To recap, this was the manroland division rescued by British engineering group, Langley Holdings, when faced with insolvency two years ago, an event that leads to an obvious initial question regarding the effects of the acquisition on the German company.
Three points emerge from Rafael’s answer – a significant culture change, enhanced manufacturing efficiency, and a fresh focus on customer service. These are matters close to his heart.
‘The takeover by Langley Holdings was highly significant,’ he reports. ‘As we say in German, it changed our culture from a large corporate to a “Mittelstand” company.’
This, he adds, is reflected in many ways in day-to-day business matters.
‘For instance, instead of long decision-making processes, we now make quick decisions involving only the people directly involved. Additionally, our structure is now extremely lean. For example, all market organisations report directly to me; there are no layers in between; and decisions are taken on the spot.’
Another important aspect is the direct responsibility and accountability of the managers. Every manager acts as an entrepreneur and every euro is thoroughly scrutinised before it’s spent.
Apart from cultural changes, however, Rafael notes that the Offenbach plant is gaining a number of advantages from having an industrialist such as Tony Langley as a shareholder. Not only his personal manufacturing expertise, but also a number of synergies with the Langley Group are proving to be crucial assets. ‘During the last two years, we’ve completely changed the landscape of our production site,’ says Rafael. ‘Now condensed into one site (from the previous three) it’s considerably more efficient than before.’
One further change mentioned by Rafael is a clearer focus on customers. ‘Instead of chasing market share by offering lower prices to convince printers to buy our products, we’re now putting all our efforts and expertise into helping our customers to become more efficient by using our equipment to its maximum capacity. In short, we’re helping to make our customers more profitable.’
Asked about the financial health of manroland Sheetfed, he replies: ‘Our results for 2012 and 2013 show a humble but positive result; and our half-year report to June 2014 substantiates this positive trend. We’re not only profitable but we’re also generating sufficient cash to stay afloat; and we’re debt free.’
Also discussed is the ongoing relationship with manroland web systems.
Ongoing cooperation with manroland web systems
At the time of the insolvency, the two businesses – manroland Sheetfed and manroland web systems were separated. While the sheetfed operation went to Langley Holdings in the UK, manroland web systems was purchased by L Possehl & Co in Germany.
However, at the time, the new shareholders agreed that cooperation should continue where it made sense.
‘As a result,’ Rafael now explains, ‘in many countries, including South Africa, we act as an agent for manroland web systems since we have the people and the expertise to do so. And in some countries manroland web systems represents our sheetfed operations.’
Turning the spotlight on the local operation, Rafael stresses group policy that dictates that all subsidiaries, including Southern Africa, have to be profitable and cash-positive. ‘Our South African company is achieving its targets,’ he confirms.
‘Our direct presence in South Africa started in 2009 and we certainly made the right decision at that time. We intend to stay and further develop our business in this country, even in these difficult times. We’re convinced our presence in South Africa is positive for our customers.’
As already mentioned, Daniel Constandse has now been appointed MD of manroland Southern Africa; and he’s backed by a highly-experienced team of professionals, including Brad Smith for after-market, Deon van Niekerk for equipment and Molefe Ratlhagane for finance.
Apart from running two offices – in Cape Town and Johannesburg – and marketing products within South Africa, the local company is also focusing on sub-Saharan Africa. ‘We believe there’s a lot of potential in this region and South Africa is the perfect platform from which to explore that potential,’ Rafael comments.
Questioned about the printing sectors likely to spawn future growth, Rafael has this to say: ‘There’s an obvious trend towards growth in packaging printing, since offset is still the cheapest way to produce industrial-scale volumes; and emerging markets are demanding more and more packaging for food, healthcare and cosmetics packaging. Even in the saturated markets of Europe, North America and Japan, demand for these products continues to escalate. Our company is traditionally a strong partner to the packaging industry and we’re often in the forefront of offering the applications needed.
‘Nevertheless,’ he continues, ‘it must be said that commercial and publication printing is still the largest market. Even if demand for these products is diminishing owing to digital printing and online media, there’s still room for growth in emerging markets. We believe that both market segments are important to us and our offering includes state-of-the-art technology to serve our customers with the right products.’
Rafael goes on to explain that those products are not necessarily limited to presses. ‘We’ve developed a whole portfolio of products such as maintenance contracts and consumables to allow manroland users to keep their investment up to date, or even change their business model by adding upgrades – the InlineFoiler is one good example.’
And the last topic – manroland’s strategy of selling refurbished presses. ‘Thanks to our “Premium” offer, we’re more than just another dealer in used equipment,’ he maintains. ‘We offer refurbished used presses that we’ve known since their first day of production. We know how the press has been maintained and its technical condition.’
Top printing industry CEO
And what about the man himself? With his Spanish ancestry but having lived most of his life in Germany, Rafael Penuela Torres is a true European, communicating fluently in Spanish, German and English.
And building on 21 years’ experience in the commercial printing and packaging printing sectors, the last two as CEO of manroland Sheetfed, Rafael has been instrumental in managing the company’s turnaround under its new structure, largely through his expertise in and passion for the fields of production, sales, marketing and business development.
In fact, a leading Austrian print publication recently hailed him as the ‘top CEO of 2013’ following the results of an online survey of readers to determine the print industry CEO who ‘most shaped the industry’ during 2013.
Rafael polled 40.8% of the vote, followed by manroland Web Systems’ Eckhard Hoerner-Marass (35.7%), KBA’s Klaus Bolza-Schuenemann (15.3%) and Heidelberg’s Gerold Linzbach (8.1%).
Undoubtedly manroland Sheetfed and its worldwide subsidiaries are in trustworthy hands.