With creative hardcover and softcover solutions, Germany's leading book producer Kösel has made a name for itself beyond national borders as an innovation leader. As this Muller Martini blog’s guest author, Managing Partner Erik Kurtz, who was named German Printer Manager of the Year in 2016, explains the 425-year-old company's recipe for success and is confident that printed books will continue to play out their strengths in the future.
"How is it that your company has been honored as German Book Printer of the Year several times already and regularly wins awards for the best books of the year in several countries," I am occasionally asked. The answer to that question has many aspects, of course. But there is one point that is especially important to me: A special feature of our company is that all of us enjoy doing special things. We’re not like other companies, where a special request or a unique solution makes everyone say: “Oh no, don’t come to me with that. It’s much too complicated and will only disrupt our processes and our rigid procedures.” We think the exact opposite.
180 people in the development department...
Even more frequently I am asked about the size of our development department. I usually reply mischievously: “180 people.” This is because everyone who works for us enjoys developing ideas. I get personally involved in this work, too, contributing a number of ideas and designs. But the important thing is that everyone at our company abides by this philosophy and contributes to it.
When someone comes to us with a new idea, our managers, machine operators and sales reps enjoy doing something that’s a bit unusual. We also have very competent consultants on our sales force who take a look at the customer’s idea and can offer some initial guidance as to what is possible and what isn’t. And then we often do a test on the machine. We take the material, the machine operator plays around with it and then says: “We could try to do it this way. That would be another idea.” Everyone experiments and plays around with it. Of course, we are driven by figures and have to provide results. But allowing employees to play around like this has been our recipe for success.
Thinking in the processes and tasks of (end) customers
However, to do so, you need to understand what customers want, which means: listening and accepting what is important to them. We delve into the processes and tasks of our customers and their end customers, and then develop a technical solution based on them. So the process we’re involved in is a creative one, but at a technical level.
There is a quote by the American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson about this that I really like: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” In line with this saying, we want to convey our enthusiasm for developing and producing beautiful books to our customers as well as to inspire this enthusiasm in them and their customers (readers and book buyers).