In the space of less than three years Heidelberg has become a major consumables supplierActually Heidelberg has been supplying consumables for far longer than three years, but it was only at the beginning of 2006 that the company in Australia took the decision to establish a separate consumables division, with its own divisional head and dedicated staff.
Bill Wall, who became that divisional head as sales manager consumables Australia and New Zealand, a position he still occupies, says, “Obviously a company like Heidelberg had always considered that printers would benefit if it supplied consumables. Its decision to establish a distinct consumables division was based on creating a clear structure as a separate entity. We recognised the need to have a dedicated divisional head to drive the business, and distinct staff to provide the dedicated support to the nation’s printers, staff that were consumables driven.”
At the time the consumables division was established Wall himself was southern area sales manager at Heidelberg ANZ, and prior to that was small offset manager, so clearly a Heidelberg man through and through. Together with product management head Glenn Plummer they put up a proposal to Heidelberg to create the consumables division, which management readily accepted. Wall says, “We all recognised that Australia’s printers could benefit from Heidelberg supplying consumables, everyone knows our pressroom experience is second to none.” With the majority of the nation’s printers running Heidelberg presses it is easy to see why Heidelberg believes it has plenty to offer. Wall says, “In these busy times, with little room for manoeuvre it is clearly an attractive option for a printer to have one point of reference in the pressroom. If something is not printing correctly it can be very hard for printers to determine where the problem lies, is it the press, the fount solution, plates, blankets, inks, some combination of two or more of these, where does he start. For those printers that run Heidelberg presses with Heidelberg consumables it is very straightforward, they just call us and we take care of it – no one else can make that claim across the entire sheetfed production cycle.”
Heidelberg has grown its consumables business steadily, and now has dedicated consumables staff in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, as well as Auckland. In addition the company is now looking at WA and SA as the next locations.
Key to the success of the division is long time product manager Kevin Birch. Says Wall “Before we established the dedicated team, Kevin drove the business through the equipment account managers and brought on many of the new products required to grow business as we have”. The product role has also expanded and Birch has consumables technicians based in Melbourne and Sydney to support customers day to day on technical matters. “They work hand in hand with our print instructors and prepress technical staff”, says Birch, “their job is to make sure customers get optimum performance from the equipment / consumables combination”
Wall says, “We try to show the value in good partnerships. That is partnerships with our suppliers and partnerships with our customers.”
Inks were the key consumable to come into the Heidelberg stable, and now with plates, rollers and chemicals as well, all under the Saphira brand, Heidelberg has a full portfolio of consumables. Heidelberg sells both branded and own branded products, in plates for instance it sells both Agfa and Kodak products, but also its own specially designed and manufactured plates, usually for speciality applications. Wall says, “These own branded products may be simply unavailable elsewhere, as Heidelberg has commissioned the specifications according to the needs of its customers. And with vast experience as the world’s number one press manufacturer we are acutely aware of the requirements of printers.”
Its part in the Australian ink market is now significant, it is currently selling around 40 tonnes of ink a month, and is also a significant plate supplier. Although most plate deals go with Heidelberg CTP units more and more plates are supplied unbundled – a sign of customers recognising the Saphira brand as great value for money.
Wall says, “Being part of the world’s biggest press manufac turing organisation clearly gives us and our customers some pretty big advantages. However printing is not a one size fits all process, and what may be good for a printer in Germany or the UK will not necessarily be the best option here in Australia. That is why all our consumables products are quality tested here, because the Australian printing experience has its own factors, which we address.”
Heidelberg does sell its Saphira into non-Heidelberg print shops, but with around two thirds market share in offset sheetfed clearly Heidelberg printers are its key sector. However Wall says, “It is far from a given that Heidelberg printers will use Heidelberg consumables. We need to demonstrate that not only are the products that we supply of high quality, but that our service is at the level our customers expect. We do of course make a major point of our service levels , which we believe are at a very high level.”
The figures would indicate that the market is more than satisfied with the Heidelberg consumables business plan, sales rose last month by a record 17 per cent to the highest level ever. Wall says, “As the print community hears more about Heidelberg consumables, and particularly the one point of responsibility in the pressroom when there is a Heidelberg press, then the business will continue to grow well.”
Saphira Consumables from Heidelberg are available online, from the Heidelberg online shop. Printers can access the shop 24 hours a day. Heidelberg has gone further than merely setting up an online store, it creates individual customer shopping list for each plant and each machine, shoppers can then add the items to their cart as needed knowing they suit the intended purpose and confident they will fit. Wall says, “Heidelberg knows which products are suitable for which presses, so we create tailor made shops for each customer. So for instance if a printer has a pair of 75cm presses his A2 lists will not include 105cm plates or blankets for another format. This makes it easier and quicker for the customer to choose the necessary consumables.”
Heidelberg launched its on line shop more than a year ago, to mixed response. Wall says, “Some companies really take to it, whereas others prefer more traditional methods of ordering. Either is good, our aim is to make life easy for our customers, and the online shop provides some customers with that ease of use.”