Andreas Weber has been a voice in the printing industry for many years. A man with strong opinions, and seen by some as controversial. In this, ‘Over the Skype’ session, he explains his background, and the values his communication is based upon. Just a few days before this recording Andreas Weber sends an open love letter to the printing community about his relationship to Heidelberg through many years.
You can find the story here:
It’s in German, but it is easy to understand with Google Translate.
As with all our ‘Over the Skype’ interviews, quality is limited to bandwidth, web-cams, and ability to literally LIVE mix the conversations. However, it works, and with Over the Skype, we will bring you more than 20 exciting people, and angles on the industry as it is right now.
This is Morten from INKISH.TV. And today I have actually a very special guest to me because I think that some will say that he is controversial, I would say that some might think of him as a very experienced specialist in the printing industry, some will even think of him as a very good communicator, and beside that which I agree to, I’m also very proud that my guest today is our Country Manager, CEO of INKISH D-A-CH, D-A-CH for those who don’t know that, that’s Dutchland, Austria and Switzerland. And his name is Andreas Weber. So Andreas Weber welcome to over the Skype.
Thank you Morten. What a great day today and it’s a great honor for me to be your guest. And I hopefully we’ll have a great conversation for sure.
Yeah, I think I’m more honored than you because one of the reasons that we got to know each other is because you have been a very good user of some of our tools like INKISH News. And I know that you have also both shared and commented on some of the INKISH.TV and things. And that was basically how we got to know each other. How did you find INKISH the first time?
I think by chance, it’s maybe many, many years ago. And when I went to trade shows around the globe, I always was watching you, seeing you from behind because you were running so fast to catch up with the next interview partner. And basically it was you got my attention last year, you’re in Hunkeler Innovationdays because of your great comment you published afterwards. And I have the pleasure to relate to you since that time. And I also made you part of my ‘valued publishing universe’, and we exchange ideas, we exchange opinions and it was wonderful. And when you started, I think in August with a better face of INKISH News, I was amazed because it was the first time that I could see all of this guy you got it. It’s a platform which allows that everybody of us could contribute. And this is a great idea that to have a common publishing platform to spread out all of our good messages, opinions and maybe also critique.
Yeah. And that is a one of the things that I wouldn’t think I have a planned. I hadn’t planned it I would say is that INKISH News has become a less of… When we started it, it was because I was basically sick and tired that almost every other media in the printing industry was bringing press releases almost as if it was original content produced by themselves, which all of the people in the press know that it is not. So I thought, okay, if we have a platform where people can put all the press releases, all the case stories, all the product news and information, then we could focus on stories that are more important.
So, but that has actually changed a little bit because I think also thanks to you and to some of the people that you have introduced me to, INKISH News has become in a very short time a media where we get a lot of people that ask us to also make stories and create stories that have critical angles to the industry. And I think that is also something that you like not to be critical, but to take the discussions in open, right?
Yes. And I like this collaborative approach you enable us to have with INKISH News because it’s not the typical way that every article has to be streamlined to a certain editorial concept, it’s open, it’s free, it’s a waiver, in the basis it’s a freemium service, which is very unusual, and you are winning my heart with that because as an analyst most of my work in the last 25 years was something like non-disclosure, it was a secret. And so I found myself discovered a way by using setting up blogs and blogging and also using Twitter and LinkedIn just to spread out ideas, and the idea is not to become a hero of having the biggest reach, that if you have good content that just happens. It’s about sending out your message, spread it, have the right hashtags and all of a sudden you get in touch with people you would have never known.
And that is what I has, I wouldn’t say that have made you famous because you have been writing books, you have been editor for a magazine, you’ve been part of the industry for many years. So now we dig a little bit into the content creation part of it. Can you to the audience say, give a brief summary about who Andreas Weber is and what is it you do besides being INKISH D-A-CH.
Okay. So therefore in have my latest blog post and I choose Medium to publish about that. I have a very long tradition in the printing industry in crafting arts, going back to the 80s, and I grew up as a young man, very innocent, maybe very stupid at that time, maybe also stupid today, I don’t know. And I was all of a sudden, more or less by chance, I was in the middle of this desktop publishing revolution. And I worked for [inaudible 00:06:11] at that time for the daughter company Compugraphic. And my job was to set up a postscript image set of business. And that was an amazing time because it was so disruptive, I think more disruptive than today. And I got in touch with people in California joining Seaboard Conferences and it was all about having a good debate. And I will never forget seeing Steve Jobs and others, John Warner, Bill Gates on stage. And there were really fighting because at that time, as they had to find the best standardized technologies. And that was my start. And then I became a knowledge worker.
And that has led to a lot of interesting insights and information, and also being the analyst that you are. Before we talk about, you recently or actually a couple of days ago, you sent an open love letter to the printing industry about Heidelberg. But before we do that, talk about that. I would like to talk about a post that you said a couple of weeks ago where you gave a story about how you were almost put in the position to accept bribery for putting some special words in the mouth of the audience. Can you explain a little bit what that is about?
That was in my early phase when I was a journalist working for [inaudible 00:07:45] Magazine and I was really schocked. I was in the age of around 27, and it was my first international press conference I had to join because my boss, the editor-in-chief, he wasn’t able to make it. So he said, “Oh, Andrea’s do it. You will get a great impression.” And then everything was fine and it was something like a VIP event and it was wonderful. But at the end of the press conference the person who invited us from the supplier side, all of a sudden he gave an envelope to all those editors-in-chief. I was the only non-journalist working as an editor. They were all the bosses from all famous trade magazines and they got this envelope and I got it too. And I just put it in my pocket. And when I came home, I opened it and it was a check. So they paid us or they tried to paid us just to make sure that the press release texts will not change and one-to-one be published in those magazines. And I was really shocked.
The reason why I wanted to just let the audience listen to this story is because I think that it has… What I learned from you talking to you is that that has influenced you more than maybe most people think of because that has given you a critical view to all news that is published in the world, I guess. But it has also given you a lot of the journalistic principles that you’re working after with being independent. And sometimes when I lean my shoulders to you, you tell me that being a journalist and having the journalistic principles for how you work, you need to have the… I don’t know the words for it, but you have to understand that sometimes you have to also bring unpopular stories to the audience because that is where you really shines in the sense of being independent. Does that resonate with you or?
Absolutely. And I have a humanistic background. I studied in humanity and during my studies I started to work in a big, big printing company and a newspaper publishing company running a commercial print department as well. And so as a humanist, I live for free ideas, for sharing your opinion, your thoughts, and it’s all about a good conversation, getting critique, re-think and reflect on your own ideas and it’s an ongoing thing. And if a person is coming and maybe at that time it’s more than 30 years ago, it was the first form of paid media. And there is something on top I didn’t mention at that time. And then I figured out that all big influencers at that time, they got paid as well. That’s amazing, because if you know they get paid, that’s okay. [inaudible 00:11:07] you believe on what they talk and it’s not their thinking, it’s not their own thought, it’s a form of prostitution, I have to say, in a bad way.
In a bad way. Yeah. And that also leads me to another concern that we have discussed is that the print market today when it comes to the media may not be as transparent as some people believe. But that is one thing that’s up to the editors and the owners and the publishers on how they do things. But you sometimes even raise concerns that there could be an illegal information. Like an example, if you bring let’s say an article that is paid for but it is not declared as paid for in Germany, that is essentially illegal, right?
Yeah, absolutely. And that happened in the past for many, many years in very famous magazines. And I think the publisher, he didn’t know that, but some of his editors they got paid for, copy and paste and claim it with their own name. They got paid for that. And this is illegal.
Yeah. And that leads to another story that you also were, I think that was your April’s Fools article that you brought both on INKISH News as well as on ValueTrendRadar is the fact that maybe not paid for content, but we have seen, for example, with the article about Sabine Geldermann from DRUPA talking to the industry about why they had to postpone the 2020 Edition, both you and I figured out that it appeared in many different media but not with DRUPA as the center of it. And that is, I wouldn’t say that it’s critical from that perspective, but I think it’s like fooling your audience basically.
Yeah. It’s not very honorful. And maybe those people doing that, they have the problem that their income stream from advertising went down so they don’t have the time, they don’t have a good reason for creating their own content because to publish and write it’s very time intensive. It eats your time. But this for me the challenge, to take the time in special moments and when I go back to the last four weeks since we have that locked down, I’m so productive, I’ve written more or less two different books in that time. Writing idea for me, it’s a way to express myself and also to get a clear thinking to write a book. It’s the best way for having the best mindset you need.
When you look at… The reason why I try to bring these stories forward in our conversation is I think that also writing, sharing films and articles and opinions for example about Heidelberg, I think it is given… INKISH has been phenomenal because we publish this film interview with Peter Sommer from Elanders. I think that it’s been a blockbuster for INKISH, and I’ve be surprised how many people were interested in listening to it and also engaging both publicly and privately with us afterwards. But some of the bad tongues in the industry may think that your interest in the stories about, for example, Heidelberg is way more about getting more traffic to Andreas Weber so you can become even more famous and fuel your social media economy. What is your opinion about that criticism?
It’s a good point. And maybe people can get that idea if they don’t know who I am and what I do. Based on those experiences I made in the past, I have a very strong value system. And therefore in 2007, I created a company and the name of the company is a Value Communication, and it’s based really on my value system with that humanistic background. And what I want to do is I have a lot to do with people in the hardware and software business. And my idea was we need also brainware. And so part of my business is I call it Rent A Brain. And that means people can have access to me and they can ask me questions, I think about it and I give feedback, but nobody could influence the quality of my feedback.
So that’s the point. And besides that for sure, I have done a lot of projects, and those projects are based on the same value system. And it’s about not, I have a budget. I never joined a pitch, never in my life. And I did more than 500 innovation projects using my brain and getting the best configuration for the best team to solve an issue. And that’s it.
But maybe I was not clear in my question. I was more curious about when you for example write a post about a Heidelberg Strategy, or you have a very open communication with Peter Sommer about his opinions about how the Heidelberg Strategy. You and I have had these discussions as well. Is it just because you want to drive traffic to your website, is that the main purpose of being a, I wouldn’t say provocative because I don’t think you’re provocative for the sake of being provocative, but is that what fuels you? Is that the traffic that is generated towards the things that you are involved with or how do you see that?
Yep. The funny point is actually those discussions around Heidelberg for sure create awareness. And for some people it sounds like whoa, it’s a big bang. When I go back to my history when I joined Canon Expo in Paris, [inaudible 00:18:02] Conferences in North America we got a much bigger audience in highlighting what is good, what is bad, where we could improve, what are the real trends? And this always in having interview partners and conversations like we have. And so Heidelberg is important, but what I want to have more traffic, I need to cover other topics, it’s working much better. I’m happy that some of the people listen to what is going on because I think we are in a very strange situation actually, and maybe we can come back to that, but it’s compared to the traffic normally I can generate, look, I had a 6.5 million impressions via a Twitter only reporting about the last turbine in the year 2016. That is it.
Yeah. Okay. I just have to say, okay. So that’s great. But one of the things I recall as well is that in one of your articles, you write that for example, when you joined the Siebel Conferences that it was almost a law that you have to raise criticism as long as it’s a constructive criticism, criticism is basically what fuel development and fuel ideas and things like that. So that was part of the DNA of the Siebel Conferences, right?
Yes, absolutely. And it was important. And this was the basic idea of Jonathan who was the inventor for that, bringing people together and setting up an ongoing conversation. And Jonathan was something like a wonderful moderator just in that moment when interesting guys like Steve and Bill and John and many, many others started to reengineer computing and publishing. And this is a [inaudible 00:20:07], okay. We would call it digital transformation, at that time we called it desktop publishing and personal computing. Yeah. But it’s changed the world. You cannot do it on your own. And what I’ve found as well is there is no guarantee if you are prominent keynote speaker with a huge gigantic audience that is not the guarantee you for getting it right and doing the right things.
Yeah. Okay. Another is as I mentioned just briefly, just a moment ago yesterday or the day before yesterday you published this open love letter about your history with Heidelberg that goes way back. I think that people should read it because it’s a quite interesting story and I can tell my audience that even a Google Translate gives or makes sense doing it because my German is not strong enough. So I used a little help to just get the most of it. And that is interesting because you have, I don’t know if you take notes or you just have a good memory, but you mentioned a lot of exciting and interesting people that have been part of that journey to get to Heidelberg where they are now.
And I’m more interested in the current situation than in the past. I know that everything in the past has led to where we are today, but I would like it to explain a little bit in your opinion what happened since maybe not DRUPA ’16, but DRUPA ’12, because at that time I think that the headline for DRUPA Heidelberg at that time was Verpackung, or Packaging. What has happened in that area in relation to formats and machines and how digital transformation and mass customization is influencing this market?
That’s a good point. And maybe one comment on why I did that story. First of all, I did it for myself just to rethink what was happening since those good old times in 1988. And my story started with that. And then I was writing and writing and writing and writing and it was a long way to come to exactly that point. And first of all, I want to say thanks to Heidelberg and to all those beautiful people working for Heidelberg. I met hundreds and thousands of those people, and also hundreds and thousands of Heidelberg customers. And some of my best friends are passionate Heidelberg customers like Peter Sommer, like Gunter Thomas with Gigi Trendhouse 42, the most advanced special effect printer. And those people they had a good partnership and relationship to Heidelberg for decades and it was more or less a friendship.
And with this year 2012 and those four years before since the Lehman Crisis that changed dramatically, and for sure everybody lost money and everybody was confused. And with GRUPA 2012 coming up, let’s say, 2008 was more strange because at that time, Heidelberg is stepping out of next press out of that digital printing, they head on showcase offset and GRUPA 2012, all the big digital printing suppliers, even Canon and Ricoh, not only HP and Xerox, they entered GRUPA. And Heidelberg reentered that world of digital printing when they had the corporationship 2011 with Ricoh. And that was cool. So to see, oh, they have a comeback because the topics since 2004 was always digital printing, digital printing, digital printing, for sure at that time we had a lot of banana products, yeah?
And in 2012, it became much more real and I was very happy to see that Heidelberg was back again, back into the game. Yeah. I was really happy for that. On the other hand, the topic it was also clear, value sells not technology. And that was a major change in the year 2012 to see that let’s call it print and the communication mix became more important. And also there was a big pressure on the print shop owners because with their traditional business of getting ink on paper, they were not able to make a profitable business anymore. They were able to cover costs. So they need new ideas about new applications. You mentioned individualized printing, but also supply chain management, change management, cross-media-
Low volume as well.
… that was the year 2012.
Yeah. So that was I think that as far as I remember it, it was like the time where maybe a lot of the offset vendors, they realize that the future of offset in mass market at least was moving, maybe not away from commercial print in general, but the growth came from packaging because that is still the mantra that you can’t really swap packaging and those kinds of things with digital devices. So that of course also led to the other thing that led to the 2016, because that was when Heidelberg introduced the Primefire Platform. So what do you think happened in the meanwhile from ’12 to ’16? Because with the big strategy about being focused on packaging I think that Primefire is a natural development of having, like, you have the big XL machines for the large volume packaging, but you also have mass customization and you have low print runs and you have a lot of new different applications. What do you think led to the decision of making the Primefire?
That’s a good question. For sure, it was this experience of 2012. And we have to talk about Benny Landa in 2012 because he delivered the best show for all times without having product. He imitated a little bit Steve jobs when he presented iPhone in January, 2007, he didn’t have the iPhone ready, he just presented that idea. And that was stimulating Heidelberg, and for sure they need several years to set up a conversation with Landa, with Benny Landa and his nano-graphic printing technology, and all of a sudden they decided from Heidelberg point of view it couldn’t work because of physical reasons. And that way they made the deal with Fuji set up using Fuji Print Hat technology to mix that with a Heidelberg experience because their biggest asset is they know how to transport paper in a very fast way and a solid way and to put some ink on it.
And that was the tricky thing. And as Stefan Glenns and his teams, they did really a great job, but the perspective was still the perspective of a machine manufacturer, and maybe that was the mistake because they didn’t have certain applications in mind. If they had in mind, we as a machine manufacturer, we now showcase the professional world the beauty of inkjet technology. And normally you would do it the other way around in this digital printing world, you just think about what does a cool killer application for packaging or whatever. I mean HP did a great job in the very first step addressing brand owners and talking to brand owners like Coca Cola and many others. How could you benefit from individualized printing, from digital printing in special permanent? And that works.
And then HP was so clever and smart to configure their technologies to develop new things, maybe also new inks, whatever. And Heidelberg did it in the, let’s call it the traditional way. And maybe that’s the reason why at least they failed because also the cost structure they have coming out of the Speedmaster world, you can never realize manufacturing of inkjet system with this cost structure.
And that leads to a funny conclusion I would say. Because one thing is that the Primefire is using the same print head as a Landa machine, which is like fun to think of that two machines that are basically using the sample print heads have such a different approach and such a different also appreciation from the market. Because I think that the free PR that Landa has got from being at the DRUPA exceeds the cost of being at DRUPA, because everybody’s just looking and watching to what they are doing. And the second funny thing I was just thinking of is that when Peter Sommer in the interview I did with him is criticizing Heidelberg for not having a digital mindset. That is totally aligned with what you’re saying right now that they did it from a hardware manufacturer’s perspective rather than from an applications perspective, right?
Yeah. And at that time, just came in my mind, starting with the year 2012, between 2012 and 2016 we discussed in certain expert groups what is the beauty of inkjet printing? And so it was not to have as we know it a big machine running covering high volumes. It was about having a new way to find the best individual configuration using certain elements. Like the best print head Developer is not the best ink manufacturer. And at that time figured out, oh, there are some players with good heads, there are some players with a good ink, but the bottleneck for example is, if you have to render data, if you have to rip data, so get out of that. How could we make it to print HTML data? That was really hot topic right in that time. And I know a company in Hamburg and they do the best inkjet production systems you can imagine, and it has nothing to do with a Heidelberg approach because they are system architects [inaudible 00:32:19] they’re able to deliver the best components. And then as system architect, they configured the system.
Fantastic and exciting times. The open love letter, as I said before, I really like it because it put things a lot in perspective about the time that has passed by. And also I think it’s quite interesting because of all the people that have been involved in Heidelberg, since it was a five billion Euro company till where it is now, I think that shareholders, and I would even say that from a press perspective, I think that Heidelberg needs to strengthen themselves a little bit because I don’t think they are really communicating on a new terms. I don’t think they are communicating the value to shareholders so they understand the Heidelberg history and maybe also the value proposition they have because with the termination of the Primefire for inkjet and yes, they do still continue working with Ricoh on the label things, cool and perfect and diversifiers.
And the cancellation of the VLF format in the market where everybody’s moving towards larger format when it comes to packaging it seems that the next chapter that you’re going to write in your [inaudible 00:33:45] about Heidelberg that is quite interesting. Very, very briefly because we’re running out of time, but what is your take on the next two years time for Heidelberg?
That’s a good point. And what I did this morning as I prepared for our talk is I was rethinking my script, my open letter and I found some interesting points and they’re very short, and because of the fact that I got amazing feedback from all over the world. People commenting my texts or my open letter and also sharing their own ideas. And the big question is why Heidelberg is giving up his leadership? That’s a fact right in the moment. And I got some key indicators and three points. The first thing is something like the butterfly effect inversely proportional, that means the wind [inaudible 00:34:57] anywhere in the world, but it’s directed against yourself and cause a company to implode. I think implosion of Heidelberg, that is what we can experience today. The next thing is that the mantra, the Heidelberg CEO, Hundsdörfer proclaimed was Heidelberg goes digital.
This wants to create a momentum and makes the company as the lighthouse of the printing industry, which is good. And also limp back in 2015 and ’16, he said something like that. Amazon of printing, M&M. But as a lighthouse of the industry one staff recapped,” Oh, we are systemically relevant.” And that’s not, Heidelberg is relevant for the printing industry and the printing industry it’s still relevant. That’s a big difference. So a scenario I can see that the wording is not, and the thoughts are not proper. And this creates the danger that the lighthouse, we become a dangerous with whisper or Ghostlight for the industry. That is my concern.
And the goal of a sustainable, securing the feature and the prosperity of the print industry was abandoned. And [inaudible 00:36:34] it needs a country change that works both internally and externally in order to actually achieve the best for everyone in a customer and market oriented manner. That means we cannot talk generally, we have to talk about stakeholders. And if you are in our lighthouse and if you take your responsibility for serious, you have really to address and to integrate all your stakeholders. And this is it. The current Heidelberg management they moved Heidelberg out of the center, out of the heart of the industry. That’s what they do when they say we have for any reason to focus on offset B1 form of technologies. That is my summary.
I find that as a good analysis. One of the things I got, I don’t think I can quote his name for it, so I won’t, but one person that both of us knows from Central America yesterday wrote to me that may be one of the reasons why also the Peter Sommer interview has resonated so well with so many people that have been interested in that perspective is of course Peter Sommer’s controversial statements because he is very open and very blunt about his opinions about things. But our common friend in Central America, he said also that one of the reasons why a lot of people may be interested in this story is because it seems sometimes at Heidelberg with also with the subscription model and all the other things, forgetting where they come from, they come from maybe thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of smaller family owned printing companies that have supported the development of Heidelberg into this large company over the past many decades, and I think there’s a truth to that actually, to be honest.
Yeah. And that happened exactly in the year 2013 when Heidelberg decided to cancel the GTO.
Yeah. So address.
It was exactly the perfect product for small business owners around the globe and ten thousands and hundred thousands of them.
Yeah, I think that you and I we can talk forever, but everything good comes to an end, and this is the time. I appreciate our friendship, our business and I always find it a little strange when two analysts or editors or journalists comment on each other’s good things and I hope that our audience will bear with us on this one, but at least we are trying to bring a story to market and I think that your insight and experience in the industry is very valuable. So I just want to say thank you very much for joining me in this session and I am sure we will talk soon again about new exciting things. So thank you very much Andreas.
Thank you too Morten and your team. My hashtag is zuversicht, confidence and it’s printed on my t-shirt, so.
Great. Thank you.
Have a good time, stay safe and healthy.
Yeah, and you too. Thank you very much.