The printing ink industry is clearly evolving, and it is interesting to hear the perspective of people who have long been involved in the field. From time to time, Ink World will interview some of the leaders in the field, and present their viewpoints.
Ink World: How has the ink industry changed in recent years?
Joe Bendowski: The printing ink industry has seen dramatic change in recent years, influenced by many factors including economic conditions, raw materials pricing and shortages, the impact of alternative print technologies plus the attrition and consolidations among customers. All of these dynamics have contributed to a reduction in the quantity of printed sheets produced and obviously the pounds of printing ink required. Environmental concerns have mandated our attention to producing inks with lower VOC ratings while addressing the issues associated with clean disposal.
Ink World: What are the biggest challenges facing the ink industry?
Joe Bendowski: Above and beyond the market challenges are the production issues. The continually rising cost of raw materials persists to a point that these increases cannot always be absorbed by ink manufacturers without adjusting the selling prices to the printer. In addition, the limited availability of important components not only has an impact on material costs but on production efficiencies. Smaller printing ink manufacturers without substantial buying power or strong influence over suppliers are subjected to even greater concerns in the increasingly competitive marketplace.
Ink World: How can ink manufacturers best help their customers, whether it is developing new technologies or providing excellent value?
Joe Bendowski: Ink manufacturers can best help their customers by being ever vigilant in trying to keep costs under control without surrendering quality and consistency. Although it is one of the smallest contributors to the overall cost of print, ink is also often the first to blame when there is a problem whether or not it is ink related. To compromise the ink in any manner is doing an injustice to our customer since it will ultimately reduce the quality of his own product and probably increase his production costs through longer make-ready, more paper waste and an overall reduction in pressroom efficiency.
Ink World: What is your outlook for the ink industry in the coming years?
Joe Bendowski: In the coming years the printing ink industry will continue to be faced with the same internal challenges that it has in recent years, but the issues will stabilize and we will slowly gain a more balanced production environment. I envision a steady and improving economy, which will naturally drive an increase in employment, consumer spending, manufacturing and ultimately the need for more printed support materials.