Impact of Changing Run Lengths on the Printing Market, the latest report from Smithers, suggests that demands for shorter and faster print runs will be ‘the defining factor’ for graphics, packaging and publication printing over the next decade.

Smithers has said that these trends will ‘radically’ reshape the cost dynamics of print buying and will create ‘a new imperative to invest in new equipment,’ even as the commercial landscape is reshaped by the effects of the pandemic.

The newly published report analyses the impact the shift toward shorter runs will have on print room operations, OEM design priorities as well as choice of substrates.

Smithers also identified several other major trends, foremost among them the increased investment in digital presses by print service providers, largely as a result of superior cost efficiencies and more frequent changeovers on short run work.

The company also anticipates that the quality of inkjet presses will continue to improve and that the installation of ‘superior’ digital print engines will coincide with innovation for greater automation on flexo and litho print lines – such as fixed-gamut printing, automatic colour correction and robotic plate mounting – increasing the crossover range of work in which digital and analogue are in direct competition.

The report also highlighted increased investigation into new market applications for digital and hybrid print, wider use of web-to-print platforms as print buying moves online, and a new emphasis on sustainability in business operations supporting a trend towards less waste and smaller print runs with more repeats.

Other major trends identified were print buyers benefiting from reduced prices paid, the changing face of retail resulting in more small businesses buying labels and printed packaging and increased regionalisation of print ordering as many companies look to re-shore essential elements of their supply chains.

Smithers also suggests that AI and improved workflow software will improve the efficiency of smart ganging of print jobs, minimising media use and optimising press up time and that, in the short term, the uncertainty surrounding the defeat of the coronavirus means brands will remain wary about large print runs, as budgets and consumer confidence remain depressed. 

The Impact of Changing Run Lengths on the Printing Market is available for purchase for £4750 ($6,500 or €5,250).