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Proud to be in flexibles sector

Felicity Murray talks to Dr Jürgen Vutz, CEO of Windmöller & Hölscher, on the company’s stand at Drupa 2012

‘The Easy Way’ was Windmöller & Hölscher’s (W&H) motto at this year’s Drupa, where the company presented its new Miraflex CL 10 and developments to its Easy range of automation modules designed to shorten set-up times, increase productivity and minimise waste.

While many companies, like Benny Landa’s, were focused on presenting new digital solutions at Drupa, Vutz believes digital print is still an add-on technology, a marketing tool for a niche, although, he concedes, “it will grow”.

“Windmöller & Hölscher’s focus is on flexo and gravure, where we think there is room for improvements,” he says.

These improvements are not about speed, however. “Very few customers are looking for higher speeds – we are running machines at up to 600m/min – it is more a question of set-up time, waste reduction, and pit-stops. Hence our Easy tools.

“We have tried to simplify our technology message, which is why we chose the Easy motto to explain all our different technologies, so that everyone understands our goals and our message – to reduce setup time, and to have the kiss strength with optimum register for less waste at the end of the run.

Reducing colour matching and other setup time issues has been the main focus for W&H’s engineers over the last three to five years and the system they have developed, in co-operation with X-rite, a world leader in formulation software, is capable of reducing that time from 50% to just 20%, says Vutz.

“Four years ago we came out with an offline system for colour matching and now we have a new inline solution,” he adds.

“We have more than 300 engineers working day by day on innovations, and more than 1,500 patents – that’s a huge number. And this year we will invest more than €30 million in R&D. We want to ensure everybody gets the right solution from our company, because we are not the cheapest. On the other hand, at the end of the day, it’s the lifetime cost of a machine that counts. Like with cars, a more expensive model can be better value in the long run.”

Lutz says he is proud to be involved in the growing market of flexible packaging. “I used to work for Heidelberg, but the market for offset is shrinking, so I am very happy now to be with W&H. We have been growing faster than the market and we hope this will continue, as we aim to increase our sales turnover [from the present €550 million] to €850 million in the eight years to Drupa 2020. In 2019, we celebrate our 150th birthday.”

W&H is looking at ways to reduce the thickness of the films used in flexible packaging and help its customers create more innovative packaging on new packaging systems. “We are not just in the business of printing, but also film extrusion, and this combination puts us in a strong position because there is no other company in the world that is able to deliver both printing and extrusion machines.

“In flexible packaging, the right combination of print and film is important – our knowledge in both areas means we answer all our customers’ questions concerning the film and the printing, which puts us in a unique position in the packaging market.

“We understand the requirements – printable and sealable – and, if you have intelligent engineers, they will have ideas on how to reduce the thickness of the film by putting different materials in the layers. Everybody wants barrier film nowadays – it is becoming more and more important for the whole industry.”

Vutz felt the Drupa exhibition had a different feel this year, compared with 2008. One obvious change was in the number of Asian exhibitors – twice as many as in 2008. Asia and the BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India and China] regions are key growth areas for W&H, he says: “Growth will not happen in Europe, it will happen in Asia and the BRIC countries. The Asians are interested in high-end quality and the big European brand owners are wanting their European suppliers to follow them to Asia, so they can be sure they can deliver the same quality of products they do in Europe.

“At Drupa 2008 everyone was aware of a crisis in the air and that there was a big change coming in the global market. There is still some uncertainty among our customers over the Euro, however they believe in the future – as we do – so this year there is a more positive outlook.”


Dr Jürgen Vutz Dr Jürgen Vutz

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