It’s rare to hear the CEO of a really large global equipment manufacturing company speak to the press about family. But Jean Pascal Bobst did this at the mid-drupa review at the Bobst stand. Although we generally see Bobst at shows and press conferences we met at Bobst’s Pune factory several years ago when the company, like the industry was reeling from the 2007-08 economic slowdown. Since then the company has divested real estate assets, expanded its manufacturing in India, China and Brazil, acquired Bobst Eterna in China and more recently acquired Gidue in Italy which is now known as Bobst Firenze. “We have to learn to work as a family, as a group,” Bobst said.
At drupa 2016, we were looking at a much bigger Bobst and a company that on the basis of its latest first half figures for 2016 has turned itself around from the dark days of sever and eight years ago. “Our customers feel the passion,” said Bobst as he spoke about the turn-around and upside of the company in general and at Bobst Firenze in particular. On the issue of acquisitions he said, “Our strategy for acquisition is for new technology and market expansion and for the purpose of industry consolidation.”
He spoke about the company innovations, saying, “Bobst will come to the market in the next two to three years with digital solutions.” These ostensibly include the 60-metre long corrugated press being built in collaboration with Kodak which is already in beta-testing stage. He made it clear that the company will have digital solutions for corrugated, folding carton and flexible packaging in this time frame. Bobst did imply that the approach to digital flexible packaging would have to include extended gamut as well as water-based inks.
The strength of the Bobst exhibits at drupa were the ready for market products that appealed to both higher productivity and automation as well as the new MW 85F CI flexo press (which together with MW 135F CI press) would make the company more competitive in the Asia, Africa and Latin America markets. The fully automated Bobst 40SIX CI flexo press for premium quality was shown at Bielefeld, nearby.
Mastercut for the folding cartons
Speaking about the folding carton segment, Bobst said that the high-end diecutter at the show had met with more success than expected. Although not said, carton printers and converters in South Asia including India find the price of the new Bobst Mastercut 106 PER bit daunting although the speed of the diecutter has come up to an impressive 11,000 sheets an hour.
Designed to either maximize uptime, speed up production or improve quality, the new diecutter is the fastest, most highly automated and most versatile and also easier to set and operate with its avant-garde, highly intuitive human machine interface. It has a new intelligent feeder and several automation features.
In our discussion with the head of the Bobst business services unit Stephan Marz, it became clear that the new Mastercut 106 PER is seen as a high performance solution for high volume carton companies where its cost can be justified by its overall productivity and efficiency. Marz said that one North American customer already has six machines and is planning to buy more since the company does not just sell this machine but provides it as a solution component after consultation on site.
Designed for 24 x 7 production at high accuracy and high speed the machine includes trouble shooting and maintenance through remote access. It embodies the philosophy of ‘less unplanned breadkdowns’ by monitoring remote access data for predictive maintenance. Notably, according to Marz the company has increased its contracts for maintenance ten-fold in the past four years. The increase in services revenue is also reflected in Bobst’s recent 2016 H1 results.