Guest blog by Jan De Roeck (Esko) - Packaging is all around us…
When dwelling the halls at drupa in Düsseldorf, it’s easy to see that many suppliers aim at inspiring commercial printers in their quest for added value products and services. Two of such added value initiatives seem to be developing into mega-trends. First of all there are many suppliers focusing on the marriage between printed matter and interactive online media. Cross-media publishing has been around for a while, but with many announcements at the show, managing the process of parallel print and web publishing has just gotten a lot easier. The term “Marketing Automation” pops up left and right which is truly a “customer centric” approach to the end-user challenges and requirements. Print buyers no longer separate printed matter from online content in their communication campaigns. It’s no longer a far-away dream to implement an all-encompassing and web-enabled workflow that brings together formerly disparate players. And this means true value for the end-user.
A second added-value market segment that features on the signage of many drupa booths is Packaging. The concept is rather straightforward: you have an offset press to print on paper stock, so why wouldn’t you use it to also print on cardboard stock and produce packaging? As shortsighted as this may seem at first glance, there is definitely value in this concept as long as one covers all aspects of packaging production: design (including structural design), prepress, specific finishing and, not to forget, more shop-floor logistics and more critical customers.
When analyzing the packaging opportunity, one of the main drivers is digital print. The packaging signage basically says commercial printers can also print packaging digitally, in short runs and even personalized. The trend of ever shortening run-lengths in packaging has been prominently around for some time now. The many announcements in the Digital Print battlefield are only enforcing this: larger sheet sizes and web widths (not less than 9 digital press manufacturers announce B2 size capabilities at the show) improve the overall productivity of digital print and will move the break-even point for digital printed packaging upwards.
All good news, but again, let’s not forget that behind added value for the end-user hides an entire workflow to provide specialist services to the packaging buyer all the way from box design over sample making to production (including finishing and shipping). The biggest error a printer could make is to ignore the fact that a printed package is not the end-result of the production process. In commercial print, the cut and folded brochure or leaflet is the end-product all right. In packaging though, the diecut pack goes through many more production and logistical steps to reach its final destination: the shop shelves. This is a fundamental difference between commercial print and packaging workflows. And it requires dedicated solutions from a partner that understands the challenges of the business. Such suppliers are also present in Düsseldorf, Esko in Hall 8b being the leader of the pack.
As a final consideration in this blog, let me ask you the following question: with all the solutions ready to deal with (very) short run package printing, will the end-user applications be able to follow? The breakthrough of digitally produced short run folding carton boxes is not limited by production technology. There is abundant proof of this by many exhibits at this year’s drupa. A breakthrough may well be inhibited by a lack of economically feasible end-user applications. Are you waiting for a cornflakes box with your name on at your breakfast table?
Jan De Roeck
Esko’s Director Solutions Management
You can also find this blog on the drupa website.
The long road to recovery: how print is surviving the Great Recession
Like every industry, the print world was hit hard by the economic crisis. Even among those businesses that have survived, many are still struggling. But this isn’t just because of the banks withdrawing their financial support – the impact of the internet on traditional printing services has also affected revenue.
Almost all operations have had to adapt to survive. The traditional print business model – price-driven and product-focused – is no longer fit for purpose. Business models have evolved to address the harsh reality facing the industry, with many companies slashing overheads and, unfortunately, cutting staff in order to survive. A key part of this new perspective has involved streamlining business processes to increase efficiency and stretch profit margins.
Manufacturers are also feeling the pinch, with businesses unable to invest in new systems. They’ve responded by curtailing product development and adopting a new approach to support their clients. Many have become consultants, offering business training and support, helping print houses to implement more effective business models.
Trade associations, too, have being toiling harder to meet members’ demands, particularly as the turnover, number of enterprises and employees in the industry declined.
Recessions are undoubtedly bruising and claim many casualties, but they’re an inevitable part of the economic cycle. The print industry has experienced economic crises before, and it will undoubtedly weather this one.
Print houses are digging in and looking at different ways to drive revenue – for example, by taking advantage of the digital revolution to broaden their product portfolio, and exploiting the potential of integrated multi-channel communications.
The silver lining for those companies that survive the downturn is that they’ll be stronger and wiser – and will be competing in a smaller market. When the economy finally recovers, these businesses will reap the rewards of their stoicism and adaptability.
How has the recession affected your business? What changes have you made to survive? And have we finally turned the corner in terms of recovery? Read more and have your say – leave a comment!
Why it pays to be a communications expert, not just a print expert
The coming years could prove tough for some print service providers, what with a volatile economic climate, falling demand for print products and more expensive raw materials.
So don’t be surprised if we see some pretty big changes in the global graphics market. The companies that flourish will be those that evolve with the times and respond best to changing demand. Print service providers will need to step up and offer more than just print – they’ll have to become communications experts too.
The importance of digital communication – and in particular, mobile communication – can’t be overstated. The challenge for print service providers is to help customers integrate their digital and offline communication channels.
For print houses to achieve this, it’s crucial they can harness variable data, which lets them customize products for individual customers. In turn, this allows brands to target very specific market segments with personalised, highly relevant communications, which helps improve response rates.
Essentially, we’re going to see print service providers become marketing service providers, differentiating their business and generating greater revenue by delivering higher-value products and services.
Of course, this means a shift in the way print service providers perceive their role. But being open to new ideas and moving with the times is something the industry has done time and again. Take Web to Print – a great example of the industry opening up and putting the customer at the heart of the production process. Web to Print saves customers time and money, and is making print service providers more competitive as a result.
What’s your take? Do print houses already see themselves as a key part of the marketing chain, or are some struggling to make the transition? And if so, what can be done to help them? Read more, leave a comment and let us know!
Finishing sector all set for the drupa stage
Today, finishing is anything but an after-thought – it’s a crucial part of the print process. After all, there’s little point having a lightning-fast offset printer, or a flashy new digital system, if the finishing isn’t up to the job. For example, wasting paper in the folding process will dent profits, while even one poorly-trimmed photobook leaving the production line can damage a reputation.
Finishing machine manufacturers have been busy developing solutions that apply special touches to the print process. They’re helping print houses offer something unique to their customers, who in turn are helping brands stand out in crowded markets.
Like all cogs in the print chain, the finishing sector has been making big strides in increasing automation. This is helping printers to reduce errors in the print process, and take on more work. Finishing manufacturers are also developing solutions that make shorter print runs more cost effective, which is a major plus for the buoyant on-demand book printing market.
One reason behind the growing demand for high-performance finishing solutions is of course the greater demand for digital presses. A wide-range of offline and integrated finishing systems are meeting the varied demands of today’s print market.
And as ever, sustainability is having a big say in product development, leading to solutions like drive systems that allow individual modules to be shut down to save energy.
What’s your take on the finishing sector? Is the continued growth in digital presses the key to this market? And what kind of finishing applications are needed to help print houses deliver something specials to their customers? Find out more or have your say – leave a comment!
Expect packaging to get cosy with digital this drupa
Digital is taking an increasingly stronger hold in all print markets, and packaging is no exception. Heidelberg predicts digitally printed packaging will grow at double-digit rates, while HP anticipates that its digitally printed packaging division can take the same 10 per cent share of the market that it has in label printing.
So what makes digital so attractive? The technology has advanced rapidly, and there are no longer the same concerns about quality. And print service providers are finding the technology very useful for helping brands to extend their packaging and marketing activities. Things like on-pack promotions, personalized printing, and being able to slash waste by up to 20% are just some of the benefits fueling digital’s popularity.
Digital won’t have it all its own way on the packaging front, however. Litho press manufacturers have recognized the fast-turnaround times afforded by digital, and have responded by increasing the automation of their systems. This is helping packaging printers get through more work, and making their shorter runs more cost effective.
Indeed, packaging printers are now much more comfortable with printing a run of 100 sheets or several pallets of board. And, of course, litho offers advantages over digital in terms of inline varnishing and foiling.
Narrow web presses, once deemed suitable primarily for labels, are also getting in on the action, printing boards for lightweight and small-format cartons. And they’re being combined with inkjet technology for dating, coding and adding promotional messages.
So, while digital undoubtedly has the momentum, a complete end-to-end solution remains a challenge, especially at the finishing stage. And it’s way too early to write-off old-style presses, which are still evolving to deliver shorter production batches and meet customer demand.
Now over to you – do you think digital will reign supreme at drupa 2012? Or can the old-timer presses still show the new technologies a thing or two? Leave a comment and have your say.
Check the drupa website for extended information on this topic.
The drupa that won’t be labelled: there’s no pinning a theme to this year’s show
In previous years, drupa has been defined by an overriding theme. We had ‘inkjet drupa’ in 2008, ‘JDF drupa’ in 2004, and back in 2000 there was the ‘press and workflow drupa’. This year’s show is proving much harder to pin down, not least because the perception of print is changing.
Customers are looking to print houses to add value to print products and help brands differentiate themselves from their competitors. Essentially, they want print houses to be a key part of the marketing value chain.
So, which technologies will steal the limelight? We can expect a far more even spread than previous years.
Inevitably, digital – and inkjet in particular – will be in the spotlight. But let’s not forget how much printing is still produced using analogue processes, and isn’t ready to go digital.
Much of the focus regarding offset press development has been on improving automation to shorten makeready and changeover times, allowing print houses to get more work out the door.
Similarly, improvements to drying processes are eliminating dead time and boosting productivity.
Web-offset will also see developments to help reduce waste and labour, and ultimately lower the cost per volume of pages. And we can expect to see rapid developments in continuous-feed inkjet.
Ultimately, drupa is defined by what it means to you, the visitor. Whatever area you specialise in, there’ll be no shortage of experts on hand to help your business take a big stride forward.
Can’t wait for drupa? Whet your appetite with this preview on the drupa website.