One step ahead of the competition thanks to good relationships
Worldwide active. The company Hunkeler AG from Wikon in Switzerland is also allowed to write this slogan on their flags. The paper and print processing systems produced by 200 employees and 25 apprentices in the northernmost corner of the canton of Lucerne are in use all over the world. A further 80 employees are responsible for the sales and maintenance network in around 70 countries. In Europe, North- and South America or Asia, whether Mexico City, Hong Kong or Boston: there are employees on site who maintain the relationships with the giants such as Canon, HP, Xerox and Heidelberg, who are involved in the development of new technologies. «We are very close to the customers and therefore always a step ahead», says Hans Gut, member of the management and head of marketing/partnering at the family-owned company Hunkeler AG, which is managed by Stefan and Michel Hunkeler in the third generation.
Hans Gut describes the trust in the global players that has been built up over decades as part of the recipe for success. "We know what they want to bring to the market and we can make strategic decisions with a view to the future. It is no coincidence that the company maintains this opinion. "During its almost 100 year history, Hunkeler AG has made a name for itself worldwide with visions and innovations. We can look confidently into the future." And this in an industry that is literally under pressure. "The structural change with the partial shift from print to online media is rapid. Not one stone remains on the other," confirms Hans Gut. But Hunkeler has been exposed to this development for more than 20 years, to them it is neither new nor surprising. "We have always reacted swiftly to changed technologies and market shifts". Indeed.
The company «Josef Hunkeler Wikon», founded in 1922 as a one-man company, began with binding machines for brooms. Soon Hunkeler developed the first book presses and has become a leading manufacturer of pre- and post-finishing solutions for digital printing. «Since three generations the family company has been characterized as very innovative. Certain ideas were ridiculed at first by the competition – the market ultimately proved the Hunkeler family and their employees right», says Hans Gut.
Gutenberg would be surprised
Print production and volumes continue to decrease, but that is exactly where digital print begins. «Fast, flexible and also suitable for smaller runs. It is an economical kind of production and offers new possibilities for communication», says Hans Gut. A white reel of paper. A finished book block. In between are exactly 15 seconds and a whole series of machines. From the unwinder the paper runs by a digital printer over the longitudinal folder to the paper stacker. Module by module. 20 meters of innovations «Made in Wikon».
The magic word is «Print on demand». For example, all major photo book manufacturers perpetuate their customers holiday experiences between two cardboard covers using this technology. Novels and crime thrillers are also printed and ordered from major online retailers via the World- Wide-Web. One click and the machines starts. On the production line, different book titles can be produced one after the other in various formats with variable page numbers. The time to produce book in advance is over. «This technology makes a warehouse unnecessary and saves costs. In addition, low editions can be produced cost-effectively and anyone can publish a book», says Hans Gut. The «Print on demand» system is also used by well-known automobile companies. In the middle and luxury range segment, this technology allows the operators manual to be adapted to each car and its new owner. The description contains exactly what’s in the car.
Newspaper manufacturers have also taken advantage of this technology. Whereas in the past, day after day numerous English daily and regional newspaper had to be flown from mainland to Jersey Island. Today they are produced directly on site using digital printers and Hunkeler finshing machines. What would the inventor of book print, Johannes von Gutenberg say to these one-million-franc machine lines that produce book after book, newspaper after newspaper and individual brochures or catalogues by running meter? Hans Gut is sure that he would not come out of the amazement.
This would certainly be the case if he took part in the «Innovationdays» organized every two years by Hunkeler AG. Started as a small in-house exhibition, they have become the industry’s largest showcase on a global scale. The «Who's Who» of the print, output and document management industry is on site at the Lucerne exhibition centre. Around 100 exhibitors on 11 000 square metres presented their latest developments in 2019. Hunkeler alone needed ten articulated trucks to transport the machines to Lucerne and presented 30 production lines with around 100 machines. Practical. On a scale of 1:1 and in operation. Again 6500 decision-makers from all continents followed the invitation of the company Hunkeler AG. Hans Gut «locally rooted, worldwide active. Every two years we turn this saying around for our partners and customers».