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When it comes to print innovation, technology is not the only answer - Interview with Manfred Werfel

When it comes to print innovation, technology is not the only answer - Interview with Manfred Werfel

Jaiganesh M's picture


This article has first appeared in WAN-IFRA Tech Guide & Directory 2019 and reproduced here again. 

WAN-IFRA: If you look around central Europe, for example, how would you characterise publishers’ and printers’ investment strategy in their printing business? Where is the primary focus?

Manfred Werfel: In Europe, investments are still being made in newspaper technology for prepress, printing and finishing. Investments are primarily aimed at simplifying and automating processes
where it makes sense and is economically useful. 

Plate production is automated and integrated into the printing department. The CTP systems are located at the control console and are operated by the pressmen. Where the job structure is characterised by many job changes, the aim is to invest in systems for automatic or semi-automatic plate changing. 

Printing presses are equipped with closed-loop control systems for register control and colour control, but also for controlling many other functions that previously had to be controlled by the pressmen. In certain regions and markets, the equipment and retrofitting of newspaper presses with heatset dryers or UV curing systems is a field for newspaper investments. 

Publishers and newspaper printers are investing not only in technology but also in the development of new business areas such as product development, marketing, and sales.

Technology alone is not enough to meet challenges concerning the development of new products and business areas.

I quote from the colleagues at Südkurier in Konstanz, Germany, as published in the WAN-IFRA Print Innovation Awards 2018 Report: 

“What target group can’t we currently offer our advertisers? Which solutions are missing for the acquisition of new ad customers? Which products would we recommend 100% for our personal environment? What kind of product with what content do we want? And can we do something completely different? 

“These questions had long been the focus of the product managers at Südkurier media house and the idea of the #Karrieregeil [a magazine aimed at young professionals] was born just one brainstorming session later. … We need something different – a product for a young and powerful target group that Südkurier has not yet been able to serve with its products.” 

WAN-IFRA: The World Printers Forum within WAN-IFRA just published the Report “Extend the Life of Your Press.” What is the main takeaway from that report, in your opinion?

Manfred Werfel: The report is about the optimal methods of press maintenance. What is the best time to replace a defective part of a printing press? It is best to replace a faulty or damaged machine part exactly one day before it finally fails. 

But how can this time be determined? Because this seems almost impossible, many users replace critical parts on a fixed schedule. But that can be too early and cause unnecessary costs. Others replace faulty modules only after they have caused damage already. This is usually too late and increases the damage unnecessarily or even leads to a complete breakdown of the machine. 

There should, therefore, be a way to establish a proactive maintenance system that avoids the disadvantages of replacement too early or too late. But many parts of a complex production line are not accessible or cannot be viewed without dismantling the machine. So is it better to replace them regularly according to a maintenance schedule? 

Fortunately, there are possibilities for using modern technical analysis methods and sensors to actually look into the machine (and listen inside of it) without disassembling it. We present the most important methods in this report: vibration analysis, ultrasonic analysis, and thermographic image analysis. 

The availability of such analytic methods and their costs today also enable their use in small and medium-sized newspaper printing plants. In addition, printers do not necessarily have to purchase those tools themselves, since they can be used by external experts as part of a consulting project. 

Our Indian colleagues have gained a great deal of practical experience in dealing with such analysis systems in recent years, and I am pleased they are sharing their experience with all other newspaper printers in this report. 

"Condition monitoring of production equipment helps publishers and printers operate their systems more efficiently and minimise costs and effort. Ultimately, it extends the life of presses and mailroom equipment".

Manfred Werfel, WAN-IFRA Printing Expert


WAN-IFRA: What are some of the ways publishers and printers are innovating on the post-press side, but also in distribution?

Manfred Werfel: The investments in the mailroom and finishing focus on increasing productivity and production reliability, but also on expanding production diversity. Publishers and newspaper printers have long since realised that the so-called mailroom is, in reality, an integral part of newspaper production. With the help of finishing, innovative products can be manufactured, such as cold-set products with heatset covers. Inserting, stitching and trimming open up a wide range of product options. The specific advantage of finishing in newspaper production should not be underestimated: Printing and finishing can always be carried out online without delay as one continuous production process.

When it comes to personalising print products, distribution is, of course, a particular challenge. In addition to classic newspaper distribution, individual distribution via postal service providers is often used here. Some publishers and newspaper printers offer different versions of personalised products.

They operate e-commerce platforms offering a portfolio of different personalised print products, from newspapers and advertisements to supplements, brochures, and magazines. The customer has the possibility to configure her/his own newspaper product according to individual demands. The price calculation of the online system takes place in real-time and guarantees the customer full cost transparency.

Thanks to the latest inkjet technology, customers can have a self-designed newspaper produced in any quantity. While the production of a relatively short newspaper print run is not economically viable in the classic cold-set printing sector, today’s digital printing processes offer the opportunity to produce and deliver individualised newspapers in small quantities. If the printing specifications are observed, the customer can easily publish the desired number of newspapers he has created.

WAN-IFRA: What coming big trend in the printing world should we keep our eyes on?
Manfred Werfel: Print innovation is evolving in many different directions, as demonstrated by the results of last year’s Print Innovation Awards and the preview of the projects submitted for this year’s Awards.

But one area that is currently undergoing strong development is the combination of classic print and functional printing i.e. printed electronics and printed sensors.

A number of innovative print products and innovative advertisements have already been developed in this area, and we can certainly expect more exciting results to be presented in the future.

Interview by Dean Roper, WAN-IFRA Director of Insights

The Technology Directory 2019 features 7 more must-read stories, to read click here.