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Interview with Jean-Pascal Bobst, CEO of the Bobst Group

"Major trade shows need to reinvent themselves"

Jean-Pascal Bobst, CEO Bobst Group.
Jean-Pascal Bobst, CEO Bobst Group.
(Bild: Bobst)

Why did Bobst decide against participating in drupa 2021?

Jean-Pascal Bobst: Bobst has participated in every drupa since 1951 and has always been committed to the topics of "print and paper". But our world is subject to permanent change. It is one of our entrepreneurial tasks to recognize trends in the market at an early stage and to align our activities with them.

The benefits of large trade shows with a long duration lie primarily in the social contacts around products and in the development of a sense of belonging, pride and our culture. The Covid-19 virus has presented us with new challenges in this regard: we need to maintain everyone's health and fulfill our social responsibilities. Our new industry vision also impacts our presence at trade shows. It was obvious and predictable that we would change things.

The travel required, the distance needed, and the concern about too many people being in exhibition halls led us to the decision not to participate in trade shows and exhibitions in 2021. In addition, we’ve come to the conclusion - with a view to our social responsibility - that it is no longer justifiable from an ecological point of view to transport tons of machinery and equipment to trade fairs and produce mountains of waste in the process. On the other hand, our customers want to see and touch our solutions. And they are increasingly looking for fully integrated solutions for networked production. We equip our six Competence Centers with appropriate capabilities. Streaming demos and online seminars open up additional, new options for us. Especially at the beginning of the pandemic, our customers discovered the benefits of virtual demonstrations - and they continue to do so. From our point of view, the function of trade shows will continue to evolve. Bobst will accompany this change. Covid-19 has accelerated decisions that we have been dealing with for some time anyway. In view of the current situation, we are convinced that we have made the right decision.

Bobst plans to further develop its Competence Centers to provide customers with access to product and solution demonstrations.
Bobst plans to further develop its Competence Centers to provide customers with access to product and solution demonstrations.
(Bild: Bobst)

Do you still consider major international events useful?

Jean-Pascal Bobst: Large trade shows can be useful, but they have to reinvent themselves. The customers of 2020 have different needs than the customers of 1980. A look at the development of trade shows demonstrates that they have changed little. Exchanging information, discovering new applications and learning about new technologies is crucial for the packaging industry. We expect that the major exhibition companies will find ways and means to address the current needs of their customers and the industry as a whole in the further development of their business models.

With this remote assistance service from Bobst, the customer and the Bobst service technician are connected via a headset with augmented reality glasses.
With this remote assistance service from Bobst, the customer and the Bobst service technician are connected via a headset with augmented reality glasses.
(Bild: Bobst)

Will Bobst cancel participation in events such as interpack or ICE/CCE in the future, as well?

Jean-Pascal Bobst: For 2021, we have decided not to participate in any trade shows - except possibly in emerging markets. In the future, we will also align trade show participation differently and focus more on applications in combination with corresponding technology lounges instead of transporting tons of machines and systems around the world.

What expectations do you associate with decentralized, more personal event formats?

Jean-Pascal Bobst: You are addressing the core of the discussions: we have invested massively in our Competence Centers and are developing them into "Smart Factories" by adding innovative ways for demonstrating the latest solutions and for virtual shows. Many customers will appreciate being able to access information and demonstrations without having to invest time in travel. In addition, customers and prospects will be able to see the solutions they want to deploy at our industry-segment-specific locations. We can't show a lot of these solutions at trade shows.

What kind of events are you specifically planning in the future?

Jean-Pascal Bobst: We see federations - local and international - as important platforms for meeting our customers and prospects. Topic-specific online seminars will be used to effectively communicate content. In addition, we will organize more events and machine presentations in our Competence Centers. These can be both customized demonstrations and events for larger groups of people.

Connected Services on the way to predictive management of packaging production.
Connected Services on the way to predictive management of packaging production.
(Bild: Bobst)

Will the packaging and printing industry in general rely more on data-based digital business models in the future?

Jean-Pascal Bobst: New digital business models are indeed emerging. This applies not only to the way customers buy their production equipment. It also applies to how they market their products. We, too, have now digitized some of the services we offer our customers. For example, our customers can order services online and monitor their production remotely. For the future, we can imagine new workflow solutions that will allow us to send customers invoices based on the efficiency of specific processes. Packaging manufacturers, in turn, are developing platforms for web-to-pack, where small and medium-sized companies can order labels or folding cartons online. The digital revolution is changing the packaging industry just as it is changing other industries.

Which applies equally to the topic of sustainability?

Jean-Pascal Bobst: The topic of sustainability encompasses many aspects. We are working on new solutions that enable the production of bags that are actually recyclable. To do this, we use monomaterial technologies that we develop in partnership with leading material suppliers. Here we contribute our extensive know-how in coating, laminating and printing.

We also develop techniques that enable zero-defect packaging production. This means that packaging manufacturers who work with our machines generate only minimal amounts of waste when setting up their machines. They deliver 100 % controlled packages into the process that cause no problems in the packaging lines. We are also working on more energy-efficient machines that use less ink and produce less waste. Our new Digi-Flexo-technology, our recently introduced Ink-On-Demand-system, the new One-ECG-technology and digital printing systems are perfect examples of innovations that meet the demands for greater sustainability. We will be presenting further innovations here in the future. For us, sustainability is not an option, but rather a pillar of our new industrial vision, which is built on networking, digitalization, automation and sustainability.

About Jean-Pascal Bobst

Bobst is one of the world's leading suppliers of equipment and services for substrate converting, printing and finishing in the fields of labels, flexible materials, folding cartons and corrugated board. Founded in 1890 by Joseph Bobst in Lausanne, Switzerland, Bobst is represented in more than 50 countries, owns 15 production facilities in eight countries and employs more than 5,500 people around the world. The company posted sales of CHF 1,636 million in the last fiscal year, which ended December 31, 2019.

What technology concepts do you have in mind here?

Jean-Pascal Bobst: Digitalization and networking of entire production plants are among Bobst's strategic priorities. We believe that data will play a central role in all process steps required to produce packaging in the future. Data acquisition, data analysis, the Internet of Things (IOT), digital printing and digital laser stamping are still young technologies that will become components of flexible, efficient and sustainable packaging production.

Beyond that, is there a topic that deserves special attention?

Jean-Pascal Bobst: One important topic is preparing the next generation for the future of the packaging industry. We need to train and educate new machine operators further and make our industry more attractive to the younger generation. Our customers have difficulties attracting and keeping employees. For us, this topic is of strategic importance in the development of our machines and user interfaces. Sustainability is another topic that we are advancing as part of a profound strategy in the market.

How do you see the packaging industry developing over the next three to five years?

Jean-Pascal Bobst: Over the past 50 years, the packaging industry has primarily increased the productivity and quality of conventional production processes with new developments. We are now on the threshold of decades in which the industry will meet new consumer demands in a digital world. Bobst will continue to deliver best-in-market machines and complement them with additional intelligence, new software capabilities and cloud-based platforms to make packaging production better than ever. We are embarking on a new journey that will help us shape the future of the packaging world over the next decade.    

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Eva Middendorf

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