Welcoming the world

There's no doubt this Drupa faced perhaps the greatest challenge in the trade show's 60-year history. Almost immediately after the doors closed on the record high of Drupa 2008, the world's economies came crunching to a halt. Did this financial disaster dampen the spirits of the organisers of the biggest event on the global printing industry calendar? Not at all, says trade show director Manuel Matare:, from organiser Messe Düsseldorf, and exhibition president Bernhard Schreier:, chief executive of Heidelberg, who are expecting this year's exhibition to be a landmark in cooperation and technological advances.

ProPrint's readers – Australian and New Zealand printers – are as far away from Düsseldorf as you can possibly get. Why should our readers come all the way over here for the show, especially in the modern age, where information is so immediate and available online?

BERNHARD SCHREIER: It's very simple. Yes, your readers who are so far away are not far away from information –you can get information from anywhere. The question is how reliable is that information. At Drupa, you can talk to people face to face and touch equipment and get a demo and find out what others think about it.

You cannot find that in a chat room, because you don't know how reliable that information is. Some machinery will not be shipped to Australia to showcase. You have to come and see and experience it, and there is no better possibility than Düsseldorf. You won't see it at a Graph Expo in the US, you won't see it at an IGAS in Japan and you might not see the performance equipment at China Print in Shanghai.

Australia and New Zealand are industrialised nations, so they need to go where industrialised exhibits are done and they are done in Düsseldorf at Drupa. This is why it's worthwhile coming. Heidelberg's biggest group coming from overseas beside Japan is Australia.

MANUEL MATARE: It's a really valuable experience and also a good deal. The exchange rate is favourable, Australians love to travel, and besides the technology part, it's a human experience to come here and to smell, to touch and to experience and to be together and talk.

Schreier: Just to come and look is not enough. People should come and talk – talk to peers, talk to their colleagues in the European and North American markets, because they suffer the same challenges as in Australia and New Zealand.

Bernhard, you are the president of Drupa 2012. What does the role entail?

SCHREIER: I represent the exhibitors, and the German Manufacturing Association, the EDMA, which has been partnering Drupa since 1950. This association nominates the president of Drupa and he represents the exhibitors. So my role is in partnership with the Messe Düsseldorf to promote Drupa worldwide and to be the highest representative of the exhibitors.

We have heard that the number of visitors at Drupa 2012 is expected to be down on past shows. As organisers, are you more interested in quantity or quality of visitors and exhibitors?

SCHREIER: With the exhibitors, we plan our marketing activities very carefully. Of course, Drupa is a dedicated print professionals' show. There is an advisory board that checks on new exhibitors, what are they exhibiting, what do they want to exhibit. As an example, one company wanted to exhibit pallet? That was an obstacle. We said 'no', because they are not dedicated to the print media industry. A forklift can also lift cases of wine.

So there is advice by the exhibitors' committee on both quality of exhibits and also on new ways to approach visitors. We can debate [the relevance of] students who visit Drupa. If they are students of the media, on the creative side, on brand management, they may be visitors of the future.

To me it's always important that we debate the trends of the industry in the Drupa Committee, to know where the industry is going, and then after that a discussion about how can we showcase these trends, and how can we support our customers in using these trends for their future businesses.

So maybe forklifts and pallets are a step too far from printing. But printers themselves are changing. They now call themselves 'print service providers' or 'marketing communication companies'. As Drupa organisers, are you also pushing upstream and how far do you go in that direction?

SCHREIER: It is important to limit the show so those being addressed are those who want to make money with print. In the upstream example you just mentioned, that is about how we can help printers sharpen their view on their own customers. What will be future needs of your customers? How can you satisfy these needs with investment or with integration or with software? It is always about the enabling process for printers, for those who provide print or who finish print. That is the intent with the Drupacube [a space at the show aimed at printers' customers], to really create interest for the print buyers, so that they learn what's available. If these print buyers don't know what's available in terms of printing, why should they order it? You have to put teasers on the table and say 'look how nice print can be' and 'look what print can do for your business'.

Drupa is a technology show, but more and more exhibitors are trying to help educate their customers about applications and show them how to make money from their technology. How can the Drupa organisers make the show about more than just the products and help visitors understand new applications?

MATARE: Very interesting question. Until Drupa 2000, there was no site program, no tutorial programme, no conferences, no meetings. It was strictly machinery on the floor and nothing behind closed doors. Now there are all kinds of seminars going on. There is the directors' club present-ation, which is not about machinery. There are the Drupa Highlight Tours, which didn't exist until eight years ago, that aim to bring new customers, new visitors and new people to Drupa. People who are new to the industry may still think of Drupa as an engineers' show. We tell them: "No, it is still a dedicated engineers' show, but it is more."

The Global Financial Crisis must have affected R&D budgets. Do you expect to see a change in the number of new machines at Drupa because of cuts in R&D over the past four years?

SCHREIER: I think there will be some very new developments in different places during the show, across offset printing, flexo printing and digital printing. Everybody tries to get into the mainstream of printing, especially those in the digital area. Vendors don't stop trying to come up with new technologies. Maybe one has a new idea of how to overcome technological hurdles. I'm curious, to be very honest. I'm not leaning back and saying 'there will be nothing new'. On the contrary, there will be – for certain applications. That's the point. It will not be the 'I can do everything' approach. There will be very, very smart new developments for certain applications, where a customer will come and say: "Hey, in my entire working life I was looking for that solution and now it's here." It will not be the big bang, but it will be very specific and so that's why it's worthwhile coming and discovering that.

Do you mean that exhibitors have been more discerning about where to spend R&D budgets to make sure they develop technology people want?

SCHREIER: Yes, because the money that was spent on R&D over the past four years was much more selectively spent, with a lot more reflection about what does the market need, and, therefore, special solutions will be there, which will really fit them to specific customer needs. Drupa is a very strong brand internationally. I look at what Ipex has done internationally, with new shows in different geographies. Could Drupa do this? Could you see a Drupa in Asia, for instance?

MATARE: First of all, the policy of Messe Düsseldorf is that we do not believe in mushrooming our number one trade shows. For the time being, and also for the past 20 years, Drupa is Düsseldorf. There is no Drupa China, no Drupa Asia wherever, no, there is an expectation here that we are not multiplying or mushrooming Drupa.

Yes, we have been organising All In Print China, yes, we'll be doing a trade show in Indonesia in a couple of weeks' time, but not under the name or brand of Drupa. We have a commitment together with the Drupa Committee, the one and only Drupa is in Düsseldorf.

Are you thinking about Drupa 2016 yet?

MATARE: Of course, we are always thinking about Drupa 16 and other years. Part of the job of the committee is to discuss and together decide the timing of the trade show, the interval until the next trade show, the duration of the trade show. One thing is almost for sure, it will always be in May or June. This is going to be Drupa number 15 and out of those, seven or eight were in June, and seven or eight were in May. That has to do with the timing of the trade show itself, and with the number of public holidays.

SCHREIER: And on the last day of Drupa, there is always the announcement for the next Drupa. It is like the Olympic Games, when you hand over. The only difference to the Olympic Games is that we don't change the place.

There have been a lot of announcement about partnerships among exhibitors recently: Heidelberg and Ricoh, Canon and Océ, Océ and Manroland – the list goes on. With the market heading in this direction and with more consolidation of companies, does that mean that Drupa will continue to become a smaller show?

MATARE: Over 60 years, Drupa has always grown. In fact, Drupa 2012 is the first-ever Drupa that has not seen the growth, possibly because 2008 was the biggest show that ever existed. If a company undergoes a merger and acquisitions, then one plus one sometimes equals one point eight, and in other cases it means two. It depends on the company. Is it a full merger and acquisition, is it a cooperation?

SCHREIER: In my belief, it will be bigger in the future than in the past. Print will be even more diverse in the future than it was in the past. Those who think they can make money and just standardise might only be a small group. The much bigger group will make money out of specialisation and for specialisation, they need special solutions. If not, they cannot differentiate. If there is pressure from their customers for a better, more sophisticated solution, the printer needs to specialise and we as suppliers have to follow. This is why we might see even more diverse in the future than today. People love to come up with an overall theme for Drupa, such as the 'inkjet Drupa' or the 'JDF Drupa'. Do you see any macro themes for Drupa 2012?

SCHREIER: In my opinion it will not have a technology theme. Inkjet is just a technology. It is more a question about business ideas on the one hand and integration of technologies on the other. Business doesn't need just one technology to fulfil needs: it needs the integration of many technologies. This is why I would rather talk about integration than about a specific printing technology. I mean, we had a 'digital Drupa' in 1980…


SCHREIER: Yes, but if you now called it a digital Drupa, people would say: "What, sorry, this is 32 years later, no this cannot be. What happened to digital up until now?" It made its way but it never entered into the mainstream of printing. Now inkjet is everywhere today. Inkjet has different applications, different formats, different technologies, different inkjet heads, whatever. Therefore, is it the 'inkjet Drupa'? Inkjet is simple. Everyone who can implement an inkjet head into any device has a new machine, which spits ink on walls, on paper, on desks, on whatever. You can do anything with sophisticated inkjet heads.

This is not a new technology. It has been there for a long time. It is more or less expensive, it is more or less reliable, but it is not new. From an application point of view, the question is: "How do I use new technologies and maybe even combinations of these technologies for applications that the customers needs."

Is there anything else you want to add for the ProPrint readers?

MATARE: Yes, the very human point. Australians will have a great time when they are in Düsseldorf in May. We –- the organisers, the exhibitors and the city of Düsseldorf – will do everything we can to enure they are having a great technology time, a great human time: a good time.

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