Carsten Heitkamp, COO of CEWE Group : "In our business we can't make waves, we need to surf them"

New interview in my serie of discussions with leaders in online printing : today, I’m pleased to publish the insights of Carsten Heitkamp, COO of Cewe Group, about the impact of the corona-crisis on Saxoprint. 

"The Corona Crisis was and still is a phenomenon, that changes our society faster than any other crisis in the last decades. The necessary transformation gives all industries new challenges, no matter if it is hit by Corona with less or even more business. In the end this crisis accelerates a trend that we are seeing already for years: A shift to online business!


How did SAXOPRINT has faced the Corona-crisis, and how did it impact your activity? Did you reorganize your company?

Within SAXOPRINT we have a very stable organization that is well established. We obviously first took care of our people and established health guidelines. As consequence we hat no single COVID-19 case in our factory. While volumes decreased, we implemented short work but did not lay off people in production. We rather took our time to prepare production even better for the season that we expect to come in autumn.

Do you think the restrictions on travel and holidays will impact the printing volume of photo albums?

During springtime Corona-Crisis has impacted all our lives to a larger degree. Travelling was difficult or impossible during some months, but people continue to take photos and people have started to travel again. We believe that the photo business will continue in the range of our expectation. Just there will be new triggers for photo albums. I am sure that we will see e.g. more year books and some “corona books”, too.

Are you currently seeing signs of re-starting of activity in European countries, especially in commercial printing?

Yes, we do see signs for increasing activity. Business in commercial online printing is coming back week after week, first starting in Germany and Switzerland but now in France and other European countries. In my view it will take a while before we are back to the volume before Corona, if at all. However, we are very optimistic that we will reach our monthly volume expectation very soon this year, as the shift from offline business to online business is ongoing and rather accelerating.

What's your vision about the post-corona-crisis society? How do you think customers' behaviors will change?

We are very sure that Corona has accelerated a trend that is already in place for years. Beside shifting business from offline to online in all areas, we see trends to reduce business travelling and commuting to work. Home office acceptance, affordable video conference software and fast internet are supporting drivers. In the end our behaviour will stay to some degree changed after Corona, as we will have learned how to work more efficiently and sustainable.

Regarding printing, and online printing, we see many rising stars or major competitors facing difficulties. Do you think the landscape is about to change? Do you think that production models need to adapt to become less centralized, and closer to delivery locations?

There is not much miracles in printing. It is about customer service, about speed, about quality and about price. This requires know-how, dedication to the business, automation to achieve quality and cost efficiency and volume to scale the business. Printing is in a transformation process. The local printer is becoming less important as almost all products can be purchased online for a better price, delivered in the same time and with better quality due to excellent quality assurance.  In the end less productive companies will not be able to compete over time and the Corona crisis will increase the speed of this process.

Final questions: as a leader, which are the key insights this crisis learned you ?

The first thing we learned is that although we have an established risk management, one can not predict every crisis. In our business we can`t make waves, we need to surf them. One need to act fast and strong and we have learned again how vital it is to communicate fast, frequently and transparent to your employees and customers. 

The second learning is: Do your homework in time and you will be stronger after the crisis than before. Any crisis can also help to accelerate the needed transition speed. Take these chances when you can!

It has helped a lot that we always worked on improving our processes in the previous years. This gives us a lot of economic strength for now and the future."


– Many thanks to Carsten Heitkamp and Joanny Rigollot from Saxoprint for accepting to share these very interesting insights –


Credit : CEWE Group