Sabine Geldermann: Drupa is and will remain the top platform for the printing industry

Following the decision to reschedule Drupa 2020 to 20 – 30 April 2021, owing to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Sabine Geldermann, director, Drupa and global head, print technologies of Messe Düsseldorf, answers questions that concern the print industry.

30 Mar 2020 | By PrintWeek Team

Sabine Geldermann

What was the decisive factor for Messe Düsseldorf to postpone Drupa?

Messe Düsseldorf is following the recommendation of the crisis management team of the German Federal Government to take into account the principles of the Robert Koch Institute when assessing the risk of major events. Based on this recommendation and the recent significant increase in the number of people infected with the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), including in Europe, Messe Düsseldorf has reassessed the situation. In addition, there was the general ruling issued by the city of Düsseldorf on 11 March 2020, in which major events with more than 1,000 participants present at the same time are generally prohibited. Against this background, there was unfortunately no other option than to postpone Drupa.

On which criteria did you determine the new date?

Under normal circumstances, the year 2020 would have been a “trade fair rally” for Messe Düsseldorf, because from August last year until this June almost all of Düsseldorf's major world-leading trade fairs should have taken place, with Drupa as the finale. Due to the influence of the coronavirus and the associated official decrees or restrictions, seven trade fairs planned for this spring have already been postponed to the second half of 2020 and to spring 2021. Since we need a time frame of around two months for Drupa (due to its set-up, duration and dismantling), there were only limited options available. Having weighed up all the parameters and in view of the international trade fair calendar, the date chosen, 20 - 30 April 2021, is the earliest and best possible date, which we have agreed together with our president and the VDMA as the supporting association. Under the current circumstances, this date now allows the greatest possible planning security for all parties involved. Fortunately, we are now once again in a similar timeframe to the original, traditional May date of Drupa, which has become widely established in the industry.

How has the global printing community responded to your announcement?

The current situation is affecting all industries worldwide in an unprecedented way and the effects of the coronavirus are already having a drastic impact on public and economic life. As in other industries, the printing industry is feeling the effects of this in the form of short-time work, production downtime and supply bottlenecks — on a national and global level. In this situation, however, the health and protection of employees and partners takes precedence. The reaction of our international customers and partners to the postponement was therefore consistently positive and met with great understanding and acceptance. Three months before the regularly scheduled start of Drupa, we were thus able to give many exhibitors the opportunity at this point in time to reschedule their upcoming logistical and very cost-intensive measures, such as the shipment of machines.

We were very pleased with the numerous emotional feedbacks on our social networks and platforms. One thing is certain: the industry wants to have a Drupa again, one that retains its image, its radiance and its global standing — this would not have been feasible under the current conditions. That's why we will now take every possible measure to meet the expectations of our global customers in April 2021 — let's embrace the future in 2021 together!

Exhibitors traditionally work towards the drupa date with their new products: Much is already completed for June; exhibitors do not want to wait to present the new products to their customers. Does drupa now see itself confronted with alternative, virtual presentation formats?

Our exhibitors will certainly present some of their innovations this year already, using different formats such as customer events or digital platforms. However, these can only bridge the current demand – in our opinion, they do not offer a complete replacement for a trade fair with worldwide appeal. Drupa is and will remain the top platform for the printing industry to present innovations, come together and, above all, network. That is why Drupa will remain the target the print industry is working towards even after the postponement. Drupa represents an indispensable platform for industry participants, providing orientation, impetus and, above all, satisfying the demand for face-to-face meetings and worlds of experience to a high degree. It is all about human needs, haptic experiences and running machines that fascinate participants and which definitely cannot be fulfilled at this point by digital media. What distinguishes leading world trade fairs such as Drupa is the concentrated energy that arises from the selective gathering of many people; the personal and emotional exchange; the joint presence of decision-makers, multipliers and idea providers; lively discussions; presentations that set the pace; chance encounters; opportunities to acquire new customers; recruiting options...

How do you believe print businesses can weather the storm caused by the pandemic?

There is no doubt that there will be declines and lasting economic setbacks. The government's measures and aids are on the way. However, it is important that the industry does not suffer a complete standstill in production as a result of the current measures. Our industry must continue to invest in the future in order to seize market opportunities, because print, with its so many different and extensive applications and forms of use, will continue to be indispensable in many markets in the future. The exchange of ideas between industry players and the necessary inspiration are key means to this end, and are lived out and introduced in a future-oriented manner at leading world trade fairs such as Drupa.

What changes will the postponement mean for Drupa 2021?

The postponement represents a new, unprecedented scenario for all concerned and requires a certain degree of flexibility. As in the past, we will continue to take every possible measure to carry over the successful status of Drupa to the new date in 2021. It is our ambition and desire to organise another unique and successful Drupa for our global customers in 2021.

Will the framework programme remain in place?

Our supporting programme at the five special forums has already impressed with a fascinating range of formats, renowned speakers and exciting topics.

Our top priority is to offer our visitors highly relevant, inspiring and lastingly valuable content. The lecture programme is rounded off by Guided Tours and was already available for bookings via our portal. Our aim is now, of course, to adapt and transfer the programme as far as possible to the April date.

Significant issues concerning the ongoing digital transformation, topics related to circular economy and sustainability or new business models, which will be presented as keynotes, panel discussions and best cases, will continue to inspire and successfully advise companies – and this will be more relevant than ever after the impact of the coronavirus.