By: Jim Rosenberg
With demand for heavy equipment in decline among newspapers and other printers, two press makers are looking to expand beyond their traditional markets by applying their engineering and manufacturing expertise to products for other industrial sectors.
Both also emphasize that they are not abandoning printers.
In summer, Goss International announced it was looking into low-windspeed generators from an inventor in Maine, not far from its Durham, N.H., plant, as well as other makers of turbines designed to convert wind power into electricity. Goss spokesman Greg Norris called the energy-related technology a good fit with the mechanical and electrical capabilities his company possesses in the design and manufacture of precision components for high-speed machines (E&P Online, July 23).
Citing diminished prospects for sales to print media two months later, Helge Hansen, CEO of competitor Koenig & Bauer AG, W?rzburg, Germany, said his company may enter new, high-potential sectors such as packaging, water conditioning or thermal solar energy technology.
About two weeks later in Vienna, at the annual IFRA Expo and Congress, KBA issued a press release stating that the proposal to broaden the company’s business had aroused “some irritation.”
In a statement, Deputy President Claus Bolza-Sch?nemann emphasized that “it was no good turning a blind eye to the ongoing structural changes in the print and media landscape.” After almost 200 years building printing presses, he added, “it makes sense for the group to establish a second sphere of competence.”
Representing the sixth generation of the company’s founding family, Bolza-Sch?nemann remarked: “Such a step will be undertaken with the same financial and entrepreneurial caution we have applied throughout our 192-year history. Innovative, high-powered technology for print in all its facets will remain a core KBA competence in the foreseeable future. We are confident that we can maintain our position among the top industry players, provided politicians and bureaucrats do not endanger fair competition.”
Restating the message that KBA remained committed to the printing industry (it has partnered with a German technology company for development of plate-delivery automation and with an Indian manufacturer for marketing of smaller presses) while investigating opportunities in other industrial markets, Bolza-Sch?nnemann remarked in Vienna that such diversification safeguards his company’s future.
Two weeks later, Goss announced that it had been chosen by Aeronautica Windpower, Plymouth, Mass., to produce the streamlined housing for mid-scale wind-powered turbines sold by Aeronautica for businesses, schools, municipal buildings, farms and ranches and other uses.
Goss said it will make the nacelles in its Durham plant “using proven licensed designs for 225- and 750-kilowatt turbines.”
Aeronautica is licensed to make and sell Norwin A/S turbines for North America and other markets. Denmark-based Norwin has supplied wind turbines for more than 20 years.
The agreement “gives us a reliable strategic relationship with a company that has a proven track record in manufacturing precision electromechanical components for commercial and industrial applications,” Aeronautica Windpower President Jeff Warren said in a statement.
The first nacelles from the Goss plant are expected to ship in spring.
Goss CEO Jochen Meissner said his company worked with the governor’s office, other elected officials and several state agencies to bring the manufacture of energy-efficient technology to the state.
The new business would provide a boost to a plant that, like those of all its competitors, has seen repeated recent job losses. Goss still has some employees in offices it leases at its former Dover, N.H., facility. Its New Hampshire facilities came with the acquisition of most of Heidelberger’s newspaper equipment business five years ago. Its other U.S. plants were closed, including its main manufacturing site in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
As it happens, that plant — managed by a former Goss supervisor — is now a division of Clipper Windpower, a California firm and one of many that set up shop in the windy stretch from Minnesota to Texas. Unlike Aeronautica Windpower, however, Clipper makes bigger, faster, higher-capacity wind turbines. According to the company, its 2.5-megawatt model is the largest built in this country.
But even the alternative-energy sector haa been hurt by the severe recession, and at the start of the year, Clipper Windpower laid off at least 90 people worldwide. Most in production — meaning, according to local news reports, that most cuts were in Cedar Rapids.
As for newspaper press manufacturing, an outline of information provided by KBA during the IFRA Expo paints a grim picture. In addition to continuing erosion of classified advertising, primarily from online competition, newspapers’ own online advertising was growing significantly for only a few, and declines in all advertising and paid circulation continued throughout much of the developed world. This year saw the end of free newspapers, as their business model lasted only as long as the boom years. Investment in equipment and tolerance for risk were down, with global investment in presses half that in 2007 and just under a third what it was last year. (Normally claiming 30%, KBA said its share had risen to 43%, “but it’s still not enough,” said Marketing Director Klaus Schmidt, speaking on behalf of Executive Vice-President of Web Press Sales, Marketing and Service Christoph M?ller. “We are not optimistic to get another [U.S.] press order in the next six months.”) Finally, even though growth has continued in India, China, Brazil Turkey and Malaysia, Asia generally — even China — has proven weak, and the good market in Middle east just is not that large.
And the outlook for 2010? KBA expects to see some projects cancelled or put on hold, global volume unchanged from 2009, and “no fundamental market recovery in sight.”