Experts Forecast Future of Printing Industry
A panel of printers, manufacturers and other industry experts, convened during the keynote session of the 10th Annual GATF/NAPL Sheetfed Pressroom Conference in Chicago in June. They shared their visions of how the printing industry can increase its relevance in a rapidly changing communications environment.
According to the panel, printers will continue to add value to ink-on-paper and expand beyond it to fill more and more of their customers’ needs. As the 21st century continues, the print production process will be more streamlined, more efficient and more reliant on technology. Printers must make a commitment to educate customers on their capabilities and train their workforce in the new skills sets required in order to secure an expanded role in the communications process. Among the insights from panel members:
• “People are changing how they want to communicate. Printers have to find ways to add value for their customers. The print industry of the future will be smaller but more relevant.” – John Hamm, president of marketing, Xerox Graphic Arts Business, Xerox Corporation, Bethesda, MD.
• “No medium really goes away, and print won’t either. It will complement other technologies. In the next three years, we’ll have more information than we’ve had in the last 40,000 years. Offset ink-on-paper will be a big part of disseminating that information.” – Yves Rogivue, chief executive officer, MAN Roland Inc., Westmont, IL.
• “As printers, we need to continue to expand our capabilities to give our customers choices and to become better and faster at what we do.” – Thomas Mercier, president and chief executive officer, Bloomington Offset Press, Inc., Bloomington, IL.
• “As the industry moves forward, printers will need fewer people involved in operations, and those people will need new, technologically based skill sets. Print manufacturing is going in the direction of self-controlling, intelligence-based systems. We’ll see less of the wrench and more of the mouse.” – John Dowey, vice president of product management, Heidelberg USA, Kennesaw, GA.
• “In the future, the Internet will be everywhere and quite easy to use. There will be less printing and fewer printing companies. Those that survive will have to be stronger, more effective, probably larger and offer computer services to convert print into other forms.” – Frank Romano, chairman, School of Printing Management and Sciences, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY.
The Printing Plant of 2020?
According to an instant poll of 40 sheetfed printers randomly selected among conference attendees during the keynote session of the annual GATF/NAPL Sheetfed Pressroom Conference held in Chicago in June, the sheetfed printing plant of 2020 will be a very different place from today’s operation in some very significant ways, while remaining much the same in others.
Poll participants were asked to share their projections for the future. According to the majority of participants, digital printing will continue to make inroads, with more than a quarter predicting digital will account for 30% of total revenues in 2020, and another 22.2% predicting this segment will contribute 50% or more of sales.Average run length will continue to decrease, those polled said, with 21.1% forecasting average run lengths of 1,000 or less by 2020.
One area not expected to change much, however, is the way print is sold. A hefty majority of printers polled, 86.1%, said that e-commerce will not replace face-to-face selling as the primary method of selling printing in 2020.
Industry Recovery Pauses
The National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL), in a recent survey conducted among more than 300 printers, says that the printing industry’s recovery from the recession has paused, as fewer firms now report that business is picking up while more report a slowdown.
In the summer 2002 issue of its quarterly Economic Edge newsletter, NAPL states that for every two survey respondents that cited decreasing work-on-hand, just one reported the opposite conditions. Further, the NAPL Printing BusinessIndex has slipped to its lowest level in four months. Nevertheless, none of the data mean that the industry’s recovery is in jeopardy, said Andrew Paparozzi, NAPL vice president and chief economist.
“Barring a setback in the war on terrorism, print sales will strengthen progressively with the economy and advertising over the next 12 months,” he said. “Print sales this year will grow just 2.2% to 3.4%, with most of the growth delayed until fall. Next year, industry sales will grow as much as 7.3%.”