Mastering the Most Challenging Production Period with the Vareo

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The majority of the jobs at CEWE are runs of one copy. Thanks to the flexibility of the Muller Martini Vareo perfect binder, the European market leader in the photo service segment can ensure high production quality.

CEWE is currently in the most challenging period of the year and will soon have a sprint to the finish. Due to the Christmas trade, November and December are traditionally the busiest months for the European market leader in the photo service segment.
At the Eschbach site near Freiburg im Breisgau, the usual team of 180 people is joined by an extra 80 to 100 people, who are hired specially for that period. The plant operates 24/7, with three shifts a day. With a state-of-the-art machine line-up and carefully planned processes, the team ensures that customers receive the ordered photo prints, calendars, posters, collages, printed gift items and the famous CEWE PHOTO BOOK in time for Christmas.
The CEWE PHOTO BOOK is the market leader’s flagship product and has sold more than 50 million copies since the product was launched in 2005. In 2016 alone, it sold 6.2 million copies. The vast majority are designed by customers on their computer and ordered online.

From left to right: Gerd Wild (Digital Printing Manager), Michael Bühl (Technical Manager) and Peter Stein (Area Sales Manager at Muller Martini Germany) in front of the new Vareo at CEWE in Eschbach.

“Most of the orders are for runs of one copy because our customers are end consumers,” says Michael Bühl, Technical Manager of CEWE at the Eschbach site. The photo books are sold through CEWE’s dense network of trade partners. “We’re the reliable premium producer for European trade customers offering photo books,” says Bühl, underlining the key position of the CEWE PHOTO BOOK on the market.

CEWE – from Photo Processing Lab to European Market Leader

Transitioning from black-and-white photos to color photography and later from analogue to digital solutions, the CEWE photo service has been at the cutting edge since it was founded in 1961 and has used new technologies to its own advantage. Some 3,400 employees in 24 European countries generated turnover of EUR 593.1 million in 2016.
The CEWE Group has twelve production sites in Europe. Its range includes the CEWE PHOTO book, calendars, posters and personalized photo gift items such as puzzles, mugs, mouse pads and school materials. The products are sold via over 25,000 trade customers, such as drugstores, specialist photo shops, online stores and consumer electronics stores, as well as 146 retail stores in Central Europe and Norway.
The Muller Martini Vareo perfect binder plays a key part in the production process of the CEWE PHOTO BOOK. CEWE integrated the machine into the production line at its Eschbach site in spring 2016. “The Vareo has operated very reliably from the start, which meant we were able to decommission the old perfect binders that were initially intended to be back-up machines, earlier than planned,” says Gerd Wild, Digital Printing Manager. In Eschbach, a Vareo now handles the volume that required two perfect binders before. It also delivers better quality than the previous solution. Soon after commissioning the first Vareo, CEWE invested in further perfect binders of the same type and now uses the innovative Muller Martini solution at three other sites in Germany.
The Vareo, which boasts a performance of 1,350 cycles per hour, optimally meets the needs of CEWE because it lends itself in various ways to ultra-short runs, right down to runs of one copy. A highlight of the perfect binder is the unit-drive technology of its clamps, enabling tailored processing of each product. That results in maximum quality, for example thanks to optimal overtravel speeds or longer cover nipping times.
In addition, there are two features that CEWE particularly likes about the Vareo: “glue application monitoring and the automatic book thickness measuring system are an enormous help for us,” notes Gerd Wild. The company is also impressed by the short setup times and user-friendliness of the Vareo, as well as the considerably shorter time required for general cleaning work since the Vareo was commissioned.
Up until a few days before Christmas, customers can order via one of CEWE’s trade partners and be sure that they will receive the photo book in time to put it under the tree for their loved ones. That might sound simple, but it is the ultimate challenge for CEWE because it has to make sure that every product is perfect during the peak time of the year.

CEWE is the European market leader in the photo service segment.​

Unlike with high-volume runs, where speed is often the top priority, CEWE has one main aim: zero errors. For a company specializing in runs of one copy, that has to be the top priority if it wants be profitable. Over the past few years, CEWE managers have developed an optimally streamlined solution that enables the company to provide high-quality products to customers at attractive prices. That gives CEWE the scope and means to keep developing as a company.
During this peak time in the CEWE calendar, Muller Martini provides extensive support – the Muller Martini plant is in close contact with Eschbach and other CEWE sites so that it can help straight away if necessary in the case of queries or malfunctions. When the number of jobs at CEWE rises four-fold in November and December compared to the off-peak period, the Muller Martini technicians are on standby. In terms of logistics, the CEWE team has to be at the very top of its game as it sprints to the finish of the peak period each year. That is made possible by state-of-the-art technology like the Muller Martini Vareo and continuously optimized process management.