Discussing the Modern-Day Flexographic Press with Kilian Renschler, Koenig & Bauer North America President and CEO

“Packaging is a 24-7 operation. Unplanned downtime is the enemy of every print shop. Collectively, whether printer/converter or equipment manufacturer, our mission is to keep machines up! It’s that simple. We must live by this rule: ‘Do not endanger just-in-time delivery commitments that our customers made.’”

The point here is one that’s always being stressed by Kilian Renschler, CEO and president, Koenig & Bauer North America of Dallas, TX—“Reliability of machines is key.” Upon assuming his current role in November 2020, the 30+ year print industry veteran said, “I am committed to upholding Koenig & Bauer’s rich, 203-year-old heritage of serving its customers. As a leading printing press manufacturer, known for its innovative technology and open architecture, I am energized and working closely with our customers as they choose what’s best for their long-term goals and overall profitability.”

Kilian Renschler

More recently, in a conversation with FLEXO Magazine, he confided, “Shorter runs, combined with a larger numbers of SKUs, requires faster turnaround, shorter makeready, just-in-time deliveries… All are something seen and experienced globally.” He further noted, “Big global trends at present focus on sustainability and recyclability of materials. We support the efforts and are actively testing materials, like new recyclable resins, to help the industry move forward.”

In talking to FLEXO, Renschler stressed, “We are all confronted with industry challenges. Right now, on everybody’s agenda, one of the first topics we hear about is the labor shortage that all are facing. While the COVID crisis has contributed to it, in general, our industry is impacted by an aging community of machine operators. We are working to develop and attract new talent.”

Customer Demands

What else are customers looking for? Renschler replied, “In general, customers are trying to find niches in this marketplace. We are addressing their search by allowing flexibility in machine configurations and catered solutions for special applications. In essence, we’re helping to develop new products for customers to serve customers.”

An operator finds the EVO XG flexible packaging press to be high speed and highly automated.
All photos courtesy of Koenig & Bauer

Print quality has developed greatly on the flexographic side, Renschler observed. “Customers are seeking higher screen counts, use of more colors, more ink units, upgrades that deliver more on a small footprint, etc. They’re expanding business with new capabilities and at the same time facing constraints on space, which is driving the requirement for a nice, neat, niche solution.

“We’re there to help them differentiate and value add. At Koenig & Bauer Flexotecnica, we’ve outlined a holistic approach whereby the sales team is recognized as trusted advisors. We look at the competitive landscape and put forth a cohesive alignment between all manufacturing units—sheetfed offset, postpress, hollow containers, currency, metal, newspaper, web and digital presses—to have flexo benefit from other divisions’ platforms. Similarly, we apply what we learned on the flexo side back and forth. Taking that kind of 360-degree approach is what makes us different. Our technology is a perfect fit for it.

“Shorter run lengths demand automation to allow for quick-change smart ride—exchange of print sleeve, anilox change,” Renschler continued. “Features that promote ease of handling are in demand. Unrestricted access to chambers to allow for fast changeover, automatic cleaning, short makeready—all are atop a printer’s wish list.”

Everything falls under the umbrella of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), Renschler revealed. He stressed, “We go up to 70-in.-plus web width and can customize beyond that. We can do a variety of formats and substrates. For many years, the norm was 65-in. wide. We are seeing a swing back toward 52-in. web widths, as runs get shorter and just-in-time manufacturing kicks in. Cash is king! Nobody wants to tie up funds in inventory!”

The EVO XC compact central impression (CI) press’ smaller footprint means no ladders required to reach top decks. It features a U-shaped drying tunnel and mono or flying splice stand that targets short-to-medium runs.

Renschler told FLEXO, “We have a model, the EVO XC, built to target short and medium runs. It will fill long-run needs as well. The attraction—the shorter footprint means no ladders required to reach top decks. It features a U-shaped drying tunnel and mono or flying splice stand that targets short to medium runs.”

One point emphasized by the CEO: “Integration of downstream units is proliferating more than ever. The challenge is getting people to understand the benefits the units bring to production. Take the leap! Take the organization to the next level—accommodate front-side printing, back-side printing… Understand the benefits of downstream units. A simple press now brings different opportunities. Customers are using central impression (CI) presses with additional downstream units, allowing all-in-one integration of additional applications like special coating and adhesives as well as die cutting. Downstream units are also capable of printing flexo or gravure.”