Robert Weihing: System integration within supply chains is growing

Robert Weihing, Global CEO of GMG in conversation with PrintWeek

07 Feb 2022 | By PrintWeek Team

Robert Weihing

PrintWeek (PW): Tough 18 months. Your learnings from 2021...
Robert Weihing (RW):
Sudden shifts or changes in market conditions can occur at any time and often unfold more quickly than expected. We have realised that a solid foundation built on dedication to core values such as quality, flexibility, and continued investment in research and technology help to weather the unexpected as much as they contribute to successes in more stable times.

PW: How has your company and factory sites responded to the challenges of the Covid era? Anything on the ideas front? Any new research or innovation?
Like everyone else, we had to adapt to working from home and manage teams remotely. More flexible project management became our normal, but deadlines still needed to be kept. This has ironically helped us to understand the requirements of our customers better. In particular, their need for solutions such as remote proofing, multi-site job managementand online collaboration.

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?
Yes, for sure. A 10% growth forecast for the near term, and expected 6-7 percent for the mid-term, together with continued strong foreign investment in 2020 and 2021, and India’s currency continuing to perform well are all very positive signs.

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?
Digital printing has been the answer to an ever increasing pressure on production deadlines. However, it ironically also created the requirement for speed, flexibility, reduced costs and waste. As digital technologies mature, analogue systems improve to keep pace, and integration between systems within the supply chain is growing. We will see more and more opportunities for improvement in this area. On-demand printing, short-run job and eco-friendly consumables are all positive trends that create less waste and lower the carbon footprint.

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 don’t see print as a standalone silo any longer, rather a component of interconnected marketing campaigns. Printed signage, store displays, in-app advertising, email campaigns and packaging design all work together to create unified customer awareness and experience. Many pre-press and print companies have recognised this shift and provide multiple services to brands, weaving connections between these different technologies and platforms.

GMG products

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?
GMG is carbon neutral since 2009. Our proof media is a carbon neutral product, too. Every year we are looking at our processes and try to reduce the climate impact of our operation. Last year, we switched our fleet of cars almost entirely to electric. We installed solar panels on the roof of our office building and produce our own electricity. We signed up to our mayor’s commitment to make our hometown (Tubingen, Germany) climate neutral by 2030.

PW: Is there a Green Gap between what our industry talks about; and the rest of society? For example, the industry uses terms such as “biodegradable” and “circular economy”. How can we bridge the knowledge gap?
We haven’t experienced a gap so far as the industry is concerned. Terms such as those mentioned; biodegradable and circular economy, for example, tend to be mostly universal and applicable across industries as diverse as metallurgy, textile, plastics, and paper. We do however see a growing divide between individuals and companies who are concerned about the environment and those who aren’t.

PW: Any lessons you can share from a customer that have been resilient or innovative (plus flourished) during the past 18 months?
Unfortunately, most of the cases I am familiar with involve some level of confidentiality as the implemented changes and innovations are an integral part of their strategic business advantage. One thing we do a lot of work on is helping many packaging companies to successfully adapt their offering to provide brands with options that address the current wave of online sales activities.

PW: Your plans for 2022?
We plan to continue developing our solutions with the clear understanding that the world is becoming more and more interconnected, less location-specific, and with a much higher demand for flexibility, speed, and personalisation. This is both exciting and challenging at the same time, and we are looking forward to where this journey will take us.

PW: One outrageous prediction for the year to come...
Maybe not outrageous, but I expect to see more consolidation and partnering among service providers as well as vendors, in order to meet the challenges of the ever-increasing competitive landscape.n

Quick fire questions

  • How do you unwind?
    Food, wine, and friends - in no particular order. I love good food and good wine. Both eating out or cooking at home is equally relaxing, particularly in great company.
  • One piece of music you love?
    Human - by Rag ’n’ Bone Man. It’s healthy to recognise that as humans we are imperfect – but not use this as an excuse. Also the baseline is genius. So simple and with the change of pace it is musically very powerful.
  • Favourite film?
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It is a classic I watched as a teenager and for some reason I still remember it very vividly. I won’t watch it again though as it is possible I would be disappointed. It’s a little like the saying – “never meet your heroes”. Some things are just better remembered or imagined rather than (re-)experienced.
  • Three books by your bedside?
    Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, 1984 by George Orwell and The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff.
  • One thing about print you love to utter in a public forum?
    If something is worth printing, it’s worth printing it properly. And by that I mean colour accurate of course.
  • Recent packaging innovation that impressed you?
    Recent developments in digital packaging printing developments.
  • One tech-guru (past or present) you want to meet - and why?
    Nick Bostrom – the AI expert. Simply because AI is so hugely complex and undoubtedly a technology that will massively influence the way we live and work very soon.