Page 17 - Print21 July-Aug 2018 Magazine
P. 17

On the chemistry of success Needs-based
Printing business
While automation and speed are making offset printing more productive, they’re also throwing up fresh challenges. Mitchell ‘Mitch’ Mulligan has been at the helm of industry supplier Böttcher Australia since its founding 20 years ago. He’s marking the anniversary with trademark optimism and a renewed commitment to the future of print.
As managing director of Böttcher Australia, chairman of suppliers’ organisation Visual Connections, and stalwart of the Lithographic Institute of Australia, Mitch Mulligan is the quintessential printing industry professional: enthusiastic, positive and knowledgeable. Now 55, he kick-started the company’s local presence in 1998. Despite Böttcher’s reputation for roller supply, he stresses that the German-based mid-sized global company is really a chemistry enterprise rather than a roller manufacturer.
Printing chemistry, along with blankets and plates for sheetfed and web offset, augment the core offering of rollers for every conceivable
style of printing – and not only for printing. Increasingly, he’s moving
to explore possibilities of speciality rollers for other industries such as steel, timber and pharmaceuticals.
“It’s still the same story as when
we began: looking to where we can add value. It’s about keeping our
eyes and ears open to identify how
we can assist. Recently printers were really struggling with HUV and LED printing because, of all things, the printing blankets couldn’t take the new inks. It was a period of trial and error for many users. We developed
a compound on our blanket that has now stood the test of time. Instead of changing 20 blankets a week, printers now have them on for weeks on end,” he says.
It’s a fine example of what he terms ‘needs based development,’ identifying industry requirements and coming up with a solution. He shies away from the over used term ‘innovation’, preferring to mine the company’s vast technical expertise and global reach to identify new products that will make life easier and more profitable for printers. These he identifies as ‘champion products’ that meet new and developing needs.
Sealing the solutions
“Our ‘New UV’ blanket is one of our champion products. It’s been very well received because it solves the problem. Initially, the new blankets went into
Looking back isn’t Mitch Mulligan’s style. The whippet- lean motorcycle racing champion is more concerned with the challenges of
‘future-proofing’ his business as
the industry shifts and changes. Deeply engaged with the prospects and opportunities for his company, Mulligan is keenly aware of how offset printing has transformed since he first hung out the Böttcher shingle in Sydney two decades ago. At that time digital printing was scarcely a ripple on the pond of the printing industry; commercial printing meant offset production, and print shops with multiple presses were all dependent on roller repair and replacement.
When introducing the Böttcher brand to Australia and New Zealand, he addressed an industry of an estimated 2500 commercial printers using printing plates. These ranged from large enterprises with full-size presses down to shop-front franchises with a Heidelberg GTO in the back room. No matter their market power or size, using offset presses was the technology that united printers. It also provided a good market for the German-based roller supply company.
Change from a front-row seat
In the years since, Mulligan has
had a front-row seat to witness the transformation of the industry. He has seen the market dramatically reduced in the number of enterprises, if not necessarily with a concomitant decline in volume. In this anniversary year at his Castle Hill offices, on careful calculation he estimates there are around 600 “plate-using printers” left across the nation.
For some printing businesses
and suppliers, the digital revolution has proved a disaster. Many an enterprise has shuttered and fallen by the wayside, unable to adapt
to the new market conditions.
For Böttcher Australia, it has delivered an environment where entrepreneurial management and agility has allowed the company
to flourish and expand. While
dealing with the overall decline in the traditional offset-based roller, blanket and chemistry business, Mulligan points to increased market share and an expanding portfolio of products, many addressing industries outside of printing.
Above: The ingredients of success ... Mitch Mulligan (centre) with his team from Böttcher.
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