Standardized and individual in equal measure
Banknotes are more than printed paper – they are a nation’s calling card. They represent a people’s finest moments, as well as its history, culture, values; but at the same time they must also “earn their money” – even under constantly increasing pressure both in terms of competition and price. Bernd Kümmerle, Member of the G+D Currency Technology Management Board and Head of the Banknote Solutions Division, explains how to master this balancing act.
Mr. Kümmerle, the industry is currently changing faster than ever – why is that?
The fact is, we are currently seeing strong international competition and fluctuating demand in many major countries. Although there is still growth at global scale, this is declining while capacities continue to increase. These changes affect both banknote printing and demand for substrate – as can be seen in the sale of Crane Currency to Crane Co. for example, and in the Swiss National Bank’s takeover of the Swiss substrate manufacturer Landqart. In addition, De La Rue has sold its paper business and Enschede from the Netherlands has completely left the market.
How is G+D Currency Technology reacting to these developments?
By continuing to offer our customers the unique value proposition: We are the strongest fully integrated company on the market. We cover the complete currency cycle and offer products and solutions along the entire value chain – not least because we are able to directly leverage synergies from the interplay of substrates, security features, design, and printing. We also need intelligent automated solutions and digitalization in order to enhance operational efficiency and optimize the currency cycle in general. Banknotes must function well in all phases of the currency cycle – from manual handling; to their use in vending machines; to automated banknote processing in cash centers. These days their design and production no longer end with delivery to the respective central bank. Our customers’ top priorities are quality, system expertise, and technology – and these are precisely the aspects on which our strategy is built.
Every banknote series is unique
How do you approach this challenge?
Firstly through production and processes. Banknotes are an industrial product and – in addition to its economic, political and cultural relevance – banknote production is also always an area of business, of course. As such, operational excellence and standardization play an important role, and quality, reliability, flexibility, count – particularly when lead times are short. In the context of operational excellence, we have structured our processes in line with the LEAN, SixSigma and Digital Operations philosophies. This enables us to achieve stable organizational and technical processes, transparency, rapid delivery, and competitive costs. The objective is to quickly and specifically meet customer expectations in all areas and at all levels of value creation.
The objective is to quickly and specifically meet customer expectations in all areas and at all levels of value creation.«
And the second consideration?
Cash is not a commodity good. Each banknote series is a unique product, tailored to the specific requirements of its issuer. Each issue has a distinctive aesthetic and hugely diverse requirements for circulation and security. So our customers expect highly individualized solutions from us. And that is precisely what we deliver, because close collaboration with our customers is our credo.
Mutual give and take
Individual products and standardization – isn’t that a contradiction in terms?
What sounds like a paradox is in reality a complimentary approach. We have to standardize wherever possible in terms of operations, processes and material, in order to create stable processes, consistent quality, and competitive pricing. At the same time, we have to make sure our organization excels at creating highly customized solutions in order to add value for our customers. Every issue differs in terms of its aesthetic – a factor that appears to be more important than ever – requirements for circulation, and security.
How does this work in practice?
A very good example is the Armenian 500-dram collector’s note, which features Noah’s Ark as its main motif. This motif is included several times in the note: As a watermark, in the LaserCut™ window, and on the front of the note. We designed and developed the note one step at a time, in close collaboration with the Armenian central bank, from the main motifs and Louisenthal security features down to the last design detail. Sometimes the customer leads, sometimes we do – it’s a joint and collaborative give and take.