"As a platform, virtual.drupa has global reach"

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, drupa 2021 cannot take place as a face-to-face event. The world's leading trade fair therefore invites you to a web event from April 20-23, 2021. In an interview, Dr. Markus Heering, Managing Director of the VDMA Printing and Paper Technology Association, the decision for virtual.drupa, the timetable up to drupa 2024 in Düsseldorf and the attitude of his association to the pandemic-related cancellation of the regular drupa.

After the postponement and shortening, now the rejection: What was the decisive factor in allowing drupa 2021 to take place as virtual.drupa?

The pandemic is setting framework conditions in Germany, Europe and worldwide under which a leading global trade fair with tens of thousands of international visitors and exhibitors does not appear to be feasible. Hence the early commitment to a virtual trade fair so that companies have planning security..

How does your professional association feel about this decision?

We fully support them. Unfortunately there is no viable alternative. From our point of view, the timing is also right, so that the exhibitors don't even start investing time and costs in planning the trade fair that they won't get back in the event of a last-minute cancellation.

Every four years, drupa is the showcase and marketplace for innovations in printing and paper technology. Is it enough to hold the next regular drupa with visitors and exhibitors in 2024?

Drupa 2024 is a set date in the international trade fair calendar. When scheduling, international and regional trade fairs must be taken into account, as well as other Messe Düsseldorf events. A date in 2023 is ruled out if 2024 is firmly planned. And a further postponement to 2022 carries the risk that Corona will not be over by then. We therefore appreciate that Messe Düsseldorf is playing it safe.

Drupa 2021 should give the signal to set off and return to normal business. Can this signal also come from the online event?

Of course we hope so. Lately so many companies and organizers have invited online events that the overview is lost - and the response is dwindling. Often there are barely two dozen participants. It's not worth the effort for that. This speaks in favor of a platform with global reach that, as a brand, stands for serious information and a direct line to relevant players in the market. This requirement profile is fulfilled by virtual.drupa.

We also want to show that our industry is alive. Many of our machines and products are particularly important in the Corona crisis because they are needed for the production of food and medicine packaging or they help to disseminate important information. And drupa is also alive. After months of social distancing, web meetings and home office, there is a great need for encounters, for real conversations and person-to-person contact. Right now we have to make the most of the situation. But everyone can feel that these are emergency solutions and that we want a return to the world we know. I am sure that going to trade fairs will also be part of this world in the future.

Do you have any insight into how far your member companies are from "normality" in the 2020 pandemic?

Who would currently speak of "normality"? COVID-19 shapes everyday life and market events. This is reflected in incoming orders, in production, in short-time work and, unfortunately, in some cases in layoffs. Our member companies try by all means to retain their employees and their know-how. Because they need the employees - at the latest when the markets start up again. But there are still few bright spots, including increasing demand from China. But travel restrictions, hygiene regulations and home office remain omnipresent and affect all areas, whether administration, construction, production or service. It is now proving to be a huge advantage that our industry relied on digitization and networking so early on. Remote services make it possible to keep the customers' machines running. And where service technicians are prevented from traveling, in many cases it is possible to digitally guide customer technicians with repairs. For users of printing and paper processing technology who consistently automate and network their machines, this investment pays off in the crisis: quarantine-related staff absences hit them less hard - and they benefit from short downtimes. We look forward to meeting numerous representatives of the international printing industry in virtual space at virtuel.drupa in April 2021. .

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