BÖWE SYSTEC has made a global name for itself with process automation solutions built around inserting systems, letter and parcel sorting as well as intralogistics integration. Headquartered in Augsburg and founded by Max Böhler and Ferdinand Weber back in 1945, the company has been wholly owned by the Possehl Group since 2010. Change in industry and increasing digitization have also had an impact on BÖWE SYSTEC’s business sectors, and PRINT & PRODUKTION went to talk to the Managing Director, Joachim Koschier, about what’s been happening. By Andrea Köhn.
PRINT: Mr. Koschier, how did you come to join BÖWE SYSTEC?
Joachim Koschier: Around 15 years ago I was actually working for one of their customers, as COO of a large print service provider in Scandinavia. I left them to join BÖWE SYSTEC Nordic in 2006 and took on responsibility for Scandinavia. In 2010 the Possehl Group bought the company and transferred me to Augsburg, where, in 2011, I became the Chief Sales Officer for BÖWE SYSTEC and then the Managing Director in 2015.
PRINT: How have the markets in the areas of business where your systems are used changed since then?
Koschier: The markets are in constant flux and obviously we watch this closely. In 2010, BÖWE SYSTEC, as a document processing specialist, had an obsolescent portfolio of machines that no longer enjoyed the market popularity that we would have wished. Our strategy was to go out and develop the best machines in the world and that is what we did with the high-speed Fusion Cross and a new inserting technology that remains unique. In 2010 the Fusion Cross didn’t even exist on paper. Development started in 2011, the first one was sold in 2013 and a year later it was installed. Since then, a great deal has changed in the market but so too as BÖWE SYSTEC. As a machine manufacturer you always have to be on the ball and since we all know that letter volumes will stagnate or even shrink we decided to add more strings to our bow. In 2015 we built and installed our first parcel sorting system complete with appropriate feed solutions and then in 2019 we acquired a software company and gained expertise in warehouse management. Whether it be conveyor technology, sorting or software, our intralogistics customers receive everything from a single source. Today, we have become a solution provider with three strings to our bow: inserting, intralogistics and software.
PRINT: What’s been happening in BÖWE SYSTEC’s original core business?
Koschier: Over the last six years the entire company has undergone a metamorphosis. But our know-how continues to be an integral part of all our solutions. For example, we have been involved in asset tracking for major banks since the early 90s. Although BÖWE SYSTEC has always had powerful software, we wanted to build on our strengths by exploiting such process-optimizing software. Whether it be asset tracking or warehouse management, customers can benefit from our software solutions anywhere where items or goods are moved. We believe that companies will only be successful in the future if they exploit process-optimizing solutions irrespective of the business or the specific processes. This is a tune that will play for the next 10 to 20 years because many processes that need to be and that could be digitized are today still manual.
PRINT: What industries are your software solutions used in and what are they used for?
Koschier: As a modern technology company we deploy our know-how across industries. Whether it be hardware or software, we supply high quality technologies to numerous branches of industry. For example, our logistics and process-optimizing software can be applied to any industry: pharmaceuticals, banks, insurers or telecommunication providers, in e-commerce or retail and many more. Wherever goods or items are moved, our solutions can be used. They allow the customer to check and track the entire supply chain for its products at any time. For example, we have a customer that produces aircraft seats. Using RFID chips affixed to every seat our software monitors the entire production and supply chain right up to delivery. We do the same for a customer that produces spare parts for cars.
PRINT: Is this new area a growth market for BÖWE SYSTEC?
Koschier: Yes, you could say so. It is a big step. Five years ago, package sorting turnover was around 10 million euros. In the first quarter of this year our intralogistics turnover overtook that of the inserting segment for the first time.
PRINT: BÖWE SYSTEC launched its Fusion inserting system concept back in 2012 and there has been no let-up in its development ever since. What has this meant for the user?
Koschier: The idea behind the Fusion Cross was that we wanted to have a machine that could satisfy any requirement and flexibly process all formats and enclosures. At the time, it was the fastest C4 and the fastest C5 machine, as well as one of the fastest DIN Long machines in the world, whilst taking around 90 seconds to switch envelope sizes during a job change. This machine is now even faster, handling 24,000 DIN C5 envelopes per hour instead of 22,000. However, some customers do not need C4 processing, for example. That’s why we developed the Fusion Speed based on the Fusion Cross platform. We have not made the Speed faster but we have reduced the gaps between the envelopes and so increased the throughput by about 30 per cent to 30,000 DIN C5 and DIN Lang envelopes per hour. This is the highest net output in the market but it is every bit as stable as a Fusion Cross even at these extremely high speeds.
PRINT: Your customers have already had an opportunity to get to know the Fusion Speed during your Exclusive Days. What is special about this system?
Koschier: With the Fusion Speed the customer gets a genuinely high-speed system plus the quality of a Fusion Cross. The system employs our proven Flow-Principle, for which we have applied for a patent, to gently insert letters and enclosure into envelopes at speed. Instead of halts or abrupt enclosure insertions, everything is in motion the whole time. No other systems work as fast and as stably as the Fusion models precisely because we have reduced collisions between envelope and paper by moving both in the same direction. With this technology we can even insert wood into a paper envelope without it being destroyed. In order to allow its operators to keep pace with such performance and the Fusion Speed to achieve its full potential it comes with a high level of automation. For example, a system to transport the filled envelopes and automatically deposit them in the post crates waiting to receive them is a standard feature and is already included in the price.
PRINT: The third variant is the Fusion Lite. What’s different about it?
Koschier: We wanted to offer a lower cost product specifically aimed at customers whose processing volumes were not high enough to make a Fusion Cross or a Fusion Speed pay. We also wanted to create a platform in the mid-performance segment that could handle all requirements. With the Fusion Lite we are offering premium technology at a particularly attractive price. Capable of handling up to 16,000 envelopes per hour, it rounds off the Fusion Series trio. It too is based on the Flow-Principle and it covers the full range of formats from B6+ to B4, whilst leaving nothing to be desired when it comes to processing enclosures.
PRINT: How do you feel about the postponement of drupa?
Koschier: Drupa is always a major event for our industry towards which everything is geared. Naturally, it’s disappointing that we will not be able to welcome our customers to our stand and of course we would have been presenting our new ideas to them. But health comes first and we fully and wholeheartedly support the decision of the organizers. We wanted to use drupa 2020 to present the new Fusion Lite addition to the Fusion Series. However, some innovations just can’t wait and so, despite everything, we’re delighted to bring the Fusion Series to the market. When it comes to orders, we are really pleased. Our year began insanely well and as a result we’re fully stretched until the end of the year.
PRINT: Mr. Koschier can you tell us a bit about markets and strategy? Do you think printed mailings and the printed message have a future?
Koschier: Every market works differently. However, if we look at the European market or the American market in general then we know that in the transactional segment, where BÖWE SYSTEC has its roots, it will steadily contract. So far as direct mail is concerned, we have known for 20 years that this is a market that fluctuates and that is heavily dependent upon the economic situation. Currently, we know that the mailing market is very stable. Marketing e-mails often get lost in the flood of information, whereas brochures and well designed, personalized mailings stimulate our interest. Even online suppliers have discovered printed mailings as a way of gaining new customers and boosting sales. These are all indicators that the direct mail market has the potential to develop positively going forward. However, it will continue to fluctuate and it will cease to be a market for offset printing. It will become a digital preserve and it will be personalized.
PRINT: Will BÖWE SYSTEC have something new for drupa in April 2021?
Koschier: It was going to be very tight for some of the developments that we originally wanted to launch at drupa this year it. We’ve been frank about this and we’re very pleased to have an extra year to drive these enhancements to the Fusion Series forward. We want to move ahead into production. But you’ll see that at drupa 2021. We look forward to that.