22.02.2024 / Christoph Gysin

On-Demand-Production – The Key to Greater Sustainability

From a social perspective, the topic of sustainability is one of the most important issues of the future. In this text I would like to explain how on-demand-production in conjunction with the Smart Factory of Muller Martini can be the key to a sustainable and at the same time efficient production for the printing industry.

Not later than the emergence of digital printing at the end of the 1980s, approaches such as On-demand-production have also reached the printing industry. Back then, still largely designed for transactional printing, this production scenario has conquered more and more fields of application – today it ranges from brochures and magazines to books and catalogues. Basically, the term refers to a production and delivery strategy in which manufacturers deliver the right products in the correct quantity to the right place at the right time. In the graphic arts industry, the term “print-on-demand” has also come into use.

CO2 footprint of printing
The “paper and print” value chain, like all other industries, must ask itself questions about sustainability and assume responsibility in this regard. Much has undoubtedly happened here in recent years, and the focus is moving strongly in the direction of the “circular economy”. The German Printing and Media Industries Federation (BVDM) calculated how much carbon dioxide the printing industry in Germany emits and backed this up with figures. The outcome: The CO2 emissions of all printed materials produced by a citizen in Germany account for less than one per cent of the CO2 footprint left by a person throughout the year.

Nevertheless, it is important to exploit the potential for optimisation at all levels and make a contribution to sustainability. This is also illustrated by a study by the paper manufacturer Sappi. The company analysed around 100 medium-sized printing companies in Europe in terms of material efficiency and found that only 750 kg of every tonne of paper purchased are actually sold to the customer as a printed product. 25 per cent are lost due to trimming, set-up sheets or waste. Okay, so the numbers are from 2019! But even if the value today were to be 20 per cent, the potential for process optimisation is large and also has a direct impact on the sustainability of printed products.

The heart of the Smart Factory
The advantages of on-demand-production are obvious, especially in conjunction with digital printing systems: The circulation is exactly matched to the demand. In extreme cases, only what has been sold is produced. The capital tied up in large interim storage facilities, particularly striking in book production, has thus become largely obsolete. In addition, the effort involved in warehousing is often underestimated. The disposal of obsolete printed materials is largely eliminated with on-demand-production. The updating as well as the associated post-production can be implemented easily and efficiently. Internationally active companies should also include a “distribute and print” concept in their considerations: The data are sent and printed on site, saving on logistics and shipping costs. This allows large amounts of CO2 to be saved for transportation.
The current transformation of the graphic arts industry requires flexible finishing solutions with short, automated changeover processes and minimal waste. Here, Muller Martini is pursuing the Finishing 4.0 approach. No or only minimal changeovers are necessary when changing jobs. This set-up assistance saves time and minimises start-up waste. The added value of Finishing 4.0 is also visible in energy and resource efficiency. Demand-driven production saves considerable amounts of paper, inks, solvents, water, and energy, where over 95% of the CO2 footprint of a print product comes from.

Production under control
In order to link the individual systems with each other in a network, a comprehensive workflow system is needed that connects all work steps - from order acceptance to shipping. Muller Martini has already been setting the course for this since 2016 and has pushed ahead with digitalisation. Today, our Connex Workflow can be used for a wide variety of production scenarios such as “print-on-demand” or “book-of-one”. The Connex Workflow is at the heart of the Smart Factory, although you need to know – there are no out-of-the-box solutions. It takes a workflow that is perfectly tailored to the individual business to implement the digital transformation in practice.
The Connex Workflow ensures networking between the organisation level (MES/MIS) and the production level. This makes it possible to track production feedback right down to the individual product in real time. The data thus obtained contribute to efficient and more sustainable production. Muller Martini's approach in this context is based on the principle: “first copy sellable”.

Driving the Digital Transformation 
What you need to know: All our systems are prepared for future expansion with components for the processing of digitally printed products. This applies to saddle stitchers as well as perfect binders and hardcover systems. In practice, this means that installed systems can be upgraded in the field to meet current market demands. An existing saddle stitcher can, for example, be extended with a digital option and thus be used for digital sheet as well as for web printing or a combined application.

The installation of the latest generation of machines and the implementation of a Connex Workflow assists in further reducing the ecological footprint; in addition, profitability can be increased. The example shows that sustainability and economic efficiency do not have to be mutually exclusive, quite the contrary: The Smart Factory of Müller Martini is the answer to sustainability in print production with reduced CO2 and the digital transformation.
At our drupa stand, you will learn in detail about the economic and ecological benefits of on-demand production for you. I look forward to seeing you at our stand 1B50 in Düsseldorf.

Christoph Gysin
Head of Corp. Development & Standards Müller Martini AG
22.02.2024 Christoph Gysin Head of Corp. Development & Standards