Whether focused on décor, packaging or functional printed electronics, industrial inkjet is moving onto another level. And since the launch of InPrint 2014, the hype has given way to a more pragmatic and practical understanding of the challenges, but also the opportunities it provides. If you add to this a tectonic shift in consumer behaviour and you have a formula really ripe for change.
There is an acceleration in changing consumer behaviour. This is placing greater emphasis on technology to come into play to enable new possibilities. If we take packaging, for example, shopping behaviour has shifted dramatically. In the UK alone, 54% of all retail is now conducted online. When we do go food shopping we are buying for convenience, doubling our average trips to the shops to 200 a year, but radically decreasing the amount of time we spend shopping. And this changing consumer landscape is placing further impetus on getting the right product into the right place and really standing out. Digital print has a huge role to play as a result as increasingly retailers want short run, customised and relevant product and need a flexible and fast production technology to help them to respond and meet these changes.
The InPrint Survey this year, people’s growth prediction was still robust, but more moderate than 2015/16 when we saw a peak in confidence in growth for industrial inkjet. This suggests that the supply chain, including most importantly the end customer, have a clearer understanding of the time and difficulty of introducing inkjet into production. It still is not quite as simple as ‘plug in and play’, and the market has understood this and the fruits of longer developmental work are starting to show.
Regardless of this, many believe that technical problems can be solved given the right collaboration, patience, and determination.
But the biggest problem to growth for industrial inkjet is due to the conservative culture of many manufacturing sectors that are heavily invested in analogue production and see digital as a threat and are fearful of failure.
In order to overcome these cultural barriers, the key to change in any way shape or form is effective communication from the entire group of people involved in developing and manufacturing. The reality is that digital printing is not a threat to analogue production, yet this the biggest barrier which is born out of fear of change, and this doesn’t really make sense. If you have a new technology that can help you meet a new demand, whilst not disrupting your core operation, surely this is a good thing! It is a misnomer to think that digital inkjet will replace screen, flexo or gravure. It will provide new value that enables new possibilities that perfectly fit the shifting consumer behaviours we see in the world of retail. Inevitably if the end consumer is changing the rules, manufacturing will have to adapt to meet this new demand, and with effective dialogue, collaboration and effective communication success will be realised.
Since its launch, InPrint has enabled this effective communication from brands who travel all over the world to meet InPrint exhibitors who have the technology and expertise to help manufacturers unlock new possibilities in industrial print production whether this is digital or screen printing. The show provides a communication solution to all who attend and its continued success will undoubtedly provide the impetus for more change, and adoption of new technologies that enable new production possibilities in line with even faster-changing consumer landscape.
InPrint 2017 – 14-16 November 2017, Munich