One Plus One = manroland Goss

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Passionate about the industry: father and son Graham and Dennis Wickham
Passionate about the industry: father and son Graham and Dennis Wickham

Mergers and consolidation are redrawing the print landscape. Last year manroland, the German web press manufacturer joined with US-based Goss. Dennis Wickham tells Patrick Howard how the new entity plays out in the local market.

Few business mergers have the significance for the printing industry as the arrival of manroland Goss. What was unthinkable just a few years ago now has the two web press manufacturers coming together to present the printing industry with a unified front of rationalised production sites and single support companies throughout the world. Years of radical reorganisation followed manroland web’s emergence from bankruptcy under the ownership of German conglomerate, Possehl. Goss went through a bewildering series of ownerships, that included Shanghai Electric, before ending up being owned by US-based PE fund, American Industrial Partners. Now they are one entity.

While the market for high-end web presses has fallen dramatically in recent years, even so the merger took the industry by surprise. manroland and Goss were the survivors, together owning the largest share of the rapidly dwindling market. Now they are by far the largest supplier ahead of KBA in Germany and Indianbased Manugraf, while Komori, Mitsubishi and TKS mostly service the domestic Japanese market.

In Australia the situation is even more definitive. You have to go back a long way to find any web press other than a manroland installed in the local market. This year will see the latest 80-page manroland Goss Lithoman installed into Ovato’s (formerly PMP) Warwick Farm site (formerly IPMG). It is a suitable validation of the company’s dominance of the sector. While there are many more small Goss Community presses spread around the country, in recent years all the big Australian web presses have been manroland.

So it was only sensible when the merger went down, that the Australasian manroland organisation under Dennis Wickham, managing director, became the amalgamating force in the region. It was the larger business, by far. In addition to manroland Goss in the web sector, it also represents manroland Sheetfed, the Langley Holdings company delivering its 900 presses to the worldwide packaging sector as well as the Evolution 700 to the broader commercial market.

ContiWeb, the drying and webhandling auxiliary manufacturer that was previously a subsidiary of Goss, is also represented. Excluded from the merger, it now runs as an independent company.

Overseeing the whole business, Wickham has a complement of 42 staff, the vast majority of whom are technicians. He is currently encouraging his team to visit every manroland and Goss customer in the region 

A whole new community

manroland Goss Australasia is primarily a service organisation. It even hosts a worldwide remote phone service for web customers to access when their local company support is closed. The integration of Goss service into the new organisation presents challenges, not least the task of simply identifying the large number of Goss Community presses in the regions. Wickham is embracing the opportunity of getting to know his expanded customer base. His team has just returned from New Zealand, reaching out to printers there with Goss presses.

“We’re discovering new Goss Community customers every week, and the more we do the greater our market becomes. There are at least ten customers in New Zealand with Goss or similar equipment. Within Australia there are between twenty or thirty small printers operating Goss equipment.”

The amalgamation has sparked a surge of activity in the sector. Sponsorship initiatives are being put into place for groups such as the Country Press Association in Victoria and South Australia, both associations still very active. Wickham is excited by the opportunities they present.

“There’s a whole culture out there we didn’t know much about. While we don’t supply a whole lot of service to them, they are an important part of the market. They need to be represented and they need to know who to contact for support. If you look at the combined tonnage in those places, they’re still a big player. These sites might not run 24 hours seven days a week but they still produce.”

 In Victoria he has well known web industry identity, John Ostler, on the road going from town to town assessing the depth of the new community. These may not be printers looking to buy new web presses, but that’s not the name of the game here. Wickham is dedicated to providing backup to web printers large and small anywhere in the region.

“Coming together will deliver a new level of stability and support for the industry over the long term. I’m committed to supporting all Goss and manroland users throughout Australasia. They’ll have a greater support base than before, ample spare parts on hand, ensuring sustainable service and support. We’re about bringing more value to our customers,” he said.

New tradition

If responsibility appears to sit easily on Wickham, who entered the industry as a fitter with PMP in 1995, it’s likely to have something to do with the fact that his father Graham started manroland web services in 2008 in Australia and was part of the industry over 48 years. Although now retired he is still passionate about the industry.

“I believe you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. We function as a team. It’s not all about me. Basically the management structure in manroland hasn’t changed. We’re still the only company focused solely on print,” he said.

The business is growing on the back of an increasing skill shortage in the sector as apprentice numbers decline and people leave the industry. manroland Goss now has web and sheetfed demonstrators working full time in Sydney and Melbourne training and showing operators how to print.

“The markets are changing, with people coming from flexo into sheetfed, from web into sheetfed, from sheetfed into web. They may not have the skills for the new sector so that brings greater reliance on the suppliers. We have to support our customer’s needs,” said Wickham.

While the new press installation at Ovato will see an influx of technicians from Germany this year, the local engineers are kept busy providing ongoing service support to existing customers. There are some private contractors in the sector but most printers want manufacturer-grade service. With the new presses all online, remote service is becoming the default first line of support. Online data analysis allows technicians to be proactive as well as reactive when problems when they occur. The aim is to provide a flexible response to ensure printing continues, or gets back online in the shortest possible time.

The web press sector has undergone tremendous changes as the manufacturers consolidate and the presses become more powerful and productive. It’s always been a high-stakes, high-investment game that relies on a dependable service infrastructure in order to maximise its potential. The new manroland Goss team in the region is made up of experienced professionals from both brands that can guarantee the required ongoing support. Or as Dennis Wickham has it, “We’re better together.”

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