What’s up, drupa?

drupa Analyse Visuals ENG.001

Value Talk by Andreas Weber,
CEO Value Communication AG, Mainz
Photo/Graphics by Messe Düsseldorf
Painting of Johannes Gutenberg: Ying Lin-Sill, Mainz/Beijing


This report is important for you because it deals with crucial issues:

  • How to recognize relevant trends and developments at an early stage
  • How to change the public reception of the printing industry
  • How to move from old to new 



In an email written on 24 October, 2010, Steve Jobs, legendary Apple CEO, put his finger on a crucial problem when he identified what he called the “innovation dilemma” and stated that adhering to old paradigms for too long can jeopardize entire companies. What does this imply for the traditional printing industry?  How can it make the leap from its established market into the new (digital) world? An exciting starting point for a new take on the next drupa trade show.

The dilemma: high innovative speed – middling adaptation rate

The innovation dilemma that bothered Steve Jobs at a time when Apple became one of the most valuable brands in the world, is already affecting the print industry – and its markets. Major flagship fairs such as the Print in Chicago and the IPEX, now in London, have fallen upon hard times. Fewer exhibitors, fewer visitors, less relevant public potential — despite the high innovative speed of the producers. The printing market and its customers seem reluctant to respond. Sluggish replacement investment and a general scepticism among German customers towards innovative products.  Messe Düsseldorf has therefore decided to explore new avenues in order to establish the drupa as the flagship fair for the global printing and paper industry. All the more reason to have a Value Talk in the interval between drupa 2012 and drupa 2016. Central question: Quo vadis, drupa?

“In turbulent times, a flagship fair like the drupa takes on a key role,“ Sabine Geldmann points out right at the start of our Value Talk. She was appointed drupa Director of Messe Düsseldorf at the beginning of 2012 and is responsible for the “Olympic Games of the printing and paper industry”. Her focus is not only on organising trade fairs, a skill which she learned from the bottom up. She also mines global visitor contacts and profiles for valuable market information. Since the beginning of 2014, information on global trends and intelligence on the industry are being documented by studies/reports. About 4,900 participants from three segments (Print Service Provider, Print Buyers, Suppliers) were selected, 2,600 of which are key executives from printing works, which is the main target group for now. The representative panel is comprised of members from 119 countries.


Bildschirmfoto 2014-04-16 um 16.46.46


Innovation is the key…
…and an important benefit for drupa preparations.

“As organisers of the drupa fair, our focus is on spotting new trends in order to identify solid quality developments on a global scale,“ Sabine Geldermann explains. The objective is not just to find a drupa concept and position that suits the market, but also to provide manufacturers with solid, topical facts, whether they attend as exhibitors or as visitors. The preliminaries were established in February 2014, when the drupa Global Trend Report was issued. Updates will be carried out at the end of every year until 2016. The Special Topical Focus will appear in the drupa Global Insights at six-monthly intervals. The results of these analyses will be widely distributed via digital channels such as social media, press mailing lists/specialist media, PDF summaries as web downloads and of course through word of mouth.

These trend studies and analyses are innovative because “by providing information they also allow additional in-depth analyses”, Sabine Geldermann explains. This is possible because of the unique data structures that distinguish different regions, countries, specific target group profiles, market segments and many more from each other.“ The main focus is on the situation in printing works.  Market trends can be identified and analysed with a quasi-microscopic view. National developments can be analysed in an international context – a major benefit as there are vast differences in the print business.

As expected, the results of the baseline measurement issued in the 1st drupa Global Trend Report are far from spectacular – apart from the prognosis that investments are on the increase. Many findings confirmed what was known already, be it from media reports or from several individual studies. However, Sabine Geldermann and her team are more interested in creating a complete picture from individual pieces of the puzzle and systematically updating this picture at regular intervals. With its sixty-year old tradition, the drupa provides sufficient material to act as a reliable market, economic and investment barometer – and deliver the latest trends in technology and application.

The agenda and activities of the drupa 2016 will be inspired by this exclusive compilation of market intelligence. “Because of structural changes and the ongoing market consolidation, we need to address not only our regular drupa audience but also find new target groups “, Sabine Geldermann explains. We need to act as a seismograph for these changes. In addition to printed publications, the digital communication channels provided by Messe Düsseldorf are of major importance for our publication efforts. The focus is on comprehensive interaction that yields measurable results after valid analysis. Because “we cannot know what we do not know”, the drupa needs to identify new target groups which are not or not fully informed about the technical benefits of current printing technology.


Bildschirmfoto 2014-04-16 um 16.46.03


The printing industry is facing one major challenge:
Lack of information 

Because the vast potential of printing technology is not known among key executives, it is not part of their “relevant set of options”. In fact, they often perceive the printing industry and printing works as anachronistic. There is a significant lack of knowledge among buyers and key executives from the marketing communication segment about the perfect interaction between printing, IT and web technology, (for example: the automated production of printed books from social media platforms). Only few people know that social media contents and printed media can be combined to create communication campaigns by means of digital printing.

Sabine Geldermann wants to change this by publicizing the relevant technical information in the drupa Global Insights Reports. Innovative application options for printed material in inter-media scenarios must be published and made popular in an informative manner: “There is a vast potential for innovation in printed communication. With new insights and information, we can determine how the printing segment is perceived“, Sabine Geldermann points out. These preliminary measures to make the drupa more relevant by inciting a cross-segmental discussion of new issues “beyond print” will substantially enhance to position of the drupa as an international flagship fair that acts as a beacon for the global market. Sabine Geldermann puts it in a nutshell: “We present the new technical options provided by the printing industry to a wider audience. There are so many innovative and important applications that involve printing technology which need to be pushed onto the international stage.”


Bildschirmfoto 2014-04-16 um 16.46.28


Exploring new avenues:
Communication on printing technology is as important as communication via print.

Would it not make sense to host a virtual drupa as an internet communication and market platform in addition to the real event? This question is of particular interest as every segment of the industry will benefit from innovations in the printing industry? There is much potential for optimisation in the printing industry and room for more communication – this is an excellent opportunity for the drupa! [See ValueCheck: Communication as a driving force for new business models].

Sabine Geldermann sees a special advantage in the fact that the products of the printing industry are widely used but also require a lot of information: printing works have an extremely heterogeneous customer base with very different target group profiles. The same applies to the service portfolio of printing works, which has to be highly innovative and specialised. The products of the printing industry will always be an indispensible and elementary part of our communication requirements, but printing service providers are no longer mere producers of printed matter, however they need to acquire better consultancy skills. Potential solutions include workflow architectures, variable data printing, finishing services, freight management/supply-chain services, response analysis and many more.


Bildschirmfoto 2014-04-16 um 16.45.42


The incredible service variety offered by the printing industry provides
major potential for the future!

Sabine Geldermann is not worried by the increasingly exacting requirements faced by her customers: “Promoting the variety of the printing industry provides an exciting range of options: there is an incredible range of communication services provided to all industrial segments by the printing industry, even beyond its value-added chain. The printing industry is by no means finished or one-dimensional; it is expanding into all different levels of day-to-day life and business.“ Messe Düsseldorf’s preparatory work in the run-up to the drupa 2016 focuses on relevant facts and information which will promote the industry and its services and improve its presence in the virtual market so that it can be found easily – everywhere in the world.

Sabine Geldermann explains the main objective of the drupa 2016 preparations: “We want to create publicity on the web by using devices such as blogs and effective tagging. This is the only way to draw the attention of new target groups to the important innovations provided by our exhibitors and their customers.“ A growing number of drupa exhibitors supports this approach to promote the awareness of the services provided by printing works among its customers. Agencies, marketing experts and brand companies are actually an important driving force and have to be involved more strongly. This means that all printing service providers that offer market-oriented, modern and networkable printing communication solutions must be easily found using Google. Descriptions and sampling of innovative applications during face-to-face presentations alone are not longer sufficient; the industry has to present or better still, permanently stage value enhancing factors and verifiable results in the media.


Our opinion 

Messe Düsseldorf has chosen a successful course which also benefits the printing industry: as flagship fair for the printing and paper industry, the drupa can only be successful and have a global effect if the issues and the exhibition agenda are perfectly synchronized with the specific situation of the visitors (and the exhibitors’ customers). The new trend analyses are an ideal communication tool for sustaining a qualified dialogue with market partners. Not only during the drupa but also in the run-up and in the wake of this major event!

One exciting challenge for the drupa 2016 is certainly its approach to the vast and ongoing structural changes in the printing market. After an extended pit stop, market leader Heidelberger Druckmaschinen will now present its new digital strategy. This will benefit the entire industry. [See Value Analysis on Heidelberg Digital Sneak Peek, April 2014]

The printing industry has to think far outside the box. Many new businesses and companies that moved into the field from a different segment, e.g. those who deal with high-performance inkjet and/or variable data printing for industrial production, with organics or 3D/4D printing, cannot be counted as part of the printing segment in the strictest sense. But it is important to note: Effective communication about printing issues is necessary and the innovation-driven business of printing service providers must be publicized in order to create sufficient demand.


Value New Years Event 2014 Key Visuals.001


At a glance:
drupa Global Trends – Results from February 2014

Despite national differences, the “drupa Global Trends Report” reveals substantial – and sometimes even surprising – trends and insights, which affect all economic regions and printing-related segments (publishing, packaging, commercial). As expected, the report confirmed the presumption that the global printing industry is still undergoing structural changes, which is documented by rising costs, price deterioration and shrinking margins. But even more significant are the study’s three central findings:

  • There are clear signals for an economic upturn: over the next twelve months, all areas of the global printing industry, be it commercial, publishing or packaging, will make substantial investments. In the industrialized nations, the driving factors for this investment are the need for more efficiency and the introduction of new services. In this area, the US printing industry seems to have a certain leadership role or acts as a model. In emerging nations however, the investments are driven by the order volume.
  • The printing industry is changing from a product- or technology-driven to a service-driven industry. The latest trends are new solutions and business models that accommodate customer requirements.
  • As expected, digital printing plays a major role in the technology mix that is used by the printing industry. A total of 65 % of all printing service providers operate conventional as well as digital production. More than 30 % of commercial printers generate one fourth of their profit margin with digital printing services. But conventional printing (especially sheet offset) remains to be an important cornerstone for the industry. This is reflected by the reported investment intentions: in 2014, a total of 29% of all printing service providers want to invest in the area of sheet offset.

Source and more information

  1. Fraser Church said:

    Hi Andreas

    Nice article

    Would be good to catch-up sometime soon and share what we are both up to! Fascinating and exciting times – we are not far from Nirvana ☺



  2. Comment by Frazer Chesterman, FM Brooks, UK, via LinkedIn

    “Andreas, Last weeks successful Industrial Print show in Hanover proves there is market potential for the print industry outside of traditional sectors. By time Drupa comes around we would already have run two InPrint exhibitions. Drupa will struggle in the future as print will enter more niches. There may no longer be a need for a general, broad print show!”

    My reply:
    “Honi soit qui mal y pense, Frazer!”

  3. graphicrepromikeh said:

    Frazer, I have to disagree. While there is perhaps a genuine need for smaller shows to address specific niches, as you have done, someone has to bring the whole thing into perspective for the entire industry, and drupa is the only vehicle which is capable of doing this in the broader sense, in order to hold everything together and enable industry management to gain ideas, network, and go further… print management cannot afford the time to go to half-a-dozen print shows a year where many of the bigger names in specific fields may not even be present… they still need a forum where all the major players can be seen and compared, tested and put through their paces in order to evaluate… and also to gain new ideas for going forward… surely? Wearing my print manager’s hat… that is what I still need and that is why the recent Ipex failed so dismally… because most of the major names were absent and I don’t have time to treck around Europe to carry out tests and comparisons. Mike

  4. Stanley De Passos said:

    After attending my first Drupa show in 2012, I am convinced that the printing industry is more dynamic and innovative than at any time in my 45-year career. For 2016, Drupa should seek to attract not only the traditional manufacturers but also small, innovative companies. While it is always exciting to see new products from Heidelberg or Xerox, there are always new ideas from start-up companies that can point printers to new technology, services, and markets. Printers should be moving away from manufacturing and re-positioning themselves as communications providers. We need to refine and improve our traditional expertise but also expand our business to meet a wider range of our customers’ needs. Drupa should help us find the tools and ideas to do this.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: