By Cassandra Balentine
Part one of two
When it comes to the future of print, several challenges are on the horizon, as well as many technology advancements—particularly in relation to digital print—that promise to help address them.
Looking forward to 2023, Elisha Kasinskas, marketing director, Rochester Software Associates (RSA), expects the exploration of new markets, offerings, and customers for several reasons, including changing market needs, technology availability, business expansion or contraction, maintaining relevancy, and meeting financial goals.
“There is no doubt in my mind that innovation in digital technology, workflow improvement, and post-print finishing and embellishment will continue to be trends that drive the industry forward,” comments Angie Mohni, VP of marketing, Nobelus. She predicts that brands will demand faster turnaround in packaging, increased personalization, and more ways to differentiate their products either on the shelf or coming out of a box shipped from an ecommerce vendor.
Digital printing and related technologies continue due to advancements, leading to reduced waste, shorter turnaround times, and more efficient production.
As a mature industry, Kasinskas sees continued advances in the application of software to automate processes and increase efficiency, reduce costs, as well as allow collaboration in and outside of the print center, and enable automation inside a print center and with external and business processes on the horizon.
“I predict development of platforms with further increased output, improved uptime and technology developments that continue to reduce waste of paper and other resources at the same time as the quality of print continues to increase,” shares Peter Hultberg, chief commercial officer, Baldwin Technology.
Bob Barbera, director, production solutions marketing, Canon U.S.A., sees an inevitable transition to the cloud. He points to recent research commissioned by Canon that indicates the increasing use of digital print technologies, which surveyed 184 commercial printers in the beginning of 2022. Part of the survey looked at the cloud and workflow. Today, only 19 percent said they were working in the cloud, in two years that number was expected to grow to 43 percent. Similar trends were noted in color management, with ten percent currently operating in the cloud and 30 percent expected to shift there in the next two years.
“Cloud offerings are becoming more important to organizations that produce the demand for print and digitally delivered output. Whether that is marketing materials, critical and transactional communications, direct mail, labels, packaging, industrial, or wide format, the need for the next generation of solutions and integrations is on the horizon. Technology continues to make it possible to do more faster and with more precision,” shares Jonathan Malone-McGrew, edp, CMP, G7 Pro, senior director of engagement, Solimar Systems.
As the demand for engaging and relevant experiences continue from consumers, the pressure is on providers to make sure they can deliver on that expectation while being flexible enough to change with the market and environmental factors. “In 2023, we expect to see more companies embrace automation and visibility, which can lessen labor requirements and enable work to be shared across multiple facilities. We also expect more companies to offer active disaster recovery so some amount of regular work goes to backup or overflow providers to enable efficiencies and grow productivity.”
“It’s clear that we’ve reached the tipping point for digital adoption. Ignoring it is not an option. Smart printers will recognize the need to change, embrace both cloud technology for workflow and customer collaboration and digital print technology to mitigate business risks, setting themselves up for success as the industry continues to evolve,” offers William Mansfield, director, solutions marketing, Kodak. “With less than four percent of the over 52 trillion pages produced digitally today, Kodak envisions high growth for its digital print offerings, as the trends and pressures for economical short runs, more personalization, faster speed to market, less waste, and sustainability will continue. Kodak expects to be at the forefront of advancing digital print technology and to play a significant role in establishing digital as a valuable, revenue-generating complement to offset printing in many applications.”
Smart Business Practices
Jennifer Raad, VP of operations, Significans Automation, feels that many businesses have moved beyond future proofing and are instead embracing the potential associated with smart business practices. “Software automation has emerged as a game changer as we transition to the future of work,” she states.
“Automation will be employed to further reduce the number of operators that touch the machines. This is increasingly important as the shortage of labor and operators with the right training will be an ongoing issue,” points out Hultberg.
“The need to adapt and optimize operations to sustain a competitive edge and enable companies to realize their full potential and mitigate risks therefore, time recovery is key,” comments Marc Raad, president, Significans Automation. He says it should be evident to those companies embracing automation that the measurement of time is the ultimate catalyst to generating revenue and therefore the measurement to purchase is usually extended with a short-term return on investment or return on technology.
Kasinskas suggests that consolidation or collaboration with nearby entities to share resources may be something we’ll see more of in the future. “Smaller or low-volume shops may outsource their work to another shop or have their work consolidated with another local, similar shop, such as a school district sending its work to a county or local higher education in-plant. Using technology to collaborate and share/send work. A trend toward utilizing variable data publishing software as a flexible design tool rather than typical variable data applications for creative in certain applications—for example, an event poster where the customer/user designs certain portions of the item and the print center controls corporate portions such as logo, fonts, and colors. Increased automation of workflow in areas not yet automated such as wide format production,” she predicts.
Brad Kugler, CEO/co-founder, Direct Mail 2.0 says omni-channel marketing will become the norm. “Companies like DirectMail2.0 make it easy, but printers need the initiative to learn how it works and implement it with every client. You’re simply throwing away advertising dollars if you are not utilizing a streamlined, omni-channel marketing program. “
Mohni points out that we cannot forget sustainability. “Companies will continue to focus on making progress, and I expect our governing bodies and industry trade associations will begin establishing standards against which we can measure ourselves.”
“Sustainability is here to stay,” agrees Louis Rouhaud, global marketing director, Polyart Group. He says inks will become more environment friendly and presses less energy consuming.
“In our opinion, the industry will continue to focus on the circular economy and develop products that enhances recycling,” adds Alasdair McEwen, global product manager, labels, Innovia. Innovia is concentrating on mono materials that replace complex constructions, developing a linerless film range, and promoting its PVC-free graphic arts range.
Labels and Packaging
Labels and packaging are a huge growth area for digital printing practices.
In 2023, Katie Graham, regional marketing and communications manager, Bobst, expects to see the deployment of more digital printing as all-in-one—or hybrid—solutions as seen on display at Labelexpo Chicago. “As the most digitalized segment within packaging, labels will continue to grow towards a 100 percent digital future—from PDF artwork to final labels including all finishing and embellishment steps. At Bobst, we continue to work on the digitalization of the entire label production process and to innovate with new modules for the Digital MASTER series (340/510) to make label production simple, fast, and easy. Bobst’s vision of the future is built on automation, digitalization, connectivity, and sustainability. These four pillars are integrated into everything we do as we lay the path for success for our customers so they can tackle all the future challenges that may come their way.”
Mark Geeves, director, sales and marketing, Color-Logic, sees a continuation of hybrid printing in the label and packaging markets.
Victor Gomez, director, Industrial Labels, Epson America, Inc., says a large, still mostly untapped market for digital inkjet labels is two-step thermal transfer labels. “That’s where the color shells are printed conventionally, and the variable part of the label is added downstream in monochrome thermal printing. There’s a compelling case for using on demand color printing to save process steps, reduce waste, eliminate inventory, and other benefits. We’ve had success with that technology switch in recent years, but I think the trend will begin to accelerate. Rising costs and tighter budgets are forcing companies large and small to look for cost savings where they can. This is one application where on demand inkjet will prove superior.”
Rouhaud expects to see many innovations when it comes to digital printing in the packaging segment. “We will be launching recyclable food contact approved substrates for all available digital printing technologies, whenever possible.”
As we enter into 2023, we expect to see the continued adoption of cloud technologies and automation. This comes as no surprise as these tools enable more efficient production that reduces waste and labor needs.
In part two of this series we discuss the challenges facing the print industry in 2023.
Jan2023, DPS Magazine