Heidelberg: The People Factor

When presenting at the recent InPrint Industrial Print Forum in Chicago we presented the results of some of the InPrint surveys back to delegates and some opinions of what we see as possible impediments to growth for industrial inkjet. Whilst the sector is buoyant and certainly in a robust growth phase, there are still some challenges to be met, and not only technical. I recently discussed this with Frank Janssen at Heidelberg and he gave us his opinion.

So introducing new technology and creating new markets is a challenge?

Yes of course. There are always technical challenges with a new technology entering new markets. This is to be expected, and to be honest with you I think across the inkjet industry we possess the technical skill and acumen to solve these problems. But what I do think the entire segment could benefit hugely from is simply attracting the right people, with the right skill base and abilities to really make digital happen for industrial markets. To do this, we need more entrepreneurial people with the communication skills, problem solving ability and potential to create new markets.

So technology doesn’t just do it by itself?

Not alone no. Even Apple needed a great communicator and with their ‘Think Different’ campaign a really powerful marketing message in order to reach people. I am not suggesting we need another Steve Jobs for inkjet but I do worry that inkjet is a little introverted and inward looking. We tend to think that our customers don’t have the right level of knowledge about inkjet and that is the main problem. However the main problem might actually be ourselves as well!

How has Heidelberg, a traditional, analogue business adapted to digital?

Well we have created a digital culture within the business. The team, headed by Jason Oliver, all have backgrounds in developing digital technology within print. So our culture is defined by trying things out, failing fast and literally creating new markets. We are fortunate to have a lot of the engineering capability in house, so we nurture that and then go after markets which we think the Omnifire will create value in. Obviously our first focus has been the sports sector. We have customers like Balleristo who are using Omnifire to produce personalised footballs. But this is our first step, we have bigger goals and plans for other industrial markets which we will unveil at InPrint in Milan. The future is exciting but you have to possess the right attitude to try something new, not be frightened of things not always working out like you think, adapt and problem solve. I think these are entrepreneurial skills and something the entire market of industrial inkjet needs to develop into the future and for this you need the right culture, and the right people.

For anyone keen on staying in touch with the development of industrial inkjet - check out the program for InPrint 2016 - check the website here