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The Sheetfed Press Market Continues to Change

By David Savastano, Editor | 06.27.13

When I attended my first drupa in 2000, it is fair to say the show was heavily tilted toward sheetfed printing, with numerous exhibitors on hand running their presses. With drupa occurring every four years, the changes in the printing market are amplified on the show floor; by 2008, digital press manufacturers had pulled even with sheetfed press suppliers. I would say that the scales tilted more heavily toward digital in 2012, with companies like Manroland no longer the huge force they had once been.

The sheetfed printing market has been heavily impacted by the changing nature of printing. With the gains being made by digital printing and people getting their information from the Internet, publication and commercial printing has lost share, and many smaller sheetfed printers have left the field or been acquired. As a result, there is much used machinery available.

For sheetfed press manufacturers, times have been difficult. Heielberg, which has roughly half the sheetfed press market, has had numerous layoffs and financial difficulties; Manroland filed for bankruptcy in 2011, and its sheetfed and web divisions were sold off. The sheetfed group is owned by Langley Holdings plc., an engineering group.

Koenig & Bauer (KBA) holds roughly 20 percent of the sheetfed press market, which the company estimates at $3.2 billion, or approximately half of where it was in the early 2000s. Its forte is folding carton packaging, the one area where sheetfed is doing well. Komori also has a sizable share at more than 10% of the market; no other sheetfed press manufacturer is thought to have more than 10% of the market.

In a significant move, on June 20, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Printing & Packaging Machinery, Ltd. (MHI-PPM) and Ryobi Limited signed a shareholder agreement establishing a joint venture, Ryobi MHI Graphic Technology Ltd., which will integrate its sheetfed offset printing press businesses. Ryobi will own 60% of the JV, and MHI-PPM 40%. The goal is to reach $300 million in sales, or roughly 10% of the global market, in 2014.

This JV makes sense, as smaller and larger companies alike are having a hard time in the tightening market. This will allow the companies to utilize their synergies and cut costs.

Cutting costs is not to be overlooked. I noted recently that digital press manufacturers are watching their own spending closely, and are pulling out of the larger general printing shows like Ipex and Print 13. Sheetfed press manufacturers are also paying close attention to where they spend their resources, and Heidelberg’s August 2012 decision to pull out of Ipex as well is a clear signal that targeting of resources is becoming more important.

On June 17, 2013, Heidelberg USA announced that it would also be pulling out of Print 13 in Chicago, which will run from Sept. 8-12, opting instead for individualized sales processes and road shows.

Going back to 2000, it would have been unthinkable that the sheetfed market would have changed as much as it has, and companies such as Heidelberg would be reducing their operations and appearances. Even with these changes, it is likely that the sheetfed press market will continue to see more consolidation in the coming years.

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