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Quality need not be expensive
Baumann Maschinenbau Solms develops "low-budget machines" / Interview with Volkmar Assmann
Mr Assmann, what role does the drupa play for Baumann?
Volkmar Assmann: The drupa is the most important trade fair for the graphic arts industry world-wide. Therefore, this fair is extremely important for us as well. However, we do not expect a high number of purchase orders because the industry has not yet fully recovered from the latest crisis. At the next drupa, we primarily wish to present the progress we have made in our new developments.
Last autumn, Baumann introduced a new product line, the "Economy series". It comprises cost-favourable machines. Why do you do that?
Assmann: Its launch was a big success. The demand for reasonably priced machines is high. The problem is, however, that, for many years our customers have been reluctant to make investments, due to a variety of reasons. For them, it's an incentive to buy if we offer our products at a more favourable price. The machines of our "Economy series" are on average approximately 40% less expensive than the other machines.
What is it that the customer can't have because of the low price?
Assmann: The quality is equally high throughout. The customer must rather do without cherished habits, which means a certain amount of convenience. Our new product line is, however, also aimed at newly industrialising countries. There the price is often of much greater importance than in the Western industrial countries.
By now, China has grown into the world-wide largest market in the graphic arts industry. Does it offer business chances for Baumann?
Assmann: For us, the Chinese market is not yet relevant. This is due to the low wages still paid there. We at Baumann are placing our focus on cutting systems, i.e. on automation. So, as long as it is more favourable to perform tasks as, for instance, paper cutting or jogging manually, our machines will not be used there. If the wages in China were to rise dramatically, this would mean the emergence of a market for us. But we do not expect this to happen in the medium term.
We would also have a chance if the quality demands on printed products increased in China. This could happen if more and more American and European printing companies moved their production facilities there. Then it will not be possible to ignore us any longer.
Formerly, the USA was the largest market for the graphic arts industry. Hardly any investments have been made there for years. When do you expect a recovery?
Assmann: I don't think that we will see a noticeable recovery in the USA in the near future. The market will probably never again reach the level of 2006 or 2007. Many companies have given up or moved their production facilities to foreign countries. Nevertheless, 2012 could be better than the years before because there is an election campaign going on. Experience has shown that during election years the printing industry is on the rise, too.
What are the effects of the expansion of digital printing on the business prospects of Baumann?
Assmann: In digital printing, cutting volumes are lower because printing is done on sheets. Therefore, it does not play a significant role for us - although we have, of course, the appropriate machines for this segment, too.
Which business development do you expect for Baumann considering the rather dark prospects for the total graphic arts industry?
Assmann: We definitely expect an increase in sales, not least because we are not only a supplier for the graphic arts industry. Our systems are also used in measurement technology and the optical industry. For the current year, we have budgeted sales of 14 million euros compared to approximately 12.5 million last year. Since we are calculating with great caution, we are confident that we will actually achieve our targets.
Why is there a future for printing?
Assmann: There will always be print on paper. However, there will be changes away from the newspaper and towards advertising, for instance. Nevertheless, the total amount of printed matter will most probably decrease.
The drupa is now 60 years old. Will there still be a drupa in 60 years from now on?
Assmann: The drupa will remain of great importance in the foreseeable future. It is the marketplace where people meet, exchange ideas and make business, too. From today's point of view, it's not possible to make a reliable prediction as to whether this will still be the case in 60 years.
Which further development was the most important one since the invention of letterpress printing?
Assmann: Ironically, this is digital media, i.e. the Internet. It triggered completely different processes. Also for the printer. In addition, the Internet has created new fields of business. To give an example: the Internet printing houses. The sharpness of these changes was unforeseeable.
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.
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