Past and future
Published: 2 January 2024 | No comments yet
With the first drupa for eight years looming, it is appropriate to look both back at how far we’ve come over what has been a turbulent period, and forward to where we are heading from here. Digital Printer asked leading industry figures for their views
IFS managing director Eric Keane
In 2024 there will be a continuation of the pressures felt during 2023 – high interest rates, high inflation, labour and skill shortages, and some disrupted supply chains. There will likely be an accelerated trend in mergers and acquisitions for ambitious print companies to make either strategic acquisitions of their competitors, or in order to secure diversity in their product offering, do this through acquisition of other companies.
The sector will continue with consolidation and this will drive more investment in more technology and automation. The latter, in particular, was an accelerating trend in 2023. Most leading print companies have been looking to increase investment in more automated print finishing systems. This in turn has enabled IFS, in collaboration with our partners Horizon and Tecnau, to be at the forefront in supplying innovative, automated print finishing systems, that meet this demand to reduce operator touch points, improve output speeds and utilise less labour.
With the world around us so uncertain, trade fairs like drupa really do bring the business communities together. Business people do mix, and with that entrepreneurship and enterprise flourishes.
Phil McMullin, head of sales for Commercial & Industrial, Epson UK
Continuous improvements with sustainability considerations at their core will remain a significant focus for print production environments and suppliers in the short-to-medium term. Epson strives to build technologies that last and support responsible and efficient production. As we develop our own printheads, print hardware, and print software, we’re able to deliver a very customer-focused portfolio that responds to increased demand for product longevity and reduced energy and waste. We can also help operations explore the most effective options as well as offer support, advice, and guidance when it is needed.
Ease of use is crucial for both operational efficiency and the ability to move into new markets. Simple and fast setup via user-friendly touchscreen ensures operator confidence and quick throughput to maintain agile and responsive production. These are key persuaders for businesses considering their next steps towards successful growth, and empower operations to expand their offerings. This is important to help them capitalise on the growth opportunities of markets such as personalisation, where production needs to be right the first time, and every time.
Martyn Train, managing director, Duplo UK
With a steady 2023 under our belt we turn our sights to 2024 and the future of print, which appears to be thriving with resilience and innovation. Despite digital communication’s prevalence, our industry is undergoing a renaissance, embracing cutting-edge technologies to enhance its relevance to add value to the consumer, especially in sectors such as education, greetings cards and the recovery of in-plants.
This resurgence is fuelled by a growing appreciation for tangible, tactile experiences as well as the enduring appeal of high-quality printed products. As we have always said, print in its various forms continues to play a pivotal role in communication and the purchasing experience, offering a unique and timeless way to engage audiences.
At Duplo we are really excited about drupa and some of the new products we’ve been itching to show the industry. This includes upgrades to our range, brand new products that will take Duplo into new areas, as well as some innovations that will show how we are preparing for the future of our industry.
Yale Goldis, director strategy, commercial products and solutions at HP PageWide Industrial
As traditional print volumes decline, digital print will continue to grow. Commercial printers adopting the latest high volume production printing capabilities find better economics for themselves and their clients. They will also redefine their offerings and reimagine applications that bridge digital online and physical media.
Publishers are moving towards sustainable, targeted production. Shorter, frequent runs in the market are replacing large, centrally produced orders to mitigate supply chain risks and reduce book miles. Publishers are also adopting ‘gap’ printing, using POD production from the onset of a book’s life cycle, to meet unpredicted demand.
Direct mail will continue its renaissance in 2024 as marketers rediscover the performance and value of print in the overall marketing mix. While postal and paper costs pressure overall mail volume, digitally printed, personalised, impactful and relevant mail will see healthy growth.
Business models such as web-to-print meet growing consumer demands for convenient online ordering, customisation and improved customer experience. Closer integration with large data warehouses and powerful marketing engines enable true multi-channel campaigns executed across online and print media.
Will Mansfield, director, solutions marketing, Kodak
In 2023, the pursuit of production efficiencies was paramount. Advances such as higher quality faster inkjet presses, smarter workflow platforms and more automated CtP systems have significantly streamlined production. These innovations have reduced labour requirements and also improved the accuracy and consistency of printing, thus reducing waste. The economic landscape was again characterised by uncertainties and inflationary pressures. To adapt to these challenges for our plate customers, Kodak continued to invest in regional manufacturing as well as technology innovations.
Kodak is anticipating drupa 2024 as a unique opportunity to connect with printers from around the globe and debut new solutions. The show provides a valuable platform for Kodak to engage with customers and prospects and gain deeper insights into their evolving needs. We are excited to showcase our latest innovations in high-speed inkjet, workflow and offset solutions, demonstrating our commitment to advancing the industry. We are committed to being a strategic partner to our customers, helping them navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.
Duncan Smith, country director, production, Canon UK & Ireland
As customers are expecting faster turnaround times and higher quality products than ever before, we at Canon have seen an increasing demand for cutting-edge inkjet technology in 2023.
Alongside quality and productivity, businesses are starting to realise that inkjet also delivers many economic and environmental benefits. With reliable equipment that harnesses automation, businesses can save on total cost of ownership with reduced power consumption and streamlined workflows. Additionally, inkjet enables print solution providers to broaden their media capabilities and branch out to a variety of markets, such as retail, manufacturing and interior décor.
We’re excited to return to drupa next year alongside some of the key players in the industry. We see this as a huge opportunity to not only showcase new technology, but also celebrate our achievements over the last few years. We expect to see a lot of conversation around the advancement of inkjet technology when it comes to production and wide-format print and are excited to share our developments in this space.
Andy Kent, general manager, Fujifilm UK
Sustainable and energy-efficient machinery and practices were key factors in 2023 when printers were looking at suppliers for equipment or consumables. The market has also seen many mergers and acquisitions as companies join forces to reduce fixed costs.
Energy costs remain a problem but other costs are stabilising, or even going down in some cases. With interest rates moving upwards, we initially saw some reluctance to invest in new equipment in 2023. I think this was because people felt it might be a temporary situation, but are now accepting that the higher rates appear to be here to stay for some time.
Analogue processes are increasingly transforming to digital, particularly in the packaging space where the market is still growing. I expect this to be one of the main trends and biggest opportunities in 2024.
I see AI as another trend with complimentary technology for making quick decisions in time-limited situations. I expect drupa to be well-attended because we will see new sustainable products and services that will inspire print businesses looking for an extra edge.
Charlotte Tueckmantel, GM Enterprise Print & eCommerce, eProductivity Software
2023 in many ways was the reset of the new normal. Coming out of Covid we saw a huge resurgence in our customers’ businesses, and record numbers in many areas. While 2023 took a slight step back it was still well above the Covid years, despite increasing costs across the board. This included the rising cost of people/talent; difficulty attracting new talent is a challenge that the industry has seen for a few years now and we will continue to see in 2024.
The rising costs of people, materials and energy will continue to drive higher levels of automation, supported by the emergence of actionable insights and AI starting to appear in the industry.
For 2024, we see a trend towards more remote or hybrid work in the front office driven by the need for greater flexibility and the challenges to hire skilled people. This shift, enabled by technology and coupled with the arrival or more automation, actionable insight, API integrations and AI will continue to change the landscape.