KBA 200TH ANNIVERSARY INTERVIEW
August 9 marks the 200th anniversary of Koenig & Bauer AG’s founding. In the past 200 years, the company has expanded beyond manufacturing presses and evolved into a global operation with a portfolio of products.
It was 1807 when German inventor Friedrich Koenig first set out for London with a dream of creating a steam-driven printing press. There, fate aligned his path with that of precision engineer Andreas Bauer. In 1814, The Times became the first paper to be printed on a double-cylinder press that the two men designed.
The duo returned to Germany and on August 9, 1817, they signed a contract establishing Schnellpressenfabrik Koenig & Bauer in a secularized monastery in Oberzell, near Wurzburg. In 1823, the Haude und Spenersche Zeitung in Berlin became the first European newspaper printed on presses from Oberzell.
When Koenig died in 1833, his widow, Fanny Koenig, and Bauer, continued his work, developing new presses at a feverish pace. By 1838, KBA had delivered its hundredth press.
In 1860, Bauer died. With both the founding members of the successful press manufacturer gone, the KBA legacy was carried on by Koenig’s two sons, Wilhelm Koenig and Friedrich Koenig Jr., who developed new presses and modernized the Oberzell factory.
Web printing is born
In 1876, the first webfed press was delivered to a newspaper in Magdeburg, and in 1886 Wilhelm Koenig invented the variable web press. He designed the first four-color press in 1888, and special machines designed to print luxury products followed. At the same time, Wilhelm became interested in securities printing, a field in which KBA would make major strides by the early 1950s and eventually become a technology leader. In 1895, KBA’s 5000th cylinder press left the factory.
From 1895 to into the 1920s, Constantin Koenig and founder's grandson Albrecht Bolza helped to shape the new course of the company. In 1901, a new factory was built at the site that the company’s headquarters still occupies today.
In 1951, a talented young design engineer named Hans-Bernhard Schunemann arrived on the scene. His first of over 250 patents was granted and was subsequently used in another of his inventions, the sheetfed gravure press. In 1959, Hans Bolza formally adopted Schunemann. Bolza-Schunemann served as president of Koenig & Bauer for almost 25 years, from 1971 to 1995, and spearheaded the launch of the KBA Group from 1990.
Executive responsibility was subsequently placed in the hands of his close partner and long-serving financial director, Reinhart Siewert. In 2011, Claus Bolza-Schunemann took the reins, representing the sixth generation of the founding family at the company’s helm.
The era of web offset presses from Wurzburg began with the Commander in 1969. Over time, the still-dominant satellite design principle was becoming increasingly complex. At the beginning of the 1990s, this trend was answered with four-high tower presses, the Journal and Colora. The less expensive fourhigh tower design appealed to many new international customers. The singlewidth Comet and Continent machines later joined those presses.
New face of newspaper printing
Much has changed in the world of printing since KBA’s humble beginnings in 1817, and 200 years later, the face of newspaper printing looks very different. In fact, it looks much different today than it did even just 50 years ago.
KBA has weathered the tough climate over the past two decades as a number of publishers continue to shutter newspapers or cut print days in favor of online publication. In the midst of a newspaper downturn, the vendor brought to market the compact Cortina press, in 2000. And in 2002, it landed its largest-ever North American newspaper installation at The Kansas City Star as part of the publisher’s new $199-million downtown printing plant. The Star’s two parallel presslines comprise a total of 216 printing couples, 36 towers, 40 reelstands and four folders.
The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, also made a major investment in KBA that same year as part of its $80-million expansion and upgrade project, with the largest Colora installation in the U.S.
In 2007, KBA made its entry into the 4-by-1 press market with the Prisma press. The Island Packet in Hilton Head, South Carolina, became the world’s first newspaper to install the press. That same year, KBA inked its first sale of a Colora doublewide Berliner format press in North America with the Reading (Pennsylvania) Eagle.
KBA’s founders, Friedrich Koenig and Andreas Bauer
KBA unveiled the waterless, compact Cortina press in 2000.
KBA’s first web press was created in 1876.