The pace of change in the printing industry continues to accelerate and, with their global partnership agreement, Ricoh and Heidelberg have signalled an intention to set a blistering pace
THE printing industry’s long wait ended in February when Ricoh and Heidelberg put months of speculation to rest with their announcement naming Ricoh as Heidelberg’s global partner, allowing the world’s biggest press manufacturer to re-enter the digital market, as the two companies enter a global strategic cooperation.
After the announcement, local Ricoh management and staff expressed pleasure that Heidelberg chose the company as its global digital partner. They see it as a strong endorsement of Ricoh’s progress in the production print market.
Mike Pollok, managing director Ricoh New Zealand, says, “Since entering the production print market in 2009, Ricoh has received strong support from customers and now Heidelberg has recognised the strength that Ricoh possesses in terms of its products, service and support.”
The companies’ global strategic cooperation begins with a global distribution contract for Ricoh’s production printing product portfolio, enabling Heidelberg to sell Ricoh’s latest colour digital press, the Ricoh Pro C901 Graphic Arts Edition, with Ricoh PxP chemical toner, as well as appropriate future production printing offerings in Ricoh’s pipeline.
Starting in April, the global strategic cooperation, which includes Ricoh services and support, will start with the UK and German markets followed by a phased global rollout to follow with completion targeted for drupa 2012.
BACK in 2010, when Heidelberg announced that it would name a digital partner for the 21st century, some industry pundits welcomed the move, others doubted it would happen, and some simply became apprehensive.
Respected industry expert Andrew Tribute counts himself among those who felt a little uneasy about Heidelberg’s future. He says, “When Bernhard Schreier, chairman and chief executive officer of Heidelberg announced at Ipex last year that Heidelberg would be re-entering the digital printing market through an alliance with a partner organisation, I felt somewhat apprehensive as to just what sort of agreement this would be, or even if such an agreement on Heidelberg’s terms would be possible. I know that I, and many others in the analyst community were somewhat dubious if such an agreement would be possible with a suitable partner, and also if Heidelberg really understood the digital market they planned to re-enter.”
Tribute’s concerns centred on Heidelberg’s production orientated approach when it had previously ventured into digital printing, but those fears were groundless. He says, “I was delighted to find that Heidelberg’s re-entry into digital printing is via a market driven approach. The company has carried out a major amount of research into the commercial printing market and has looked at all the different segments of the market to ascertain the area where it is most likely to succeed in providing a suitable package for the substantial Heidelberg worldwide user base.
“I think Heidelberg in choosing Ricoh as its partner for re-entry into the digital printing business has been a very astute and excellent decision.”
Tribute believes Ricoh will prove an enviable partner for Heidelberg in what he calls the value segments where digital presses would have a speed from 60 up to 90 A4/Letter pages per minute with a monthly target volume between 80,000 up to 300,000 pages per month or even more. He contends that Heidelberg also needs a partner with a press that offers quality that is the equivalent of that available in the four-colour offset and the performance digital printing segment.
Enter Ricoh, with its new digital production print engines. Tribute says, “The Ricoh C901 Graphic Arts Edition press is an excellent press that is really challenging the established players in the market for both speed and quality.” The Ricoh Pro C901 Graphic Arts Edition features a production speed of 90ppm in the digital value segment providing production speeds between 60ppm and 90ppm with an actual monthly production volume from 80,000 to 300,000 A4 pages and beyond.
MOST analysts agree that the combination of Ricoh and Heidelberg resources provides the companies with some dream solutions. Tribute says, “While Ricoh has a great distribution channel into the enterprise and office markets for both sheet fed and continuous feed printers and presses, it has a limited presence in commercial printing. This provides a great opportunity for Heidelberg to use its worldwide distribution as the leading supplier in the commercial printing industry to really establish itself as a key digital player.
He continues, “Heidelberg will also move slowly into the market as it develops its expertise and offerings. It is not aiming at the specialised personalisation markets of sophisticated direct mail leaving these to other suppliers, but it will no doubt offer software to allow its customers to handle personalisation of output.”
Locally, we will wait until the UK and European roll outs have taken place before we know exactly how the global agreement will take shape in New Zealand. Ricoh New Zealand’s team has worked hard over the past two years to establish itself as a serious competitor in the digital production print market and it sees the Heidelberg deal as confirmation that it has moved in the right direction. Mark Burgess, national high volume specialist at Ricoh New Zealand says, “Heidelberg is an iconic brand and for it to form a strategic partnership with Ricoh says something about our product and service capability and that is something the New Zealand market has already recognised.”
THE bosses at Ricoh and Heidelberg agree with Andrew Tribute’s assessment. Bernhard Schreier, chief executive officer of Heidelberg, says, “In Ricoh, the rising star in production printing, we have found an ideal strategic partner who shares our values of customer focus, environmental sustainability, innovation, quality, and customer service.”
Shiro Kondo, president and chief executive officer of Ricoh, says, “In today’s climate it is important that commercial printers have the right tools to be versatile, and meet both long and short run requests. Heidelberg is the gold standard in commercial and packaging printing. This partnership demonstrates its confidence in our digital technology and the ability of Ricoh to meet the needs of the graphic arts industry.”
The companies’ future plans include integration with Heidelberg’s workflow solution in the graphic arts industry, Prinect, as well as joint development activities for future printing applications. Schreier says, “By rounding off our offset portfolio including Anicolor technology with new digital printing equipment, we are providing our clients the combination of best-in-class offset, and now also digital printing-technology. Utilising both, our customers are able to offer variable data printing as well as shorter runs, next to their established cost-effective and high end quality offset printing. With this new partnership we will also address customer demands in the broad spectrum of hybrid print applications, i.e. the combination of offset and digital printing within a single print product.”
Long term agreement
WHILST both companies have expressed excitement at the immediate prospects, they will also work toward securing a formidable set of long-term goals. Tribute sees many opportunities for Ricoh, Heidelberg and the larger print community. He says, “The agreement with Ricoh should not just be looked at for just the initial offering. Heidelberg and Ricoh see this as a long term partnering agreement where Heidelberg will work with Ricoh on the development of future presses to expand the product range, perhaps incorporating Heidelberg’s expertise in paper handling and colour control. Overall I am pleased to say I have been delighted to see the change in role of Heidelberg, to switch from being an engineering driven company to a market driven company. I like the strategy they are adopting and think the partnership with Ricoh gives them great opportunities for the future. I think that it shows that offset and digital printing work together, and that offset has a major part to play in the future of the industry.”
Shiro Kondo shares a similar perspective, concluding, “Together, we are in a strong position to support businesses seeking to extend their existing equipment and services with a digital solution.”
Ricoh Pro C901
The Pro C901 supercedes Ricoh’s ProC900, with which the company launched itself to the graphic arts world at drupa three years ago, and has proved successful.
Ricoh has aimed the new colour digital Pro C901 printer squarely at the commercial graphic arts market. It can produce a 400 page, A4 double-sided report, with bleed up to three sides, glued and bound, all in the one production line, without human intervention, with up to 250 spot colours per page.
Ricoh says the Pro C901 has a monthly duty cycle of 580,000 and uses new fine toner, technology, as well as upgraded engine and digital front end technology, and has a host of inline finishing solutions. It comes with a speed of 90ppm for stock up to 300gsm, with no reduction in output for heavier stocks.
• Monthly duty cycle of 580,000 pages.
• Rated speeds of 90 A4 colour pages per minute, including duplex mode, for non-stop productivity regardless of paper weight.
• Chemical PxP toner of offset-like reproduction.
• EFI Fiery print controller offers advanced colour and job management tools
• 100-sheet multi-position stapling, optional hole punching, plus a 3000-sheet Shift Tray.
• Ring binder: The world’s first inline ring binder. Automatically punch, collate and apply choice of two ring sizes to 50-100 sheet documents with no intervention.
• Booklets: The Booklet Finisher offers multi-position stapling of up to 100-sheets, stacking of up to 2500 sheets, saddle-stitching finishing and folding – plus an optional Trimmer Unit for a flush finished edge.
• Hole punch: Variety of interchangeable die sets to punch pages individually, then bind offline.
• Perfect binder: hot glue books up to 400 pages with cover and three-sided trim.