Peter Steinbeck: Hoping for a return to life of trade fairs and personal meetings

Windmoller & Holscher Group CEO Peter Steinbeck in conversation with PrintWeek

08 Feb 2022 | By PrintWeek Team

Peter Steinbeck

PrintWeek (PW): Tough 18 months. Your learnings from 2021...
Peter Steinbeck (PS):
There were no standard solutions for the challenges of the last 18 months. Trustful personal relationships, a lot of communication and tailor-made solutions were the things that were needed the most. During the crisis, we continued to find solutions together with our customers. 

PW: How has your company and factory sites responded to the challenges of the Covid-19 era? 
We have implemented strict on-site security measures for our production plants and used home office, wherever possible. This way, we were able to minimise effects and stayed fully operational the whole time.

PW: Anything on the ideas front? Any new research or innovation?
During the pandemic, our smart devices network that was in place had proven especially useful. When traveling was restricted, these well-established services helped us to support our customers. New methods such as visual assistance were used more extensively and gained market-share. Our local presence worldwide was also a major benefit during the times of travel restrictions. We could install and commission all the machines delivered to India even during the time of travel restrictions. 

PW: The pandemic has impacted India’s prospects to become a USD5 trillion economy by FY25. However, has the last quarter numbers reposed faith in the Indian market?
We see a lot of focus in the Indian market towards more sustainable flexible packaging solutions. We have always had a long-term approach in the Indian market and can mention that our approach is working very well with the recent results. The demand for sustainable solutions is opening new opportunities for growth.

PW: Brands (FMCG and non-FMCG) are seeking more and more from print and packaging. As a global manufacturing brand, how can our industry cater to the new normal of - gaining speed; more flexibility; profit-centric approach; and lower carbon footprint?
Each year we invest around 8% of sales in research and development (R&D). We have a 10,000 sqm technology centre for customer tests as well as our own R&D. With these investments we constantly improve our machines to cater to needs for increased efficiency. One of the biggest levers is digitisation. Automation and assistance systems support operators to make the most of the machine. internet of things (IoT) systems give the transparency needed to improve processes. They are also the basis for transparency needed for sustainability. 

PW: How should print adopt marketing strategies that promote the print brand beyond the function of product or service. One school of thought is: the key is to do more than just meet consumers’ immediate needs. What is your view?
We have presented solutions to widen the function of print for the past years already. These included functional printing, for example to show shelf-life or an uninterrupted cold chain. Another example is the implementation of QR codes into the print motif. Until now, none of these solutions have gained a significant market share – mostly because packaging remains a very price sensitive market. Nonetheless, our machines are ready to support these novel approaches to make packaging more useful. 

PW: 77% of Indian consumers are actively engaging with sustainability. These consumers will invest time and money in companies that try to do good. Three sustainable actions you have undertaken in the past year that you can share with us.
As a machine builder our biggest impact is technology. These are our three most important developments: 100% recyclable all-PE pouches produced with Varex II and Machine-Direction-Orientation. The second was heavy duty sacks with a high content of recycled materials and lastly, an innovative solution for recyclable high barrier film: high barrier properties and recyclability by EVOH replacement with G-polymer.

PW: Is there a Green Gap between what our industry talks about; and the rest of society? For example, the industry uses terms like “biodegradable” and “circular economy”.
As experts it is natural that we in our industry have more knowledge than the rest of the society. Even within our expert circles there are different levels of knowledge, when talking about sustainable solutions – for example in different markets. We see ourselves as ambassadors sharing the global best-practices with our customers. As for educating the public we believe we can only tackle this challenge together and actively support the activities of associations regionally. 

PW: How can we bridge the knowledge gap?
In India specifically we are working with multiple industry organisations to help spread the word and educate the society. We recently did an open to all webinar with VDMA and Indian Plastic Institute (IPI) on advancements in bulk material packaging in woven sacks where sustainability in bulk material packaging was discussed extensively.

PW: Any lessons you can share from customers that have been resilient or innovative (and flourished) during the past 18 months?
Soparkar & Kothari Technologies (S&K) installed their first project for the hygiene film market realising the global trend toward multilayered blown film line.  The company chose the best-in-class technology, Varex II with MDO line for manufacturing breathable and non-breathable back sheet films. 

PW: And?
Ultimate Flexipack has recently commissioned a set-up with a W&H blown film line with an inline MDO unit for developing single material laminates. This should be a landmark project for Indian flexible packaging industry opening new avenues in the direction of sustainability. We are very thankful to Ultimate Flexipack for extending their long-term partnership with us with this very important project

PW: Your plans for 2022?
We will continue our chosen strategy in 2022. Efficient production, sustainability and digitisation will continue to be the core of our R&D activities. We are looking forward to K22 in October this year where we will launch marvelous innovations. To get even closer to our customers, we are actively increasing our team in global locations worldwide. We are close to having 100 people at our office in New Delhi and hope to add more in the coming months.

PW: One outrageous prediction for the year to come …
Not outrageousness, but careful optimism will continue to be our approach. 2022 will be a transitional year in terms of Covid-19 with hick-ups in the global supply chains. We will all have to live with the side effects from these two severe hurdles while hoping for a return to life of trade fairs and personal meetings. We cannot wait to welcome more international customers in person again – on local trade fairs, at our headquarters in Germany and at the K22.


  • How do you unwind?
    Family, travel, golf, reading and cooking.
  • Three books by your bedside?
    Never by Ken Follet, Biography of Louis Armstrong and Principles by Ray Dalio.
  • Recent packaging innovation that you loved?
    PET replacement in stand-up pouches.
  • One tech-guru (past or present) you want to meet - and why?
    Steve Jobs – my user experience (UX) hero.