On November 29, 1814, some 360 years after Gutenberg invented the hand press, fellow Germans, Friedrich Koenig and Andreas Bauer revolutionised printing when their new steam-powered double-cylinder printing press was used to print The Times in London.
Then, 190 years ago, on August 9, 1817, the two pioneers established the world's first printing press factory in a secularised monastery in Oberzell, near Würzburg. In the decades that followed this was the origin, either directly or indirectly, of all German press manufacturers, as qualified staff left to go into business for themselves.
In today's fast-paced business environment, as the entrepreneurial merits of age and tradition lose their appeal, what matters is that the ideas and innovations implemented by KBA's design engineers have often been way ahead of their time.
KBA has driven more than its fair share of advances in newspaper, sheetfed, gravure, security and other printing processes, many of which have later become the accepted industry standard.
No advances without ideas
In the course of its 190-year history, the courage of KBA to adopt new ideas has been as typical of this family enterprise as its flexibility in addressing market needs.
Examples of KBA's technological pioneering in recent years are the shaftless Comet newspaper press launched in 1995; the world's first shaftless commercial web press, the Compacta 215, in 1997; the world's first - and still unique - waterless newspaper offset press, the compact Cortina, previewed at drupa 2000; the triple-width Commander 6/2 unveiled in 2003; the world's largest sheetfed press, the Rapida 205, also unveiled in 2003; and the 18,000sph Rapida 105 B1 (41") press with no-sidelay infeed that debuted at drupa 2004.
This year KBA celebrates its 190th jubilee with the market launch of a compact conventional newspaper press, the Commander CT, in September and DriveTronic SPC dedicated plate-cylinder drives for the Rapida 105. And, says KBA, there are plenty more in the pipeline.
KBA's tireless search for new departures beyond the mainstream is founded on its total commitment to driving advances on an ongoing basis for the benefit of the print media industry. The alliance thus forged in the course of almost two hundred years has enabled the industry to square up to the manifold challenges confronting it, the most recent being the onslaught of new media.
Technology for every application
Over the past 10 years, organic growth and strategic acquisitions have enabled this family enterprise to evolve into a global operation with 8300 employees and annual sales of more than €1.7bn.
Now headed by the sixth generation of the founding Bolza-Schünemann family, the KBA group has come to symbolise continuity and dependability in a market characterised by mergers, spin-offs, the abrupt termination of heavily publicised business ventures and a one-sided focus on stock-market values.
Few manufacturers in the global marketplace can compare with KBA in terms of product diversity and in-depth competence in just about every aspect of press technology. Whether newspaper, commercial, publication gravure, decorative, security, metal-decorating and UV presses, or industrial coding with inkjet, laser or hot-foil stamping, KBA has technology offering unique features. KBA's portfolio even includes air-cleaning systems, a promising addition in view of current climate-related issues.
Long relationship with Australia, Asia
The first KBA sheetfed press to be supplied to Australia, a 10" circular motion NE letterpress machine, was shipped to Adelaide by Niemeyer, a Hamburg trading company in May, 1876, beginning a 131-year relationship between KBA and Australia. In the 1880s, according to KBA's archives, similar machines were shipped to a company called Burnip in Melbourne.
The first KBA press bound for Asia, a circular motion letterpress machine had already been shipped in 1875 to Samarang on the island of Java, Indonesia and in 1907, the company began what is today, one of its biggest export markets with the shipment of three DIX presses to China.
China has since become one of KBA's five strongest markets worldwide for sheetfed presses with more than 60 installations in large-format alone and several hundred machines in the 40" class.
Other important markets for KBA Rapida sheetfed press technology in Asia include Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan, whilst the Rapida population in the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam offers further opportunity for growth as it does in Australia and New Zealand.
KBA has shipped around 30 single-width Comet newspaper presses to China, Malaysia and Australia as well as huge KBA Commander press lines to Singapore (Singapore Press Holdings), Malaysia (New Straits Times Press) and South Korea (Dong-A-Ilbo) as well as a number of KBA Colora presses to China, South Korea, Thailand and Australia.
Meanwhile, the first 4/1 KBA Prisma newspaper press was commissioned at Thailand's Bangkok Post a few months ago.
KBA Compacta commercial web offset presses, meanwhile, have been installed in China, Thailand, South Korea and Australia and almost all state-owned banknote printers in the Middle and Far East use KBA-Giori security presses.
In the last business year, the Asia Pacific region contributed 16.4 per cent to KBA group sales with China the dominant market in the region.
Highlighted in blue in the table below are KBA milestones in Australia.
|Landmarks in KBA's 190-year history|
Friedrich Koenig, inventor of the cylinder printing press, is born in Eisleben on April 17.
Andreas Bauer, Friedrich Koenig's partner, is born in Stuttgart on August 18.
Friedrich Koenig constructs his first mechanical printing press in Suhl, still using wood for some of the parts.
Friedrich Koenig and Andreas Bauer, now in London, build the first cylinder printing press. Output: 800 sheets per hour.
A double-cylinder version of Koenig's press prints The Times - the first newspaper in history to be printed using steam. Output: 1,100sph. (pictured right)
The two men establish Schnellpressenfabrik Koenig & Bauer in a secularised monastery in Oberzell, near Würzburg, Germany.
The 11th edition of Haude & Spenerschen Zeitung in Berlin is the first newspaper on the Continent to be printed by steam, on one of Koenig & Bauer's cylinder presses.
Friedrich Koenig dies. Andreas Bauer and Fanny Koenig, Friedrich's widow, carry on the business, which makes Fanny Koenig the first female manager in Germany.
Anticipating Bismarck's welfare law by some 30 years, Fanny Koenig and Andreas Bauer establish a sickness benefit fund which is still going strong. This is later followed by a training school, an invalids', widows' and orphans' fund and a network of social institutions.
Andreas Bauer dies. Wilhelm Koenig and Friedrich Koenig Jr manage the company jointly.
Koenig & Bauer ships its first webfed press, to Magdeburger Zeitung.
The first KBA sheetfed press (circular motion 10" letterpress machine NE) is shipped to Adelaide by trading company Niemeyer of Hamburg in May.
Similar machines are shipped to a company called Burnip in Melbourne and to another user in place called 'Hoikkirili'.
Albrecht Bolza, Friedrich Koenig's grandson, joins the firm.
Koenig & Bauer moves across the river Main to its present site in Würzburg.
Koenig & Bauer becomes a limited company.
Dr Hans Bolza (1889-1986), Friedrich-Koenig's great-grandson, joins the firm.
Koenig & Bauer becomes a public limited company.
Koenig & Bauer buys up Schnellpressenfabrik Bohn & Herber in Würzburg and makes the first jaw folder.
Both Würzburg factories are completely gutted during a bombing raid.
William Brooks, Sydney takes delivery of a Courier 25 rotary letterpress machine for directory printing.
Herald Gravure, Melbourne takes delivery of a Rembrandt MTX sheetfed gravure press.
Agreement with Giori Organisation in Lausanne, Switzerland, to jointly produce security presses.
Construction of the first multicolour intaglio press for printing banknotes.
Dr Bernhard Schünemann designs a new version of the Rembrandt convertible multicolour sheetfed gravure press.
Dr Hans Bolza formally adopts Dr Schünemann. Production of the first Rotafolio two-colour sheetfed letterpress machine. Output: 8000sph.
A branch factory is built in Trennfeld and the Rotafolio is put into serial production.
Rapida 0 sheetfed offset press premieres at drupa.
The forerunner to KBA-Planeta builds the first large-format sheetfed press.
Koenig & Bauer ships the first Commander web offset press to Gérard in Verviers, Belgium.
Dr Hans-Bernhard Bolza-Schünemann is appointed president.
The first Compacta commercial web offset press is unveiled at Drupa.
Shipment to the Gazet van Antwerpen of the world's first triple-width and, with a web 2.51m wide, still the biggest-ever newspaper press, the Jumbo-Courier.
With an output of 15,000sph the Rapida SR III becomes the fastest B1 press in the world.
The first Rapida sheetfed offset press (Rapida 0) is shipped to Sydney.
William Brooks, Sydney, takes delivery of an Express offset rotary press.
2m-wide Commander web offset presses storm the US directory market.
Koenig & Bauer goes public. Capital resources exceed DM100 million for the first time.
Koenig & Bauer launches the first Rapida 104 sheetfed offset press with a unit-type design. Output: 15,000sph.
It also raises its stake in Maschinenfabrik Koenig & Bauer AG Mödling to 97 per cent.
Daily Mail in London takes delivery of the largest flexo newspaper installation in the world.
Acquisition of a majority interest in Albert-Frankenthal.
The world's first four-high anilox offset press goes into operation at Druck- und Verlagshaus Frankfurt am Main in Neu-Isenburg.
The first Rapida 104 sheetfed offset press is shipped to Melbourne.
Koenig & Bauer increases its stake in Planeta to 75.2 per cent.
Group turnover (excluding KBA-Planeta) tops one billion Deutschmarks for the first time.
KBA Colora newspaper press is launched.
KBA's Frankenthal facility ships the first rotogravure press for a web 3.18m wide.
Koenig & Bauer merges with Albert-Frankenthal to create Koenig & Bauer-Albert AG (KBA).
Launch at drupa of the first Comet shaftless newspaper press and an Express tower with automatic plate changing and inkjet imprinter.
KBA launches the world's first totally shaftless commercial web offset press, the Compacta 215.
Koenig & Bauer-Albert merges with KBA-Planeta and reverts to the name Koenig & Bauer Aktiengesellschaft (KBA).
Group sales exceed one billion euros for the first time. The waterless Cortina newspaper press debuts at drupa.
To safeguard its pole position in the global security printing market in the long term KBA acquires De La Rue Giori in Lausanne, its Swiss partner of fifty years' standing.
KBA Australasia Pty Ltd opens in Sydney.
The Gold Coast Bulletin is the first Australian newspaper to order a KBA Comet, comprising 10 reelstands, nine four-high towers and two KF 3 jaw folders; the press is due to come on stream in a new purpose-built production hall in early 2004.
Albrecht Bolza-Schünemann becomes the sixth generation of the founding family to head the company.
Acquisition of Bauer+Kunzi, a specialist manufacturer of metal-decorating presses.
Launch of a new super-large sheetfed press, the Rapida 205 for a sheet measuring 1510 x 2050mm.
Vega Press, Melbourne, first to install KBA press since establishment of KBA Australasia in Sydney.
A Commander 6/2, world's first triple-width offset press, goes live at the Tages-Anzeiger in Zurich.
Launch of a new 18,000sph version of the Rapida 105 medium-format sheetfed press.
Shipment of the world's first gravure press for a web 4.32m wide.
Acquisition of industrial ID systems and UV offset press specialist Metronic.
Acquisition of Grafitec, manufacturer of small-format presses, Dobruska, Czech Republic.
Group sales exceed €1.5bn for the first time.
Package printer, Anzpac Services, Sydney takes delivery of world's most highly specified and longest (40m) sheetfed printing press, a KBA Rapida 142, size 6 (55") with eight printing units, perfecting unit, two coating units, three drying units, triple extended delivery drying unit and automated paper feed and delivery logistics.
KBA lands major order from West Australian Newspapers Holdings (WANH, Perth for Colora press line and semi-commercial Comet press: package encompasses 24 reelstands, 24 towers with a total of 192 couples, six folders and automated reel handling systems: presses to be installed in 2006.
Group sales climb to €1.74bn.
Acquisition of Stuttgart-based LTG-Mailänder moves KBA up to the pole position in the metal-decorating press sector.
The Badische Zeitung in Freiburg becomes the first newspaper in Germany to be printed on the waterless Cortina.
KBA celebrates 190th jubilee by launching the Commander CT, compac, highly automated conventional newspaper press, and DriveTronic SPC dedicated plate-cylinder drives for Rapida 105.