The Rise of the Digital Unit: Future-proof success through dedicated transformation

Digital transformation, Knowledge

Making a company future-proof and undergoing a digital transformation have no choice but to go hand in hand these days. This is and has been a chance for established industries to re-invent themselves, evolve or even revolutionise their old ways. New, digital manners of thinking in order to make business that fits today’s clients’ needs is crucial – but never an easy journey. Building digital units has become one of the most trusted and leveraged tools to accomplish long-term business success. But how do these units work and what can they change? And why does this have everything to do with digital transformation?


What’s the difference between digitalisation and digital transformation?

Digital units, such as the one that Koenig & Bauer has established one year ago, are founded with one goal in mind: Successful digital transformation – the holy grail of culture change and future-proofing.


The term digital transformation is often being used interchangeably with the term digitalisation. While these concepts are obviously very much linked, they differ vastly in their goals and operational approaches. In a lot of business contexts, these definitory differences are not made sufficiently clear to the whole of the staff body – sometimes resulting in misinterpreting what it means for a company to be on a digital transformation journey. Here is how we define each concept at Koenig & Bauer:


  • Digitalisation generally refers to converting analogue into digital processes. This is likely to include digitising analogue information into digital form: for example scanning paper documents to convert them into digital files. Digitised information is often part of establishing digital processes – such as the process of sharing new product-, client- or even HR-information within a company via an internal digital network, or managing client information in dedicated software programs instead of in paper files and cabinets.
  • Digital transformation, on the other hand, refers to an – ideally – holistic journey of transforming a company’s DNA by interpreting mission, vision and values in the context of a digital realities and opportunities. In many cases, this means changing, or at least adding to the existing business model. This happens when a company decides for example to create new digital products or services, that either substitute or complement existing products or services.


But digital transformation doesn’t only touch the production side of the business, it is also very much relevant to the part of the business that is in contact with (potential) clients. Digital transformation in Marketing, Sales and Customer Support has been felt most noticeably in regards to the rise of Social Media.

Put in a nutshell: digitalisation is about making existing processes more efficient and accessible through digital technology, while digital transformation is about using digital technology to drive fundamental changes in a business.


“Digitalisation is like adding wings to a plane, making it fly faster and more efficiently. Digital transformation, on the other hand, is like building a spaceship and launching into a whole new universe of possibilities. To succeed in digital transformation, you need to be a visionary astronaut who’s not afraid to explore uncharted territories of innovation.” (Sandra Wagner, VP Digitalisation at Koenig & Bauer)

Sandra Wagner, VP Digitalisation at Koenig & Bauer


These fundamental changes, however, often don’t drive themselves without a team that is dedicated to the digital transformation cause and has understood that this also means a cultural change for the entire company.


What is a digital unit and what does it do? Productive disruption from within

Many companies dread it, many have experienced it, and some were driven out of markets because of it: disruption caused by new digital business models that enter, and eventually dominate, existing markets. The logical conclusion for staying relevant in any industry for many company leaders has therefore been to drive disruption from within – instead of letting new players with more contemporary, modern business strategies do it for them.

Making the transformation a priority for boards or top level management, as well as appointing a Chief Digital Officer (CDO), are important first steps into a digital transformation journey. As the next step, many companies, especially those in which the core product can only be a physical product (such as machine manufacturing), have made the important decision to establish digital units.

The Koenig & Bauer digital unit – innovation hub for the printing industry


At Koenig & Bauer, the establishment of our digital unit one year ago has very clear goals and objectives:


  • We identify new business models, develop new products and services in our own right, as well as products and services complementing the core business.
  • We are future-proofing the company’s mission – before any disruptor does.


This benefits all parts of the business, especially when it comes to data handling and customer loyalty:


  • We break down data silos and thus increase data security: Our aim is to centralise and harmonise different data bases in the various business units by for example storing all data in a common cloud.
  • Due to our approach, we are not only making good use of machine data – we are able to develop data-based business models to enhance customer experience and retention.
  • Our products and services enhance customer support through the right digital tools, while at the same time helping the clients’ make their processes more efficient.


“Our greatest achievement is elevating Koenig & Bauer to new heights: We are expanding from a pure machine supplier to a technology partner, adding to the company’s century-old culture of innovation and pioneering.” (Marcel Guntsch, Head of Digital Operations at Koenig & Bauer)

Marcel Guntsch, Head of Digital Operations at Koenig & Bauer

Is your company also well on the way in their digital transformation? Join our LinkedIn community to learn more about our journey – and let’s exchange on best practises, learnings and challenges overcome.

Anja Döhler

Marketing Manager

Friedrich-List-Straße 47,
01445 Radebeul, Deutschland


Photo 1: Sandra Wagner, VP Digitalisation at Koenig & Bauer
Photo 2: Marcel Guntsch, Head of Digital Operations at Koenig & Bauer

News article incl. photos

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Digital Packaging Workflow

with PrintFusion

With PrintFusion, the interface between Koenig & Bauer Rapida presses and the prepress software from HYBRID Software, your workflow becomes even more efficient. PrintFusion enables a bidirectional exchange of information that ensures seamless integration and automation of production processes. Thanks to the jointly developed PrintFusion interface, data such as setting parameters and positions of measuring elements are automatically exchanged between prepress and the printing presses. The automated data exchange leads to significant increases in efficiency and error prevention, as manual intervention and repetitive tasks are eliminated.

Long-term technology partnership for innovative 360-degree packaging workflow

For the development of PrintFusion, HYBRID Software and Koenig & Bauer have combined their expertise to create a highly automated and efficient production environment that meets the requirements of the modern printing industry. This collaboration will continue on an ongoing basis in order to constantly optimise the interface and integrate new functions. One example of this is the automatic feedback to compensate for process-related substrate stretching, which is already being introduced as part of a pilot customer programme.

A look into the future at drupa 2024

PrintFusion has been presented to the public for the first time at this year’s leading trade fair for printing technologies. Visitors will have the opportunity to gain an exclusive insight into the first results of the close partnership between HYBRID Software and Koenig & Bauer. Through automation and the intelligent exchange of data between prepress and press, PrintFusion will set new standards in print production and pave the way for a sustainable and high-performance future in the printing industry.

Connected Packaging

FOLLOW combines print and the digital world

With FOLLOW, Koenig & Bauer is building a bridge between analogue packaging and the digital world. Discover the universe of new possibilities that the cloud-based platform and the associated app have in store for printing businesses, brand owners and consumers.

Printing goes Metaverse

with NFT-Technology and “Gemme”

Under the project title “Printing Goes Metaverse”, Koenig & Bauer is building a bridge from classic printing to the metaverse in collaboration with NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, Milan) and epda (european brand & packaging design association). With the support of Italian design students, a project was realised that uses NFT technology to authenticate luxury goods such as limited edition handbags, jewellery or valuable trading cards. The luxury jewellery brand “Gemme” was created as an exemplary visualisation.

Classic print meets metaverse

Digital proof of ownership is used instead of conventional paper certificates of authenticity. The forgery-proof blockchain technology is impressively demonstrated using special printing technologies and a digital app. This innovative combination of digital proof of authenticity and the traditional art of printing shows how the printing industry is connecting with the new digital reality of the Metaverse.

What advantages does NFT technology offer

An NFT is a blockchain-based token that represents digital or physical assets such as artworks, digital content or media. Unlike other cryptocurrencies, each NFT is unique and non-exchangeable. It serves as a digital certificate of ownership and authenticity and enables owners to trade and sell their assets.

Brands from the luxury goods segment in particular are using NFT technology to enable customers to connect the digital and physical worlds. The main focus here is on the experience of being able to use the purchased product in the digital world. In addition, forgery-proof authentication can be guaranteed by NFT’s unique verifications with a complete history and absolute security.

How does the printing work?

Using a special printing process, functional structures that react to the touch of smartphone sensors can be applied to almost any printed product, creating a link between the physical product and the digital application. In combination with QR codes, this creates a forgery-proof proof of ownership. Customers receive both an origin-verified, printed NFT-Twin and the physical original.