The Playfield is Really Leveled for Everybody Right Now
Danny Mertens, the Corporate Communications Manager at Xeikon, speaks exclusively to Print Pack MEA about the effects of COVID-19 on his company, key learnings during the pandemic, ways for businesses to hit the reset button, and more
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?
We serve a mix of industries. Some performed better than normal such as labels and packaging, some remained stable such as decoration and book production, some declined a little such as direct marketing. Altogether we have seen different effects but of course, new equipment sales came under big pressure this year. Not only to sell the presses but also to manufacture them since we source components to build our products worldwide.
What was the key learning from this pandemic?
As an organisation we learned that you have to be prepared to collaborate in different ways. At the beginning of the pandemic, we had to again find our way to work and communicate.
Did you come across new and innovative opportunities for diversification and monetization?
We feel that the pandemic didn’t bring really “new” opportunities, but it does accelerate a lot of things such as the digitisation of services and business consultancy.
Tell us about ways through which businesses can reshape or hit the restart button?
More digitisation helps to reshape. It wouldn’t result in more profit, but in less hassle so it does create more value.
What sort of dialogues have you had with your employees, partners, clients about the way forward?
We are trying to stay in contact with all our audiences on a more regular basis as before. We try to be very informative on our products and on what we learn about the evolutions in the market. In a time when “live” meetings, demos, and events are almost non-existing. It’s important to find ways to stay in contact.
Are there any new markets that have opened up with opportunities during the pandemic period?
Needless to say that our label printing customers have been printing a lot for the (para)medical industry.
What sort of growth has the packaging industry seen, considering the growth of online deliveries and the e-commerce market over the past couple of months?
I think the growth wasn’t particularly in the segments of the packaging industry we serve. Still, there’s a lot of room for transition in this industry to more customised and full colour type of packaging solutions for e-commerce.
What is the scenario of the printing sector in the region? Have you seen any major diversification in other areas by major players in the industry?
Our feeling in general is that the playfield is really leveled for everybody right now. Maybe an advantage for a relatively smaller company like Xeikon is that we can be very dynamic in changing strategy in marketing and communication for example. Probably that gives us extra opportunities in these particular circumstances
Tell us about how your products and solutions can help your customers diversify into new areas for business continuity?
Our aim is to provide our customers with solutions and services to make the transition to what we often refer to as “digital manufacturing”, trying to automate as many steps in the manufacturing process as possible. Our X-800 workflow is the perfect tool to pilot all this. It’s the only platform we use for all our solutions across all market segments we serve and built on it continuously.
Do you believe the regional market still has potential and opportunities? With new markets opening up like KSA and Israel, do you believe there are more opportunities popping up?
Actually, digital printing has entered globally now after about 30 years. Although the type of applications often is different from one country to another. This all depends on the local market needs and preferences but also on existing technologies used for production. The level of automation also is very often depending on local parameters such as the cost of labour.
Will companies replace full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure?
Also, this is completely depending on the local demographics. It’s clear that with the current situation, the planet again has virtually become “smaller” which will result in more international collaboration where in the past it would have been more obvious to recruit only locally.
In a post-pandemic world do you believe companies should focus less on roles and more on skills?
I hope they do already. At least at Xeikon, we do.