In this ‘Over the Session’ with Yoshihiro Oe, General Manager, Global Business, Horizon International, we get a chance to understand both how IoT and workflow/automation is a tremendously important part of Horizon, but also how the postponing of drupa influence the launch of new products. As usual, it’s a pleasure talking to Yoshihiro, so please watch, like, and enjoy.
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.
Good morning everybody. This is Morten from Inkish TV, and this is yet another episode of Over the Skype, and I was just about to say that we were going to Japan today. But that we’re not going that far because we’re going to talk to a general manager from Horizon International my good friend, Yoshihiro Oe. But he is actually living in Hamburg, so Yoshihiro Oe son as we call each other, welcome to Inkish Over the Skype. How are you today?
Good, thank you. Good morning Morten-san. I’m very much happy to be in this interview. Thank you very much for the invitation.
You are always welcome. I think that since we met each other at [inaudible 00:00:56] innovation days last year, I think that we had many good opportunities to get to know each other a little bit better. For me it’s been a pleasure because it’s taken me to Quickborn just North of Hamburg, but it also took me to Kyoto to your, Think Smart Factory Event last year. How has the evaluation of that event, by the way been? Have you been happy with the output of that one?
Yes, we had a, Think Smart Factory Event in November last year and that was a first open house type of event for us. Of course, we have a many collaboration vendors to participate or collaborate with, but it was very successful and we are very happy with the result and many customers say that was a great event.
Yeah. I have always said that the [inaudible 00:01:51] innovation days was the best event in the world, but now I think that you have already taken that place because it was truly great.
No, no [inaudible 00:02:00] event, it has a history.
It has a history.
It’s a long long time history and we just started. So yes, we want to make our Think Smart Factory event like [inaudible 00:02:15] event. That was a original, it’s not a plan but aN idea. But you never know after the pandemics, corona, how this type of event will go. That is a little bit question now.
Yeah. I agree with you of course, but I think that it would be a… I mean, I think to some extent, I heard a good news yesterday that six monkeys got a vaccine that actually cured them from the virus and I think that sometimes when we look at how innovative businesses and companies and people are in this world, I think that we have a good opportunity to get back to, at some point, get back to something more normal hopefully.
Yeah, I’m very much hoping that.
Yeah, and talking about smart and innovative companies, I think that Horizon is, on not in the medical and the pharmaceutical industry but in the binding industry, you are very, very smart company. So, maybe because we got really directly into here, maybe you should introduce yourself a little bit and what it is you do.
The Horizon is a manufacturer and also the sales company of the finishing equipment. From the beginning of Horizon Company, we are targeting for the short run, not a long run.
did you do that already when you started or is that, have you moved towards short run or is that something that [crosstalk 00:03:54]-
We have been always a short run, not the long run business, because we targeted at the beginning, it’s a very small scale company to start, and they do not have a such a big run job, a short run jobs. So, this is a beginning but nowadays everyone is looking for short run solutions, or even a bit of one type of solution. So, I can say we are lucky in the situation.
Yeah, because I was just about to say that, of course, the world has always moved towards the books of one but you never know how fast that will go. I think that when you see the equipment, and that is also why I referred to the, Think Smart Factory event because that was a lot of working stations that actually showed the products and the applications in relation to the binding equipment. What was an idea some years ago is today reality. Now you can make books of one, right?
Now that’s right and our house, or should I say our theme is change the focus. We used in the last [drupa 00:05:10] and we have continued to use this theme, because even now, many printing companies thinking pre-press, how to get the order and how to automate printing and many company do automation. Then the finishing is come and many company do still the old way of thinking, so we want them to change the focus, obviously we want them to change the focus on more finishing to, how should I say? To make a efficient flow from the beginning until the end.
I was just about to say that if you could be profitable doing one book, you could be profitable doing many books as well, right?
Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Yes.
And from, I mean, let’s start with the physics because there’s a lot of mechanics and physics in doing a binding things, is that something that is a big challenge because it needs to be fast, it needs to be fast set up, it needs to be a perfect product when it comes out. So how difficult is it to invent and produce equipment of the quality that Horizon does?
We have been working for automization of our products for many years, so to set up automated and to change over automated, that is the point we focus on for many years. But nowadays, the customer is requiring more process automation, it’s not only one machine automated, but then bring the materials or books or papers to the next device. This is still the huge task for the customer. A lot of touchpoint [inaudible 00:07:04], and because of the corona, I think they automatically think how to reduce the touch point. How to reduce-
So, even more reducing touch points?
Yes, that is a requirement. But we are thinking about this but it’s not ready, ready perfectly to give the solution to the customer. So we are working on and considering how to automate the process.
Yeah. I like your approach and I also like what you’re saying about this, but I was just… I will re rewind just a second because maybe I was not phrasing my question good enough. Before we talk about automation and fewer touch points and that part of it, which I would like to talk to you about in a minute. I was thinking that to have… I’m just thinking that if you have like a piece of paper coming in here and it goes fast and it needs to be folded like this, it needs to be perfect in the folding. It needs to be a really in the same quality as in the old times where you had like slower machines and maybe bigger machines as they said. And I’m just wondering from an engineering perspective, how difficult is it to make these kinds of machines?
I should not say it’s easy because it is difficult.
Maybe it’s easy for you, but difficult for others. Right?
No. It is also difficult for our company, I think our engineer is working so hard for many years to make automated and I think the biggest challenge is how to include this automation in a reasonable cost.
I think that is the biggest challenge for engineer even now, how to make the machine reasonable for customer. Even the machine is a hundred percent automated, a customer cannot pay a million, millions of euros or dollars. So that is a challenge.
Yeah. Okay. So what you’re saying is basically that it is a typical relationship with how good, how efficient the machine should be in relation to what the costs should be of the machine. So it makes sense for a printer to invest in of course.
Yes, that’s right.
One of the [inaudible 00:09:36] and you know that as well as I do, is the IoT and automation. We have already started talking about it. How important is it now or is it more something that will be important in the future you think?
Yes, we are working on IoT type of software for our equipment and we want to capture the data, how the machine status, how many products machine produced, how long time necessary to do a one job or 10 job or whatever. So we want to capture those information and to use this one for a more efficient production for the customer or a preventing maintenance type of information.
So, with the IO, that with the data you get, you can schedule your maintenance better and you can also monitor the output so you can find out where the bottlenecks are, so you can increase efficiency on different stages in the binding?
Yes. That is our target. I know many printing machines already have this functionality. Not many finishing device has this functionality, but when we talk with the customers, they have a IoT in their printing press. So, they are simply requesting why not on a finishing.
That might be a good question to ask and I know that when I go to some of the really large printing companies, for example, I think it was almost two years ago, I was with online printers in Germany and I saw HP Indigo, I saw Heidelbergs and then I saw Horizon and that was all over the places in order to make sure that you got efficient binding of things. And so I think that in those companies, of course there’s demand for automation and IOT, and all these things is of course, huge demands, right?
Yeah, that’s right. Heidelberg or HP, they’re a big company and they have a capability to make a IoT for visualization type of things. But for the customer, the scale of the companies really doesn’t matter. They just need a solution.
Yeah, I know. That’s true.
So, we have to supply some kind of solution. We are working on and we are going to release our software very soon.
Okay. Oe son, every time I talk to you and I ask you about how things are going, you always say, “Well, it could be better.” And then I asked the second question, there’s always like, “Yeah, but we still have a good market share.” So can both be true?
Yes. It could be better without the corona.
Yeah, of course. Okay. So let’s assume that corona is not in the equation, then the Horizon is doing pretty good, isn’t it? I mean are you-
Yes. We are doing quite well and fortunately in Japan we are still doing a business like 80% of the situation.
So that is very much fortunate. I know in Europe, it’s much less or we cannot go out, but in Japan they still have a possibility to visit the customers, to have a meeting with customers.
That’s good. And in your role as a general manager for Horizon, International, are you responsible for making sure that the sales can happen and all controlling all your entities and your partners worldwide or what is it your job exactly is?
Yes, I am general manager, so to taking care of the many different countries but not Japan. Japan is a separate organization. But at the same time, I also responsible for our German market and the dialect German market and also Nordic market. And this is a good opportunity for me that I can communicate with customers directly and also I can communicate with dealers worldwide.
At this moment, I’m very much in Europe, as I said, it’s very difficult to communicate with customers. We cannot visit basically, but we try to communicate with customers by use of the digital tools like web meeting or even we do a web live demo to communicate with customers. I know the situation, it’s not the time to push the customer to buy something, but still, believe it or not, some customer purchase from us over 500,000 medium investment in this situation. So, some customers is very much forward thinking. [crosstalk 00:15:04]-
They are not just complain the situation and just waiting for something is happen. No, they are thinking for the future, which is very nice.
Yeah. And I know that it’s always something that you have been thinking of. I can’t help thinking that when I met you in Quickborn maybe almost a year ago, we spoke about that you didn’t like so much that everybody was waiting for drupa before making investments. That was before we knew that drupa was postponed. Now we’re in a situation where drupa is in almost a year’s time from now. So, now people have to invest. So does that mean that when you talk about releasing the IoT software, and I also saw some of these nice ice binding equipment that you had on show in Japan, are you pushing those products because you can’t wait for drupa or how is the situation with drupa working to or not to your advantage right now?
We will not wait for drupa for next year spring. We are going to release some of the equipment which were originally scheduled to release after drupa. So yes, we are now working on the launch plan for a couple of machines. So, we will introduce a least three new machines in this year.
Okay. So basically what you said a year ago that you shouldn’t wait for drupa, but you should do the investments when you need them. That is even more true now.
Yes. The event like drupa, that is very much against the corona pandemic, right?
I think the situation is changed already and I’m going to change in the future. So we just cannot wait for drupa type of event, we have to act by ourselves to promote and to communicate with customers.
And I mean if you look at drupa, I think the first drupa was back in 1951 or 53 something like that. And if you look at how much the market has changed and how we communicate with each other since back then, it’s kind of strange that still a lot of people have been developing in these four year cycles because of drupa. The market is changing faster and I guess that the competitive edge that a company like Horizon is always looking to have, you need to deliver when the products are ready and when you can sell them and not wait for trade show. Right?
Yeah, that’s right. And thinking about trade show, in a TSF event in Japan, we did remove a section of each exhibitors. We did make a solution together with printing vendors or other pre and post suppliers to show the real solution to the customer.
That was what I liked so much about it.
But drupa is still the individual companies showing their own solution. And then for digital printing company, how about finishing? Then they have to say, you have to go to Horizon or other vendors. So, maybe this is a kind of old way of thinking.
Yeah, and I think that Horizon is not old way in any way. Also think that one of the things we spoke briefly about when we met in Kyoto was also that a company like Horizon, and with all due respect for Japanese company culture, I think that we spoke also about that things are changing also how the companies are now using more modern methods and way more market approach and also a way more openness towards the world rather than being in a closed development engineering community and then out for the machines when the trade shows are there. Right?
That’s right. Yes. Many of our dealers say, “Horizon, I think your product is good.” They like our products. That’s a reason. They are our distributors, but they also say, “But Horizon, your marketing is not software, you way of communication with the customers or the market is not very good.” That is a true. They say not the good, but I understand what they mean. So yes, this is something we want to focus on in the future.
And you know one thing I know about Japanese culture, when you are not positioned as being good, that is a fuel for being better, right?
Yes. We wait until everything is complete. Then at that time it’s too late for the marketing maybe.
Yeah, who knows?
But we have to change it. We know.
All of a sudden, I’ve been talking to quite a few business leaders, industry leaders during these Over the Skype interviews. And one of the things I’m a little bit curious about is, how do you think, because we have already talked a little bit in relation to the trade shows and marketing and market, but how do you think the printing industry in general would be after the corona virus? Will it be back to normal or will it be different?
I’m very much expecting back to normal.
Yes. This is the most easiest way for everyone, but I don’t think so. It’s not going to back to normal. It’ll be a big change and it’s very difficult to predict what is going to happen, because this is not just printing industry. This is whole world change. So many rules and common sense and everything is going to change. So I don’t know what is going to happen, but at this moment we need to communicate with customer.
Yes, that’s true.
This is most important. What customer is thinking and what customer is expecting, how customers feeling. And this is most important. And then we have to strengths ourselves. Well, we have to educate our staff. We have to train ourselves to prepare for after corona virus.
I was talking to a very knowledgeable person in Brazil a couple of days ago, Hamilton Costa. He is a consultant and I think he’s also an author. I think he’s quite recognized in many places. I also asked him those kinds of questions and he said that maybe after the corona time in itself will not make a lot of changes. But the problem with the coronavirus and as you said, the influence on all society, on all industries is that it maybe fuels the depression that everybody has been talking about, and then it’s the depression that actually create the changes maybe into more debts because print runs will fall maybe too fast to set up times using Horizon finishing equipment because you have already been thinking about the IoT and automatization and down to the copies of one. Do you agree in that kind of analysis?
Yes. As I said, this is a difficult situation and it’s very difficult to predict the future, but honestly speaking, I’m very much exciting what is going to happen in the future. I think there will be a lot of opportunity for everyone. Yes, there is a lot of opportunity, new opportunities, but the issue is how to find this opportunity in earlier stage.
But that is why, for example, we do this Over the Skype, it’s because I can’t go and meet you. You know, when you and I have a dinner, it’s way more fun than this. But it’s a very good opportunity that technology like Skype, like Zoom, like all those things can still enable communication, right?
Yeah, that’s right.
So we also see it as an opportunity. I think that Over the Skype, we have got more than 15,000 people that have seen these films we have done, which I think is quite a lot for formal sitting and talking with people for half an hour. Right?
Yeah. That’s good.
So Oe son, I totally agree with you that the future is quite difficult to predict. When we get back to more normal times and things like that, what can we expect from Horizon? Where do you see the development of both you as a company but also maybe in products, I know you can’t talk about any secrets thing, but I’m just talking in general terms, where do you see things moving? .
As I said earlier, customer is expecting more process automation. So our machine is automated by itself, but the process have to be automated. So I think we are more focused on how to make the process automated and of course the labor issue is another point. So how to solve the labor issue is also what we’re considering at this moment.
Okay. So for me it sounds like Horizon still have a lot of good ideas and a lot of work ahead of you, right?
Yes, there is many opportunity and there is many things to do and we already have many project going on before corona and we have to complete this one first.
Yes. On a personal note, I know that you said that you are in Hamburg right now and your family is back in Japan. That must be a little tough to be so far away from each other.
This is a very interesting situation. I used to travel and I live in Hamburg for two years now, so I’m used to living in Germany, but sometimes in some occasions I’m thinking, “Wow! Oh, when can I go back to Japan?” And I think this one it’s a little bit strange feeling, but that’s still, our family is fine and everyone is living as usual and we communicate with FaceTime or whatever and everything is okay. Thank you for asking.
And maybe you recall, but when I asked you if you wanted to participate in this Over the Skype, I was asking, “So are you in Germany or are you in Japan?” Because I thought maybe you were… Because you were in Japan a couple of months ago, so maybe you were stuck there, but you got to Germany, so you have your bicycle and you have your apartment and you have your nice wines, right?
Oh yes, that’s right. I enjoy it by myself.
That’s great. Oe son, as always, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you and thank you very much for your insights here in Inkish Over the Skype. I hope soon to be able to see you in person. It’s always a pleasure to meet you and Horizon and your team, so thank you very much for this Over the Skype.
Thank you very much Morten son. This is a great pleasure for me to join this Skype and I enjoyed it very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Thank you too. Bye-bye.
And you too.