History of Heidelberg


The new technologies were particularly interesting to millers, who, in addition to grinding wheat into flour, were busying themselves with developing better machines and ways to transmit power. It is therefore no coincidence that the first chapter in the history of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG features a miller's son by the name of Andreas Hamm. In March 1850, Hamm, then 26, took over the ownership of the Frankenthal bell foundry and machine factory "Hemmer, Hamm & Compagnie" from his older brother, Georg. Two years later he formed his own company. In 1856, Hamm met Andreas Albert, his senior by three years. Albert had completed his apprenticeship in the factory of Koenig and Bauer in Oberzell on the Main river, where he had become well-acquainted with printing presses. Albert and Hamm decided to join forces to produce bells, metal castings and high-speed presses. Within two years they had already manufactured 14 such presses. The Frankenthaler Zeitung, a German newspaper, reported in 1864: "In a remarkably short time, this business has established a reputation for itself extending far beyond Germany. The company will soon be dispatching presses to customers as far away as Odessa and Kherson". 


In 1873, the two partners went their separate ways, and soon afterwards were fiercely competing against each other to see who could build the better press. In October 1875, Andreas Hamm came up with a "high-speed cylinder letterpress" for 2,400 marks, which he sold to clients as far off as Egypt. A year after Andreas Hamm's death (on June 22, 1894), his son Carl Hamm sold the company. Shortly thereafter, it moved from Frankenthal to Heidelberg, was converted to a joint-stock company and, in 1905, was renamed "Schnellpressenfabrik AG Heidelberg". 
By this time, construction had already begun on a smaller type of press known as the "platen press" (Tiegeldruckpresse). Karl Georg Ferdinand Gilke arrived in Heidelberg in 1912 and developed what he called the "propeller-gripper", describing it as "an automatic feeding and placing device, in which a pivoting rack picks up the sheet by applying suction to its entire surface, then uses blast air to deposit it on the platen...". This meant that the sheet no longer had to be positioned by hand, an operation which had slowed the overall process considerably. 
After series production of the "Express", an automatic platen press able to print 1,000 sheets per hour, began after the end of World War I, it became a sensational success virtually overnight. Its popularity was further enhanced by the new Management Board member, Hubert H.A. Sternberg, who put his heart and soul into marketing the new product.  
This 29-year-old came up with the idea of mounting it onto a car so it could be driven from one printing company to another for live demonstrations. Sternberg sweetened the deal by allowing the printers to pay by installments. It was he who lent the machine its name "Original Heidelberger Tiegel", thus giving it a touch of German romanticism. He also invited one out of every five customers to visit the factory. Because demand grew so rapidly, Sternberg installed the very first assembly line in a German printing press factory, permitting 100 "Tiegel presses" to be assembled each month. The merger of Heidelberg's Schnellpressenfabrik with the Maschinenfabrik Geislingen (M.A.G.) in 1929 expanded the company's casting capacity. In the early 1930s, various banks acquired a majority interest in the "Schnellpressenfabrik Heidelberg", transferring their shareholdings to Rheinelektra, a subsidiary of RWE, in 1941.


In 1934, Heidelberg introduced a fully automatic high-speed cylinder press to the market, and it caught on like wild fire. At that time, 60% of the company's revenues came from foreign sales, a level which became difficult to maintain after the outbreak of World War II. Because printing presses were not essential to the war effort, production was cut back. To keep its skilled workers from being sent to the front, the company accepted orders for precision lathes and hydraulic devices. Sternberg kept his distance from the National Socialist movement, which he was always suspicious of. This explains why, when U.S. troops marched into Heidelberg on March 30, 1945, the press factory was neither occupied nor dismantled, and production there resumed on May 8, even before the official end of the war. In 1957, the largest printing press plant in the world began production in Wiesloch near Heidelberg. By 1959 it had turned out 100,000 presses. Today roughly 400,000 Heidelberg presses are running in 240,000 printing companies spanning the globe. In 1962, the Heidelberg company started building offset printing presses. Sternberg had resisted this move for decades, until technicians were finally able to convince him of this new technology's advantages.


The company's financial success continued despite several setbacks, such as the slump of the mid-70s. Around 1980, more and more printers were looking to print in color, and Heidelberg presses were selling so well that a second factory was built in Amstetten. This plant, which opened in 1985, was fully computerized. In 1988, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG acquired the American web offset specialist, Harris, thus entering a new market segment. During the 1989/90 fiscal year, Heidelberg chalked up record sales of DM 760 million - at a profit margin of 30 percent. 
DRUPA 95 saw Heidelberg present a completely new line of products. Today, as many ten printing units in a row allow customers to print recto and verso in up to five colors, with in-line coating and drying. With the Quickmaster DI, an analog printing plate is imaged digitally by laser beams right in the press. 
Hartmut Mehdorn, who became the new Management Board Chairman on October 1, 1995, has set out to transform the company into a systems vendor offering everything from prepress to binding, thus facilitating the customers- migration to the digital age.  
In 1996, moving toward this ambitious goal, Heidelberg acquired the prepress specialist Linotype-Hell, the Dutch company Stork Contiweb, which manufactures splicers and dryers, and the Anglo-American company Sheridan Systems, which produces bookbinding and mailroom systems. 
Two future-oriented joint ventures which will accompany Heidelberg's customers into the new digital age begun life at the Kiel site in 1997. The first of these was the development of a platesetter by Heidelberg and its Canadian partner CREO. A cooperation with Kodak plans to produce a digital printing press for DRUPA in the year 2000. 
The company has also undergone internal reorganization and now consists of nine independent Business Units. These Business Units are responsible for the individual machine groups and are supported by Sales, Service and Corporate Units. Heidelberg recently began a cooperation with Microsoft in the field of color control. It has also joined forces with SAP to set up a planned joint venture which will produce integrated software solutions for media enterprises. 
On 8 December 1997, the Group was listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange for the first time. On 22 June, it was included in the MDAX and also in the two European indexes, the Dow Jones STOXX and Dow Jones EURO STOXX. 
During the 1997/98 (April 1 to March 31) fiscal year, Heidelberg undertook further important steps to restructure its sales activities. Its representations in France, Mexico and Brazil were taken over or refounded and integrated into the Heidelberg sales network. Since May 1998, the Group has also marketed its own products in South-East Asia, Scandinavia and Africa.  
To handle the widening of the product portfolio brought about by the integration of prepress and postpress operations, Heidelberg is in the process of constructing a new international spare parts center (SPACE) in Wiesloch by the year 1999. To mark its 150th anniversary in the year 2000, the company is also planning to open the Print Media Academy in Heidelberg, an international communication and training center for the graphics industry. 
The Heidelberg Group recorded a record turnover just short of DM 7 billion for the 1997/98 (April 1 to March 31) fiscal year and employs a workforce more than 20 000. The world market leader for printing and publishing solutions is represented in around 170 countries, with 82% of its turnover being earned abroad. 
The company sees the newspaper press market as offering further potential growth in the future. Heidelberg is looking to develop this market and round off its product portfolio as a provider for complete print media solutions. 
With the acquisition of the Stahl Group, Heidelberg has paved the way for the full integration of Finishing products into the product portfolio of the Finishing Business Unit. With a combined workforce of just under 1,000 in Germany and the USA, the companies making up the Stahl Group develop and produce folders, gatherer-stitchers, book-sewing machines and thread-sealing machines.  
Heidelberg takes over the Office Imaging business of the Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester (USA) building on its leadership in digital printing. 
As the world´s largest solution provider for the printing and publishing world Heidelberg also offers consumables thus providing its customers with everything under one roof - from printing presses to consumables. 
In the 1998/99 fiscal year (April 1 to March 31) Heidelberg records another very positive turnover of about 7.7 billion DM (3.9 billion Euro). 
By acquiring a 30 percent stake in Gallus Holding AG, Switzerland (September 1999), Heidelberg strengthens its position in flexographic printing. Gallus develops and manufactures web presses, based in particular on flexographic letterpress and screen printing technologies. The Group's products are primarily aimed at label printers, and it is the international market leader which sets quality standards in this field.  
Heidelberg opens world's largest logistics center for the graphics industry at the Wiesloch site, Germany. Cutting-edge technology and state-of-the-art logistics will allow Heidelberg to deliver original spare parts within 24 hours anywhere in Europe.  
Heidelberg Annual General Meeting in September approves a dividend of Euro 1.50 plus Euro 0.20 bonus for every qualifying share. 
Bernhard Schreier was named as new chairman of the Management Board on October 1, 1999. 
In 2000 Heidelberg celebrates its 150th anniversary  
with the opening of the Print Media Academy. 
Heidelberg presents itself at the DRUPA 2000, the world's largest print and publishing exhibition, as a solution provider for the entire industry. The highlights in Düsseldorf include: A new rotary press called Mainstream 80, and the Nexpress digital colour printing press.