• Home
  • Newsroom
  • Blog
  • The Secret of Müller Martini's Spirit (Part I): We don’t just think up and implement ideas, we also
01.05.2024 / Volker Leonhardt

The Secret of Müller Martini's Spirit (Part I): We don’t just think up and implement ideas, we also advise

Decisive drivers of the digital transformation, innovative finishing 4.0 solutions, satisfied customers around the world, motivated employees – in a two-part blog, Volker Leonhardt, member of the Group management at Müller Martini, who is responsible for Global Sales, takes a look behind the scenes and explores what lies behind the special spirit of this successful Swiss mechanical engineering company.
Recently, a colleague from my private life, who works in a different industry, asked me about Muller Martini's secret for success. “Good question,” I thought – but I wasn’t at a loss for a few answers. Three central concepts are an inseparable part of the DNA and spirit of our company: forward-looking leadership, innovative top technology, and motivated employees.
At Müller Martini, we think in decades, not quarters – which is typical for an owner-managed company. But of course, the numbers have to work out right at a family-owned company as well. But with regard to financial concerns, we have a longer-term horizon, and our focus is not the analysts’ (quarterly) focus as is the case at an exchange-noted company.
We don’t react, we act!
Another proof of our vision is that we anticipate technological trends early on and transform these into marketable machines. Here, our focus is always on changes in print products. We eliminate customers’ pain points and secure their business for the short, medium, and long term with suitable machines and workflow solutions and services. We have been part of the graphic design industry for decades, so we don’t just react to market developments, we act and assist our customers with new market challenges.
A typical example of this is our SigmaLine. 20 years ago, at drupa 2004, we were the first company to present a unique and innovative complete solution for book-on-demand production. This system for the economical production of the small(est) print runs is something we've continued to develop; in 2021, we launched the SigmaLine III and then we added the SigmaLine Compact digital book block production system to our portfolio as a further member of the SigmaLine family. With it, we can serve the market even better and address even more customer requirements.
Today, finishing 4.0 systems account for about 50% of our sales; this is due not least to our global footprint. The USA is the leader in digital production, and we have incorporated the experience we have gained there into many other projects. Our customer base is broad and varied – from large printers to small family-owned operations, from bookbinders to logistics companies. We have different approaches for all of them, in line with our motto “your strong partner.”
Digital transformation on the inside...
Because we have always been a technology-driven company, the digital transformation that has become a big topic in the graphic design industry has long been the driver of innovation at Müller Martini. Internally, this means that there are no internal barriers between the various machine segments; that interdisciplinary understanding has grown much greater; that we think outside the box; and that our hierarchies have become much flatter.
This also means that our quotation creation process is tracked by a single SAP tool used around the world, which allows us to exploit potential efficiencies and simplify our processes. We have even digitalized procurement with state-of-the-art tools. Thus, for example, today we have digitalized assembly instructions on monitors instead of fat folders. All of this ensures faster, more efficient processes, it reduces manual interventions, and results in significantly increased efficiency in all departments.
...And on the outside
Because production – and here I refer to our effect on the external world – is something not all of our customers do in small print runs or print runs of 1. For today, the digital transformation plays a role in nearly all machines, even if to different depths. This even applies to a classic stand-alone saddle stitcher. Here I'm thinking of digital work planning with our Connex workflow system, of remote service or our individual customer portal MPOWER, via which our customers can use a 3D spare parts catalog to order spare parts or find an operating manual.
In exchange with our customers, however, we do not just think up and implement ideas, we provide advice. More recently, advising has become increasingly important. In the end, the core questions are always the same ones: What motivates the customer? What keeps him awake at night? Where are his pain points? How can Müller Martini help to overcome these?
We work with customers to answer these questions and search in goal-oriented fashion for sustainable solutions. Since we have frequently advised our customers for decades, we have built up profound knowledge – not least thanks to our long-term employees. Of course, the many positive reports motivate them and increase their pleasure factor.
Listening well to customers
In addition to providing machines and service, we want to inspire our customers and win them over with specialized advising, but this also increases requirements for our colleagues on the front lines. They need not only good market knowledge and long experience, but they must also understand our customers’ digital transformation processes and listen well to them. By being ready for changes, we secure our customers’ business success in the short, medium, and long term – working as partners and with discussions as peers.
Typical questions in advising and sales discussions are, for example: How can I put more products on the pallet in the same time? How can I combat fragmentation – away from Harry Potter mass production to custom production with small print runs – and nevertheless ensure a successful business? How can Müller Martini help me with the lack of skilled workers?
Change, challenge, and opportunity at the same time
The digital transformation is a change, a challenge, and an opportunity for our salespeople’s thinking and project approaches; it requires lifelong learning. Because business has definitely become more complex, our salespeople always have to remain up to date and especially understand the workflow. With new digital tools and online trainings, we ensure that their knowledge is always current. The same applies for our customers,to whom we offer our online showroom, where they can tour our machine park from their offices.
And yet, we still have plenty of customers who visit us in Zofingen. When we take them through our plant and the Print Finishing Center, I’m always amazed by how dumbfounded they are. Not only do they admire our completely automatic high-rack storage warehouse, giant spare parts warehouse, and squeaky clean well-organized final assembly, but they are also impressed by the outstanding training of our young employees.
Takeovers as strong signal for the market
Recent restructurings have also had a positive influence on Müller Martini’s DNA and team spirit – for example, the takeover of the saddle stitchers business from Heidelberg in 2014, the takeover of the bookbinding business from Kolbus in 2018, and the recent takeover of Hunkeler, just a few months ago.
With these takeovers, we improved our economic resources for further development. A typical example is our new Antaro perfect binder, which unites the best of Kolbus and Müller Martini technologies. Previously, patent hurdles would have prevented the development of such a pioneering machine from benefiting our customers.
However, the takeovers and the associated clear commitment to the graphic design industry and our company, and not least the owner's farsightedness in investing were not only a strong signal to the market, but also an internal signal that strengthened employees' loyalty to the company. And we did this with our own personnel, without external consultants. For our people understand the business and are very loyal to Müller Martini.
Come back next week and read the second part of my blog about the Müller Martini spirit, how well-trained and motivated employees are crucial for the success of our company.
Volker Leonhardt, member of the Group management at Müller Martini, responsible for Global Sales
01.05.2024 Volker Leonhardt Member of the Group management at Müller Martini, responsible for Global Sales