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Q&A with Karl Fritchen, President of Baldwin Vision Systems (formerly QuadTech)

In late 2017, QuadTech was acquired by Baldwin Technology Company, a global manufacturer and supplier of process-automation equipment and related consumables for the printing, packaging and other industrial segments. In this Q&A, President of Baldwin Vision Systems, Karl Fritchen, answers questions around the acquisition, explains the positive impact this agreement will have on the industry and the company’s existing customers, and shares his vision for Baldwin Vision Systems moving forward.

Firstly, there have been rumors in the market that QuadTech is being dissolved or reduced now that it has been acquired by Baldwin Technology Company. Is there any truth in that?

Definitely not. In fact, QuadTech’s press controls business is actually expanding, under a different corporate parent and name. Baldwin Technology Company is uniting QuadTech’s press controls business with two of its existing entities—Web Printing Controls and PC Industries—creating a global platform that will operate as the new “Baldwin Vision Systems” business segment.

Baldwin Technology Company, and parent company BW Forsyth Partners, recognized the potential of adding QuadTech to its portfolio of print technology solutions, combining talents and capabilities with PC Industries and WPC. Baldwin’s aggressive overall strategy required a component with color management, register control, and inspection solutions—making these acquisitions a perfect fit for the business.

For QuadTech, being part of a larger organization means more diverse technical capabilities under one company umbrella. We can now offer higher volume, and a wider variety of options that fit our customers’ processes and budget. Our product offerings are now stronger and more complete, and we have already won new business with our new combined offering.

However, for us, this is just the beginning! Moving forward, we are focused on aligning and expanding our technologies into the strongest offering in the global market.

So, Baldwin Technology Company doesn’t have plans to divide and sell QuadTech’s assets?

QuadTech is the 4th acquisition for Baldwin in 2017 and the 100th acquisition for the Barry-Wehmiller Group. In its history, Barry-Wehmiller has NEVER closed or sold one of its acquisitions so we’re confident that these companies are invested in our future and continued success. In addition, the synergies between QuadTech’s product portfolio and expertise and Baldwin Technology Company as a leading global manufacturer and supplier of process-automation equipment and related consumables for the printing, packaging and other industrial segments make the two companies an ideal match.

How will your customers, or the industry as a whole, benefit from this new company structure?

Many of our competitors have individual products. However, with this new powerhouse of technologies, we’re now able to put more pieces together to offer complete software and hardware solutions for color management, register control, and inspection. We’re able to connect data throughout the overall process and workflow, with automated tools for pre-press, at press, and post-press. And that capability is going to expand! This will provide customers and prospects with a more streamlined, coherent solution from one leading supplier, better equipping the industry to meet demand for accurate and increased quality control within the shortest possible timeframe.

In addition, prior to the acquisition, PCI and WPC were well known in the USA, but did not have a global sales and service footprint. Now their product lines are available and fully supported worldwide, along with QuadTech’s. By combining with Baldwin’s existing global footprint, our customers can now benefit from a much stronger product portfolio that’s available to more markets, through more offices, agents, and service operations.

Can you explain this expanded global reach in more detail? Where exactly will you be located?

As part of Baldwin, we are expanding from 5 to 21 locations worldwide. The new headquarters for Baldwin Vision Systems is under construction (completion estimated as end of May, 2018) so we will be located in our present headquarters in Sussex, WI, USA until this facility is ready for us to move into. However, our U.S. manufacturing operation is moving to Baldwin’s facility in Fairfield, IL, USA and that move is already well underway.

We are continuing our presence in the regions we were in previously but combining with Baldwin will give us all a much stronger presence in all of those markets, such as the Americas, Europe, India, Japan, and southeast Asia—and even expand our presence in other markets. We now have opportunities to leverage economies from volume across a broader range of products and locations for improved system and service offerings.

What do you see as Baldwin Vision Systems’ key market advantage?

In addition to the financial backing and global platform of a large and growing organization, we bring several advantages that competitors can’t match. As I’ve mentioned, this new combination of market-leading companies creates a much stronger product portfolio and a more solid global footprint for commercial, newspaper, and packaging markets.

For all printers, we also act as valuable process consultants, rather than just being equipment suppliers. For example, on the packaging side, we are also in regular conversations with brand owners, which gives us a unique insight into their pain points and expectations. This enables us to collaborate with printers and brand owners alike on solutions that meet brands’ exacting requirements.

We also have strong relationships with ink manufacturers to ensure that we can offer our customers support with an expanded range of production issues.

What will happen to current QuadTech, PCI, and WPC product lines? Will products be continued/discontinued?

There is minimal overlap between the current product lines. This provides a great opportunity for printers, as our products complement each other far more than they compete. This will give printers the ability to choose between multiple options in a product class and select the option that best fits their specific need and budget.

For example, in newspaper and commercial printing applications, Baldwin Visions Systems not only offers standalone color-to-color registration and color control systems, but also combined functionality from the same camera, if needed. Additionally, customers can choose between RGB-based or spectral-based color control, depending upon process and customer requirements.

In packaging applications, our combined product portfolio includes options for offset, flexo, gravure, and the unique requirements of digital print. We offer pre-press proofing solutions, as well as on-press and post-press solutions across narrow-, mid-, and wide-web applications—as well as sheet-fed applications. Furthermore, we offer connected tools across pre-press, production and post-press workflows that help our customers monitor and manage much more than just the print process—but also their inks, job data, production quality and reports.

However, where we ourselves face obsolescence issues from within our supply chain, we do plan to discontinue select products and replace them with suitable alternatives that offer a longer horizon for parts and support. We are therefore planning to replace:

The QuadTech Vector camera with the WPC CCR+

The WPC Ribbon Control with the QuadTech Ribbon Control with MultiCam

The PCI GV-Spectro with the QuadTech DeltaCam

QuadTech PDF Verification with the PCI Guardian OLP

Customers who bought any of our products recently can rest assured that parts or suitable alternatives for any products will be made available for at least 7-10 years after the announcement of any product discontinuation.

In addition, all our solutions will keep their current product names and will therefore be easily identifiable moving forward.

What about new product development? Is that going to continue?

Absolutely. We now have more available resources for new product development, and a renewed focus on making existing technology available to a wider market—whether that means new systems or upgrading and optimizing existing presses to help printers compete. In fact, this quarter we will have our first new product launch as Baldwin Vision Systems, so look for more information on that coming soon!

Our focus remains the same: innovating and delivering world-class color measurement and management, registration and vision system technologies. By combining engineering talent and expertise, and with the infusion of more financial resources, we plan to expand automation capabilities to include and connect other workflows within print operations.

The combined Engineering teams of WPC, PCI and QuadTech have been integrated into two market-focused teams. The Commercial & Newspaper team is led by Herman Gneuchtel and the Packaging team is led by Kelly Hanaway. Both groups are excited with the talent they now share and the additional resources that are available to provide our customers with new solutions.

What will be the first event/tradeshow that Baldwin Vision Systems attends under the new brand? And what can visitors to that event look forward to seeing from you?

Our first event as a new entity was to sponsor the Fogra Colour Management Symposium in Munich, Germany. Upcoming events include Converters Expo in the USA, Label Summit Latin America 2018 in Mexico, and INFO*FLEX/FTA Forum in the USA. Plans are also underway for multiple speaking events and exhibits in India, Italy, Japan, and Thailand. At all these events, our combined teams will be on-hand to provide customers and prospects with expert technical and market consultancy plus the latest information about our products.

We realize that for a time, people will be looking for QuadTech, PCI, and WPC, so visitors to the above events will see a “co-branded” presence with those names under the Baldwin umbrella at any event we attend this year.

And finally, Karl, what are your objectives for the future of Baldwin Vision Systems? How does this align with the wider company’s vision?

To summarize, Baldwin Technology Company purchased QuadTech to offer a complete product portfolio to the market that will enable them to aggressively pursue a larger share of the global print technology market. These goals align with my own objectives for Baldwin Vision Systems and the part we will play in realizing this wider strategy as one new print technology powerhouse.

The important components that QuadTech brings to Baldwin are expertise in color management and register control, a robust set of solutions, and a well-established global platform. In addition, Baldwin has a strong desire to be a force in the packaging and converting markets, where QuadTech has already been developing important technology innovations. We are therefore poised to make a significant impact on printers’ bottom lines, and their ability to connect data and workflows to automate their processes. It’s an exciting time for us, our customers and the wider industry!

 
   
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