Failing to change is how companies die. Executives who are too slow to adapt to market conditions, or refuse to acknowledge the next big trend, slide down a path towards bankruptcy or absorption by more dynamic competitors. Those that are courageous enough to change early enough can reap enormous awards for themselves and their customers, however. Paolo De Grandis, sales director at Grafikontrol, learned this first hand. Though the 1990s were "good years" for his company - and the printing industry generally - the 2008 financial crisis forced him and his colleagues to change tack.
"I'd say that 2008 was the year of change," he remembers. "To give you an idea, at that time, approximately 80% of Grafikontrol's business was focused on the graphic industry, and 20% on converting. Today, 90% is in converting or flexible packaging.
In a decade, the product line was changed completely to focus more on flexible packaging products, we had to change not only the products but also our marketing strategies and approach to customers.
It's a decision that seems to have worked. With more than 100 employees around the world, Grafikontrol is a world leader in in press controls manufacturing for the printing industry. In part, this is explained by the breadth of its expertise. After all, as De Grandis explains, the company offers a range of products suited to different aspects of the printing process. "Matrix, a piece of web-inspection equipment, is Grafikontrol's basic system," he says. "It's a matrix scanner that moves across the web taking high-quality snapshots of the running web."
Apart from using a 6MP camera, which ensures fantastic quality and realistic colour reproduction, Matrix can be loaded with options. "These include statistical inspection, delta colour monitoring to detect the colour valuation during the run, barcode verification and print repeat monitoring," says De Grandis.
Beyond that, Grafikontrol offers Lynex, a true 100% inspection system with real time full print repeat viewing that can be used as a stand alone or integrated with Matrix. Lynex can also "compare the live printing with the PDF file that has been used to produce the printed plates or the gravure cylinders," De Grandis explains.
"That provides the operator with the ability to verify if what is printing is equal to the original file. This is a very important and often requested feature. Lynex has been designed to also inspect coating, varnish or cold-seal on printed or base substrates."
The company's other services are just as exhaustive. "Grafikontrol is family-owned and, since the beginning, one of its [focuses] has been service support," De Grandis says. "If a customer calls, they can be helped in several different ways. First, there's the internet, but Grafikontrol can also fly out immediately to solve the problem. No time is wasted making the customer wait. Customers say that this is a big benefit of working with the company. In terms of service, Grafikontrol has specific locations where it takes care of [customers]. For example, it serves Europe from Milan; the US from its division there; and South America from its division in São Paulo."
Looking ahead, the company is keen to expand further, with plans to strike into Asia. "Grafikontrol is expanding into eastern markets like Russia, India, China, and South East Asian countries like Indonesia and the Philippines," says De Grandis.
"For this company, they are a kind of 'virgin market', Grafikontrol is making some sales, but would like to be more present. This is the goal for the next three or four years."
At the same time, De Grandis is excited about Procheck, a new machine that promises to make it easier to track and remove the defects through the production process. "Procheck prints a very small code on the edge of the roll," he explains. "It's printed every two or three print repeats. This code is variable and contains the job, the roll number and the footage.
"So, when a 100% inspection [machine] detects defects, it immediately informs Procheck, which synchronises the defect with the closest code that has been printed. It's the most accurate system on the market, and nobody else offers it."
Quite an achievement, and a reminder if needed that Grafikontrol's decision to pivot its focus in 2008 has been a brilliant success.