Mr. Urbinati, what are the key trends in the label printing market segment?
With annual growth of around 6 percent, digital label printing is the fastest-growing segment in our industry. We aim to expand our strong position in this high-growth market with the Gallus One, the first fully digital label printing system. We are addressing the main challenges facing our customers, of which the skills shortage is the greatest by far. This trend can be observed not only in countries with “boomer” demographics, but also in places with different age structures, like the US and some Asian nations.
What other challenges are cited by your customers?
High energy and substrate prices are another aspect, not to mention the limited availability of production materials due to supply bottlenecks, which means cost pressure is also rising. Following the pandemic, the focus has also shifted to sustainability, and this trend is intensifying. All in all, the market is facing significant changes.
Returning to the skills shortage: What are you doing to address this situation?
The global printing industry is suffering from a shortage of skilled workers. Our response is to supply systems and processes that allow our customers to perform the necessary tasks and operate their value chain with less human intervention. One of the keys is ensuring the connectivity of machinery with the surrounding technical ecosystems and with the cloud. But how exactly can we achieve this? To find out, we installed an “outside-in” development loop prior to beginning the current innovation cycle.
Dario Urbinati, CEO of the HEIDELBERG subsidiary Gallus
In other words, you called on external expertise.
Correct – by involving our customers directly in the development process. This enabled us to adjust our product concept iteratively and check that it was both feasible and compatible with the requirements of the market. And we continued until we were sure that we would be meeting our customers’ needs, both today and tomorrow.
Along with process optimization, standardization and automation, what else was important?
Optimization, and especially the standardization and automation of production processes, is a prerequisite. The aim is to minimize the total cost of ownership for the customer, i.e. the cost of operating a piece of equipment including the consumables used. We went to painstaking lengths to identify cost drivers, eliminate or reduce them, and spread them across the output volume. This means we have highly competitive TCO rates compared with the industry as a whole.
You recently presented the new label printing press, Gallus One. Is this one of the first results of this holistic approach?
Exactly. Technologically speaking, the new Gallus One represents a quantum leap from a dedicated printing press to a complete ecosystem. We are benefiting from the fact that label printing has always been a pioneer of digitalization thanks to its individual requirements in terms of differentiation, which give it a lead of around a decade on other sectors of the printing industry. Label printing is a textbook example of the need for differentiation. After all, the aim is to stand out from the competition at the point of sale.
How did you approach the development of the Gallus One?
In addition to the Gallus Labelfire in the high-performance segment, HEIDELBERG and Gallus needed a label printing solution for the mass market. We specifically bundled our expertise to achieve this, with experts from three locations working on the Gallus One. Our new printing press combines the digital printing and software know-how of the market leader for sheetfed offset printing with Gallus’s many years of extensive experience in the field of label printing. The Gallus One is the first solution to be created using our new construction kit. The result is not only outstanding print quality and efficiency, including in terms of energy consumption, but also a high degree of automation and connectivity. We are currently using this kit as the basis for developing additional innovations.
You used the phrase “complete ecosystem”. What do you mean by that?
In addition to the technical ecosystem of the Gallus One, i.e. the combination of print head, ink and web path, this includes the surrounding software environment, programming interfaces, and data and cloud connections. This is where the synergies with HEIDELBERG are evident, because the Gallus One is connected to HEIDELBERG’s Prinect workflow. We can also connect Prinect to our customers’ existing software solutions.
What are the benefits for the customer?
As well as increasing efficiency and lowering costs, connectivity decentralizes the value chain, thereby facilitating new features such as remote control. But that is by no means all. Once machinery is connected, this also enables predictive maintenance.
Can you briefly explain what is meant by predictive maintenance?
We provide our customers with algorithms that evaluate data from certain sensors in their machinery, for example the pressure in an ink pump. This enables precise maintenance that prevents unplanned and expensive production downtime. As well as minimizing disruptive influences in the production process and stabilizing our customers’ production output, this allows us to optimize the scheduling and deployment of our service team.
Let us conclude by looking ahead: How do you expect label printing to develop in the future?
According to forecasts, the global label printing volume is set to expand by an average of 3.5 percent annually, from € 28 billion in 2021 to € 34 billion in 2027. There is a clear trend toward digital printing.
The Gallus One is the first visible product of our current innovation cycle. It brings digital label printing to the mass market.
However, another thing that is particularly close to my heart is the Gallus Experience Center in St. Gallen, which was completed recently. A touchpoint for the global narrow web industry, the center is where our technological concepts and products come to life. Gallus can look back on a century of tradition, and it is working with HEIDELBERG to address the challenges of the next 100 years.
Mr. Urbinati, thank you for talking to us.
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