A commentary by Andreas Weber, Head of Value
The ValueTrendRadar Analysis entitled “Prospects for adding value with print” is now available and will, for the first time, provide a comprehensive, holistic view of the global print situation. There is good reason for focusing in particular on Germany, because this is where the modern-day printing industry originated, while the global perspective is not neglected either.
Quite clearly, print is an economic heavyweight. As one of the world’s largest and thus most sustainable industries, it is indispensable. The (partially unexpected) growth drivers of online trade, online print, and 4D printing combined with the core competence of packaging and label printing are creating lucrative incentives for many.
This is resulting in a huge outlay for technology, innovation, and investment. The positioning of technology suppliers is separating the wheat from the chaff. Manufacturers focusing solely on digital printing technology see themselves as the “reformers” of print. Their substitution/ displacement strategy is not having the predicted success, though, because even after 25 years they have failed to win high market shares. Despite a high growth rate, their share of the market remains at an extremely low level. The bulk of print volumes comes from conventional technologies in a modernized form.
Germany’s long-established mechanical engineering companies (with Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG at the forefront) have reinvented themselves, successfully integrating digital printing into the world of offset printing and taking on the role of pacesetters in the repositioning of print. The goal is to bring about the digital transformation of industrial printing with the focus on growth markets and versatile high-profile customers. Autonomous printing, automation, and standardization of all process steps – from online print to eCommerce – is possible but requires more than just technology innovation options. Above all, in-depth knowledge is needed for integrated monitoring and control throughout the print production value-added chain – also in the context of the paradigms of digitization. This extends from “digital” business management to new, cloud-based services and offerings that require an innovative go-to-market approach and sales communication geared to interaction.
A sound basis provides room for maneuver. The only way to add more value with print is to stimulate the demand for modern-day print products on a sustained basis. Print doesn’t sell itself because, as already explained, new kinds of striking concepts that are geared to market requirements and adopt an integrative approach to the professional manufacture, distribution, and use of print media hold the key to the future of print. In order to be successful in the printing industry, it is vital not to rely solely on vertical positioning in individual applications, but to cater specifically to customer and market needs and ensure continuous innovation leadership that will maintain print’s role as an attractive part of the communication mix, even after over 500 years.