The Bolza-Schünemann family has a long and proud connection with KBA. My first connection with the company, and the family, was when, in my first few weeks at Australian Printer in the 1980s, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing the then president of Koenig & Bauer, Dr Hans Bernard Bolza-Schünemann. An engineer by training and by profession, he was in Australia for KBA business, yes, but Dr Bolza-Schunemann and his wife were also excited about the opportunity to see a live performance at the Sydney Opera House they’d heard and read about so much.Later, when KBA launched its workflow, I was bemused by the title: Opera.
I smiled as I told colleagues that I knew where the idea for that name had come from. I was reminded of this time, and how long I’d been in this line of work, when met Dr Bolza-Schunemann’s eldest son, Albrecht, again recently at KBA’s Radebeul facility near Dresden in Saxony.
Though now president and CEO of KBA, Bolza-Schünemann, is a modest family man, and in keeping with his family’s musical traditions, is more likely when not working to be found relaxing playing the organ than, say, among the revellers at a rock concert.
All of which says a lot about KBA; this is a company with old-fashioned values in terms of its heritage and its commitment to precision engineering on the one hand and delivering value to its customers and, now, shareholders on the other.
But there’s nothing old-fashioned about the company’s technologies. Indeed, KBA has pioneered offset printing technologies which are now considered standard on the press offerings of competitors. Bolza-Schünemann is rightly proud of technologies his company has developed far ahead of their time, among them the super large format sheetfed press – a market which every other press manufacturer is now clamouring to enter if it hasn’t already got an offering in it.
Though KBA headquarters is officially at Würzburg in Frankish country at the northern tip of Bavaria, Bolza Schünemann has his main office at Radebeul, a suburb of Dresden where he now lives, in the Free State of Saxony.
Sadly levelled during the last weeks of World War II by allied bombing, Dresden has been undergoing dramatic reconstruction since the early 1990s when the Germanys were reunified. There is little wonder that Bolza-Schünemann – or anybody else for that matter – would want to live in this beautiful city with a mild climate on the River Elbe.
Dresden, which celebrated its 800th birthday in 2006 is known widely for its Baroque architecture, fabulous art galleries and museums and rich cultural history, all of which have led to the city being referred to in German as Elbflorenz, or ‘Florence of the Elbe’.
Today, the Radebeul printing press factory over which Bolza-Schünemann keeps a very firm eye (his younger brother and KBA vice president, Claus, is stationed in Würzburg where he is responsible for web offset manufacturing operations), is considered a jewel in the KBA crown. But is wasn’t always so.
In 1990, a year after the Berlin Wall was torn down, KBA signed a collaborative agreement with Planeta Druckmaschinenwerke which, shortly afterwards, was reconverted from a state enterprise to a pubic limited company.
By 1991, Koenig & Bauer had increased its stake in Planeta to 75.2 per cent and renamed it KBA-Planeta AG.
A year later, the entire Rapida division was transferred from Würzburg to KBA-Planeta in Radebeul.
Albrecht Bolza-Schunemann also moved from Würzburg and began the reconstruction of what had been a very innovative, yet somewhat inefficient business during its time as a state-controlled enterprise in the DDR.
“We had much to do,” remembers Bolza-Schünemann. “In socialist times, staff from the Radebeul factory were responsible for building and maintaining the roads in their neighbourhood. There was even a hairdresser employed by Planeta. All this had to change and within five years, we were able to increase both production quality and quantity as well as reducing the payroll from 5600 to 1250.”
By the time Planeta was to celebrate its centenary in 1998, KBA owned 100 per cent of the business and was gearing up to launch a new press, the high performance B1-size Rapida 105.
KBA’s investment in and eventual takeover of Planeta is one of a long line of what have turned out to be very successful acquisitions for the company.
In 2001, after working with De La Rue Giori in Switzerland for 50 years, KBA acquired 100 per cent of the company to assure its dominance in the security printing market.
In 2003, the company acquired specialist metal-decorating press manufacturer, Bauer+Kunzi, propelling it to dominance in the metal-decorating niche. Late that same year, KBA continued its strategy of buying into perceived high-growth areas with its commitment to purchase Metronic, its collaboration part ner of two years in the development of the B3 Genius 52.
Established in 1972, Metronic manufactures UV offset systems for printing CDs, CDRs, DVDs and plastic cards, as well as industrial identification devices incorporating inkjet, hot-stamping, laser and thermal transfer technology – all seen as areas with high potential for growth.
In 2005, KBA acquired Czech manufacturer of small-format presses, Grafitec in order to expand its share of the small-format sector, after dynamic growth had been seen in the global medium- and large-format markets.
After years of successful acquisitions in building and developing its product portfolio, KBA sold off its rotogravure business based in Würzburg, to specialist Italian manufacturer, Cerutti, in September of last year.
Commenting on the disposal, Bolza-Schünemann says, “In recent years, we’d been slugging it out with our competitors for a small share of a declining market.
“We chose to dispose of this small part of our business, in order to focus on areas where we see growth and the potential to earn better margins.”