Outlook 2021: Digital Transformation Will be Necessary in 2021
Roger Nicodeme, the General Manager of Heidelberg Gulf Est, speaks about what worked for companies in 2020, and the opportunities to look forward to in 2021
How was 2020 for the industry and your company?
Commercial printers suffered a lot as most in the region and worldwide. Packaging printers did much better as food producers needed local suppliers for the label and the packaging business. As far as we are concerned, we had some sizable projects in the backlog that will have a positive impact on our figures. Nevertheless, we noticed a slowdown in the consumables, spares, and service businesses as this is due to the lockdown and the lack of commercial business to many of the printers. Our concern remains on the new business generated during 2020 which is relatively low because of the pandemic situation.
What sort of opportunities did 2020 bring along?
2020 didn’t bring many opportunities, even Drupa was postponed. However, we managed to step into a new business: we supplied our market with Mask Making machines manufactured by one of our partners MK. We tailored as well service contracts to help our customers maintain their machines in a better way: remotely and in presence of our engineers
As already mentioned by Heidelberg CEO Rainer Hundsdörfer “Although digital communication methods can cushion a lot, the personal touch and the ability to look each other in the eye is missing.” This applies to our market as well, our customers needed that personal touch and we were able to visit many customers even during the confinement period. We managed to close deals for products and services that were essential for our customer to operate.
Did you face any challenges in 2020?
We faced many challenges, as offices were closed, we had a lockdown, travel was restricted or more difficult, our engineers had to stay in quarantine during regional travels, even when going from a city to another they needed a PCR test. Despite all that, we had a moral obligation to serve our customers and to make sure that we can reach them even during the most difficult times.
Heidelberg Middle East engineers worked during lockdown, we managed to get them special permissions from the government to serve the Industry. We installed machines in remote areas in Oman, Bahrain and Qatar.
What were your key achievements in 2020?
We managed to keep all our employees, to reduce cost and to increase our efficiency. We introduced online meetings and training to engage our employees and our customers during the lockdown. We managed to achieve acceptable sales figures as we had a very positive backlog.
What promises does 2021 bring along?
We look forward to having a better 2021 but it all depends on other industries to reopen i.e. travel and hospitality. Our customers need the business to go back to normal for them to invest again. Some are optimistic about 2021 but others are skeptical.
Do you see opportunities in the regional markets with new markets opening up?
We look forward, however, it will take some time before we see the effect in our industry.
According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2021?
No doubt the digital transformation will be necessary for 2021, many of the commercial printers need to invest in digital, as demand for shorter runs and customized products will be increasing. Packaging customers need to improve their workflow, printing, and finishing equipment. Heidelberg does have the right answers and solutions with the innovations shown at the Innovation Week, our digital event which took place in October.
What will be your key focus areas for 2021?
Our key focus will be as always, to give the best attention to our customers in terms of high-level consultancy, and to provide the best in class service. We will help our customers to improve efficiency in terms of workflow and equipment and help them with their digital transformation.
What milestones have you set for 2021?
We are looking to achieve decent results; we will not push the limits but we will make sure to be profitable.
What would you like to do differently in 2021, when compared with 2020?
We look forward to seeing the end of the pandemic and to go back to the pre-2020 business model: with customers’ travels and demos, factory visits, exhibitions, and so on.
Do you plan to enter new markets or add new products/applications to your portfolio in 2021?
We are always approached by new suppliers for different products and services and we take the appropriate decisions if those products suit our industry and our customers. We also have open eyes on what’s happening in our industry and what is needed. We look forward to a better 2021 for everyone.