Evolving trends in the print market

Kuldeep Malhotra, deputy managing director, Konica Minolta India, highlights some of the evolving trends that the printing industry will continue to see in 2021 and beyond.

13 Aug 2021 | By PrintWeek Team

Kuldeep Malhotra, deputy managing director, Konica Minolta India

The global pandemic has profoundly disrupted multiple sectors, including the print industry. In fact, Covid-19 has pushed every business to innovate their existing operations and equip themselves with the right tools and technologies to ensure continuity amid the current crisis. A study by Accenture highlighted that companies thrived with 5X growth in revenues during the pandemic by investing in advancements like cloud, AI and other such technologies.

One of the greatest transformations that most printing players adopted during these times was a digital makeover. When the supply chains were severely affected in the wake of lockdowns, serving customers became extremely difficult because printing players were majorly reliant on operating physically. This is what pushed most of them to go digital and start serving customers from homes using innovative technologies.

Against this backdrop, here are some of the evolving trends that the printing industry will continue to see in 2021 and beyond:

Touchless solutions

We all know how the coronavirus can transmit quickly and to contain that, we must avoid meeting common touchpoints, including their manufacturing process, supply chain and service delivery. In fact, therefore OEMs started manufacturing printers that come equipped with touchless solutions like an ID card or RFID stickers / smart barcodes for touchless automation. Touchless tools are going to be essentially important in the new world order, and we expect to see more enhancements in this solution in the years to come. Such technological advances such as usage of RFID or NFC chips, will help buyer to enhance user experience

Integrated collaboration

As remote working further gains relevance for businesses and organisations to carry on operations amid the pandemic, collaboration tools will play a pivotal role in enabling them to function smoothly. To make the most of it, companies must train employees and upskill them so that they become familiar with the benefits of the technology to help be more productive and the tasks which can be automated using technology.

To help being more productive, solutions like Document composition to device management, job management, web to print, color management across machines or cities for unified output, need to be amplified. This will also help unify the output and manage device print load, etc.

Virtual print sales

One of the biggest losses experienced by the print industry in terms of sales and promotion was the cancellation of Drupa 2020. Although it was expected to reschedule in 2021, it has now been postponed to 2024 as major OEMs backed off from the world’s largest print event. This pushed OEMs to drive brand and product awareness through hosting virtual launch events and showcases. Because of the pandemic more products are being sold online which makes it very important for our customers to have a window of communication with their customers using internet technologies.

Web presence is now becoming a necessary part of the business and the way we do business with our customers is changing. It now involves more technology than it used to be in conventional days. There are more companies doing online business and thriving using the internet platform.

Cloud printing

Cloud printing was not new, but the pandemic has made it very clear that it is going to be the future of printing. The breakthrough technology not only simplifies the printing process but also cuts down the total cost of ownership to a great extent. The companies are shifting towards more automated and predictive solutions to bring more efficiencies in the complete process of product manufacturing including automation in the supply chain management involving lot of printed documents by adopting QR/ Barcoding. The printed documents are also getting more personalized and variable data printing is becoming a norm.

Hybrid culture

Although the entire world is operating remotely, we know that it’s not going to be the same forever. Concepts like work from remote are certainly a solution for now, but they can never replace offline operations. Given the current situation, it seems that the future of work will be hybrid, where companies must strike the right balance between online and offline functioning. Digital Printing can help the printers to be fast and agile where the printers can use digital for the short runs and continue to use the offset for long runs. The entire transformation process will take some time, but companies who quickly acclimatize to this change will be the ones to run profitable and be relevant for their customers despite the crisis.

As we advance in 2021, we must build on the learnings from Covid-19 last year, and make sure that we don’t repeat the mistakes. The printing industry is undergoing a phenomenal transformation, for good, and players must adapt to these changes as soon as possible to drive resilience and bounce back to the pre-Covid normalcy. Predictive automation is the only way forward and companies which adapt to the change shall have better chance to thrive and grow in future.