Karl Ruhland, R&D Manager: Developing the game changer!

As he says in his own words, Karl Ruhland is manager of "one of the most exciting development projects in the history of BHS Corrugated". He and his team are developing a process, RSR®, which will revolutionize the industry: integrated digital printing in corrugated box plants.


The greatest challenge in his career

When Karl Ruhland takes off with his paraglider, he sees the world from an entire new angle. What leaves the ground as a heavy thought, unfolds into an idea as light as a feather while thermaling up. He develops his stamina during marathons and triathlons. Both his desire to overcome boundaries and the strength to persevere in pursuing a goal have helped Karl Ruhland in the past few years. When he took over the digital printing project at BHS Corrugated in 2016, the greatest challenge of their careers so far awaited him and his team.

Karl Ruhland

Job: R&D Manager, Digital Print.

Change factor: 10/10.

Type: Innovative and well-grounded.

Attitude: "WE can do it!"

What is RSR®?

What precisely is RSR® digital printing? To date, there have been two options for producing printed corrugated cardboard. With the pre-print option, a paper roll is printed in a printing system using the flexographic printing process. This roll is then glued (laminated) to the one-sided corrugated cardboard sheet in the corrugator. However, the process that has dominated until now is the post-print option. There, the ready-cut sheets of corrugated cardboard are printed. In both cases, the manufacturing of the corrugated cardboard and the printing thereof are two separate processes.

But now, the RSR® process developed by BHS Corrugated is revolutionizing the market. RSR® stands for Roll to Printed Sheet in Real Time: A high-volume digital printer prints the paper in the course of the corrugated board production. In future, BHS Corrugated will not only manufacture the corrugator, but also the printing press - and network them via perfectly coordinated interfaces. For manufacture, this means significantly leaner production and higher productivity - with excellent printing results in a wide variety of areas of application. And for the industry, nothing short of a revolution.

Karl Ruhland is standing in a colonade with his guitar.


RSR® turns technicians into revolutionaries

Since the early 2000s, BHS Corrugated has been very busy with integrated digital printing. In order to finally reach the finishing line, BHS Corrugated spun off the project in 2016 as a start-up within the own company. In doing so, the decision was made: Karl Ruhland was to take over the project.

Breaking new ground together...

Within the RSR® project, two major factors of success have a combined effect: The visionary power of management, and the daily implementation checks during development by the technical team surrounding Karl Ruhland: "Our job was to find traps before we step into them during development." It sounds so simple. However, it challenged the team for years!

Digital printing in combination with RSR® is a game changer. One of the most ambitious projects within the industry.

Karl Ruhland, Digital Print R&D Manager at BHS Corrugated

"I was very skeptical in the beginning" Karl Ruhland admits: He had some senior employees on his team. However, all the others came from outside, some from the printing industry, most of them without experience in corrugated board. Would you be up to taking on a project with so much new knowledge and skills to be developed? The teamwork in Karl Ruhland's team reminded him of his time as a youth soccer coach. "I had never played soccer myself! But our team was quite successful. Very similar to my situation today: I coach, the players score."

Together, they broke new ground in inkjet printing within the manufacture of corrugated board. They always enjoyed the full support of management. "This is a unique opportunity for developers" Ruhland states: They can help shape a market-moving innovation!

... and all know-how was acquired in-house

"Digital printing in combination with RSR® is a game changer. One of the most ambitious projects within the industry" Karl Ruhland says. As RSR® pioneers, the team members have acquired their know-how completely independently. Even consumables such as water-based inks, primers (which ensure that the paint adheres well to the surface), and paints are developed by an in-house team of experts in cooperation with the partner specialized in the printer of BHS Corrugated.

This was a unique opportunity for developers.

Karl Ruhland

It was an extremely exciting time with many sleepless nights. "But in the meantime, we have reached a level that allows us to look very confidently into the future of the digital printing project" Karl Ruhland says.

The industry is all the more excited. "Our market is usually very conservative" explains Karl Ruhland. "Technological developments are strongly driven by sales, they follow the pull principle. However, BHS Corrugated has relied on the push principle for digital printing for many years." BHS Corrugated no longer has to "push" too hard, the interest of clients is growing steadily. Since March 2021, the prototype has been running at Schumacher Packaging GmbH, development partner in the digital printing project. The company is taking a big step towards the digitalization of the entire manufacturing process.

Brief definition: Push and pull principle

Pull principle: A company tailors its portfolio to the needs and demands of its customers.
Push principle: A company brings a product onto the market the added value of which must first be conveyed to the customer.

Solidarity, enthusiasm, and sense of community

Karl Ruhland is planning to set more time aside again for music, sports, and bike rides at his home in Upper Palatinate. This is where his roots are, his center of universe. This is where he returned to after graduating from the Technical College in Munich (TU München). Most of his fellow students had moved to the big city at the time. Now, Karl Ruhland is seeing a reversal of that trend: "People want to come back" he says. "Nowadays, we are receiving applications from metropolitan areas." No surprise there, Ruhland finds. Rural areas have a lot to offer. Not just meadows and forests, jogging and bicycle trails that start directly on the doorstep. Not just lower costs of living, and affordable land to build on. But most of all: "Solidarity, enthusiasm, and a sense of community!'

And not to forget: A company offering specialists and executives who are open to change the opportunity to take part in revolutionizing the industry.

We are experiencing a reversal of the trend: People want to return to rural areas. Nowadays, we are receiving applications from metropolitan areas.

Karl Ruhland

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