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Industrial cutting machines from the Internet

Cutting machine manufacturer Polar Mohr uses new sales channels / The countdown to drupa 2012 has started

(PresseBox) (Frankfurt, ) .
Interview with Alfred Henschel

Mr Henschel is the speaker of the general management of Polar Mohr at Hofheim am Taunus, a manufacturer of cutting machines, above all for post-press operations. Among other things, he talks about new strategies used by Polar in response to the difficult situation of the traditional printing machinery manufacturers.


Mr Henschel, Polar Mohr`s customers are mainly the large printing machinery manufacturers. They are not doing well due to the economic climate. How do you react to that?

Alfred Henschel: We still rely on the traditional sales channels, for example our sales cooperation with Heidelberger Druckmaschinen which has existed for many years and also helped to consolidate our market leadership on an international basis. In parallel, however, we are pursuing new paths, above all in the rapidly growing digital print arena. Its dynamic growth potential was not recognized for a long time. This market is booming, and we are preparing ourselves for it. Last year, for the first time, we offered a cutting machine for digital printers over the Internet and thus made the price transparent – which previously was a taboo for reasons of competition. Since then, the order volume for this machine has nearly doubled. We cannot afford to pay high sales costs for small cutting machines like the ones mostly required in digital print production. That`s the reason for the new sales channel.

Polar Mohr sells more than 90 per cent of its products in the printing machinery market. But we are also active in other industries. Besides selling to printing houses, we sell our machines above all to the paper industry and to companies which cut films/foils and partly exotic materials like cork.

Isn`t there a risk in digital printing that finishing processes like cutting will also be integrated in the machine so that cutting machines will soon not be needed any longer?

Henschel: No. It always depends on the quality demands. Simple processes have already been integrated into the digital printing process, above all in prepress. High-quality print products require high-quality print finishing. This only works with external machines. Take, for example, the photo book which is printed as a “book on demand”. You want it to look good. This cannot be done “inline”. This can only be achieved with an external cutting machine.

Polar Mohr is a global market leader for cutting machines. What are your largest markets?

Henschel: Europe and North America are still our most important markets. In each of them, we have a share of approximately 65 per cent. Most recently, the development of markets has, however, strongly differed. In the USA, we have a consistent decline in sales since the global economic crisis. In South America, on the other hand, business has picked up. In the German-speaking area, business is excellent at the moment.

In China, the situation is diverse. On the one hand, we are competing with a large number of domestic suppliers in this huge country. On the other hand, there are definitely chances where Chinese customers produce for export markets. They must offer high quality, and this also means: high-tech cutting machines.

How strongly did the global economic crisis affect Polar Mohr?

Henschel: During good years, our company made sales of approximately one hundred million Euros. In 2009, we had to cope with an approximately 50 per cent slump. We hope that we will be able to achieve 70 per cent of the sales of 2008 by the time of the next drupa. Provided, of course, that there will not be another economic slump. We see, however, no concrete indications that this will happen.

How do you see the perspectives of Polar Mohr in the medium term?

Henschel: The printing machinery market is changing very strongly. In the end, we no longer expect it to show significant growth. This is why we are entering new markets. For example in packaging machine manufacturing. Recently, we took over Dienst Verpackungstechnik. This company manufactures cartoning machines, i.e. machines and systems for the packaging of goods. We see big growth chances in the packaging technology segment. The new company is based at neighbouring Hochheim. The advantage is that both companies can support each other in a flexible way in day-to-day business and that we can thus create synergy effects.

Polar Mohr is a family-owned company. Are the owners supporting this strategy?

Henschel: Of course. The company has been owned by the Mohr family since 1906. Since then, it has been managed with strong continuity. The structure as a family-owned company is crucial for our success as a medium-sized company. Large companies are sometimes quick at entering new markets, but often also equally quick at leaving them. We are moving forward in small steps – and are staying. We finance our growth on our own, not like the big ones with borrowed capital.
Key questions

Why is there a future for printing?

Henschel: To this day, there has never been a medium that has been replaced by another one; this is why paper will always exist. And, in addition, paper will always be an advertising medium. There will, for example, always be labels. The recognition value of a product lies in the label, not in the name.

The drupa is now 60 years old. Will there still be a drupa in 60 years from now on?

Henschel: The drupa is simply by far the greatest innovation fair. It is used as an orientation by the total industry. The industry needs this platform for an exchange of information; therefore, there will still be a drupa in 60 years from now on – although it will no doubt have taken on a different complexion by then. After all, it changed during recent years already. You only need to have a look at the exhibitors of previous drupas in comparison to which companies are participating now.

Which further development was the most important one since the invention of letterpress printing?

Henschel: Digitalisation has revolutionised the printing technology. There is hardly any other invention that has changed the printing process so quickly and so strongly. Print products can also be put on the Internet, and what can be found on the Internet is, for example, printed on the packaging. Digitalisation creates new competitive situations and new business models in the printing industry that no one would have dreamed of fifteen or twenty years ago.

The drupa trade fair takes place in Düsseldorf from 3 to 16 May 2012. A trade show organized every four years, it is by far the largest event of the printing industry world-wide. This is where trends are set for the years to come.

The German printing machinery industry is the global market leader and will continue to maintain this status in future as well. Every month in the run-up to the drupa, the VDMA will offer an interview with one exhibitor of the industry in the form of a press release.