Mr. Kettler, you are the third-generation head of this family-owned company ...
... Yes, I took over the print shop from my father in 2000. The business was founded by my grandfather, who opened a small store selling books and stationery here in Bönen in 1934. At some point, he began printing leaflets, brochures, and invitation cards using a small hand-operated printing press. In the 1960s, during the heyday of commercial printing, he ultimately gave up the stationery store to focus entirely on printing books. My father took over the company in the 1980s and continued developing it.
What has changed since you have been in charge at the printing office?
Everything. The printing industry has undergone a radical transformation in recent years. We are facing intense competition from Eastern and Southern Europe. The spread of digital technologies, the Fourth Industrial Revolution – we need to take all that into account. Customers’ demands and needs have changed. Of course, they can have products made abroad at lower costs. That is why we need to win them over not only with attractive pricing, but above all with our services, skills, and innovations. Over the last years, we have invested heavily in modern equipment, training our staff, and expanding our digital infrastructure. We are now able to offer carbon-neutral printing. In fact, we are not only a printer – we also provide comprehensive services, and we employ graphic designers, lithographers, and bookbinders. Our greatest assets are our people, as well as the fact that we are well established in the area. Our customers come in to see us at the print shop, they stand next to the press to check the accuracy of the colors. That is something that no online printing company can offer.
But it won’t be possible to stop the advance of digital technologies.
No, and that is not our objective either. After all, digital technologies also hold great potential for us. We created a dedicated department for digital printing a few years ago, over and above traditional offset printing. Last year, we added an HP Indigo 12000 to our array of presses, which is an incredibly versatile machine. Our online portal k-books.de is a genuine alternative to conventional online printing companies, which for the most part only offer standardized products. By contrast, we offer a high level of customization even for very small print runs, i.e., bespoke formats, paper, and finishes. In particular, students and agencies in the areas of photography, design, and architecture value this kind of service when they commission us to print their theses and portfolios.
That means that digital printing will replace traditional offset printing?
I don’t think so. Both exist side by side and complement each other. Each method has its specific advantages. For offset, we have been using a Komori for some years now, i.e., a press with a UV coloring system. This reduces the time it takes for the printed sheets to dry, and we don’t have to use protective lacquers and powders, which allows for considerably shorter production times. In addition, it produces excellent results. The Komori makes print products that we just could not imagine before, especially in combination with metallized paper and uncoated natural paper, which is frequently used these days. Many of our customers choose us as their printer because of this very machine. We are a leader in the industry in particular when it comes to high-quality books. This is illustrated by the many awards we have won in recent years, as well as by the feedback we get from our customers.