaller and medium runs on the packaging market. We view in particular flexible package printing, carton printing and label printing as VSOP markets.
What trends have you observed in package printing?
In package printing too, offerings are increasingly segmented. Packaging is being used even more actively to position products in an optimal way at the point of sale. The result is that the variety of labels, shrink sleeves and food bags is on the rise, runs are becoming smaller, quality demands are increasing and delivery times are becoming shorter. In such an environment, we believe that our VSOP printing press has great potential.
How is the newspaper business developing? Would you say that there are new trends in that field?
Despite the decline in print run sizes of daily newspapers in large industrialized countries, countless newspaper publishers worldwide are investing in modern, flexible and automated production solutions. The trend is for optimizing the use of machinery in order to achieve maximum output, resulting in a high level of cost-effectiveness. Keywords here are finishing, rising insert numbers, weeklies and the mail shot business. In order to draw readers’ attention to a printed product, the various options for product design are becoming even more important. Alongside quantity, the individual value of the end product for readers and advertising customers will gain importance in the future.
The drupa 2008 took place when the economy was still booming. What is your impression of the mood in the graphic design industry four years on?
Shortly after the drupa 2008 there was a massive change in the graphic design industry, which happened at a pace rarely witnessed in industrial history. Within six months our customers and Martini Muller itself went from growth to decline. Fortunately, markets such as China and Brazil have shaped up well for us in the past few years. These growth markets will continue to have high potential in the coming years. However, in our traditional markets in North America and Europe the picture has changed greatly in the past four years. The print volumes relevant to us as a print finishing specialist have become significantly smaller. The uncertain economic environment and the frequent reluctance of banks to finance investments in the graphic design industry are putting many projects on ice.
What do you believe are the greatest opportunities, risks and dangers for the graphic design market and thus for machine manufacturers?
Many changes on the market have necessitated new acquisitions. For example, smaller print runs create the need for investments in new automated and flexible production lines. Many of our customers, however, are tending to invest more in new media and are neglecting the print sector. On the one hand, that is entirely understandable because new markets can be tapped by means of digital or mobile media and companies feel that they are well positioned in the print sector. On the other hand, it also leads to lower investment activity in the print sector, which cannot keep up even with the reduced print volumes and poses great challenges to machine manufacturers. It is important for the graphic design industry, despite the difficult circumstances, to make efforts to optimize and also invest in new solutions.