Exclusive interview with VMDA President, Kai Büntermeyer

Kai B├╝ntemeyer is Managing Partner of Kolbus GmbH & Co. KG and CEO of Kolbus Group. Kai has been at the helm at Kolbus for the past 18 years, during which period the company became Germany’s biggest manufacturer of paper converting equipment. Kolbus develops and manufactures machines for industrial processing of folded, printed signatures all the way to finished and packed books. A new, fast-growing division produces technology for packaging manufacturing from grey and corrugated board, including luxury packaging, and flexographic presses for corrugated packaging.

Kai has been Chairman of the Board, Print and Paper Technology Section of the VDMA, Germany’s engineering company association, since 2004. He served as President of the European committee for Print and Paper Technology from 2008 until 2010 and as President of Globalprint from 2012 until 2014. He is a delegate of the Chamber of Commerce in Industry in Bielefeld.

1. What are the latest technology developments in digital printing?

The latest development that we see is following three main routes. One of those is that many “early mover” users are in the process of installing their second generation digital presses with higher output and our higher levels of quality. Secondly, we see the industrialisation of digital printing. This consists mainly of the automation of down-stream or post-press operations that were a bit of an afterthought for many of the early users. Finally, and this is of course why this upcoming conference will be really exciting, digital printing is making forays into the packaging arena.

2. How do you think brand owner adoption will change in the next 5 years?

Over the next 5 to 10 years, we will experience how our ultimate customer base, consumers worldwide, will morph into something that feels much more like quicksand than an actual “base”. At the same time, technology will become available that we are only beginning to imagine. In order to flourish in this environment, participants in the value chain will have to establish a feed-back loop that reaches from the initial product design and brand development through technology providers, product and packaging manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers all the way to the consumers. A vertically segmented value chain will soon be an organisational phenomenon of the past. Only a very small number of powerful, world-famous brands will be able to afford staying out of this development.

3. What do you think are some of the barriers to adopting digital print?

Brand owner adoption and integrated value-chain design are pre-requisite for making the benefits of digital print available for packaging. Sustainability concerns, for example de-inking, recyclability, migration into food-products, will be even more important than in the publishing arena.

4. How is VDMA Printing and Paper Technology Membership responding to Digital Print?

In the past our membership was not typically involved in basic digital printing technology development due to a strong engineering and industry focused mindset. The roots of digital printing are to a large extent to be found in North America, Japan or Israel with strong markets for electronic gadgets and consumer products. Today however, we see that a rising number of our members are active in the field of industrial printing, some of which will be present at the Digital Printing for Packaging event in Berlin. And many more of our member companies are actively working on systems integration and down-stream operations, in other words, the industrialisation of digital printing.

5. What are you looking forward to most about this year's conference?

I believe we are in a very fascinating phase of digital print for packaging development, where we will see the migration from vision to reality begin with a significant number of new applications really soon. Therefore, I am truly excited about attending the conference and, hopefully, hear about some of these breakthroughs.

5. What can you recommend to do in Berlin?

If you have not yet been to see them, the Holocaust Memorial and adjacent information centre are an absolute must. It is located next to the American Embassy and the Brandenburg Gate. Furthermore, the Museum Island with the Pergamon and other museums to choose from is worth a visit. With less time on your hands, try the Anton Corbijn retrospective at America House. My favourite club is the Felix, in the basement of the Adlon Hotel. It’s been going for more than a decade now, which makes it a true classic in the club scene.

Kai will be the afternoon Chairperson on Tuesday 8th December.