News . Print Solutions

12 Feb 2019

The times they are a-changing

The first month of 2019 is already behind us, so it seemed like a good time – now that the excitement of the holiday season is over, and we’re all back at work – to look at the printing industry trends that are most likely to affect us during 2019.

As always, we’d love for you to be a part of the conversation, so please do contact us and share your thoughts on 2019 trends. You can also follow us on Facebook or connect with us on LinkedIn and engage with fellow print industry professionals across southern Africa.

The rise of the machines

As always, wider technological developments will also make themselves felt as printing industry trends. One of the biggest buzzwords of recent years has been the “internet of things” or “IoT” – that is, the increasing connectivity of every device we use. Soon, not just our computers and phones, but almost every piece of equipment in our homes and appliances will be connected to the internet.

They will then be able to interact with other devices and service providers – as in the much-hyped example of fridges that will be able to shop online based on their contents and what they’ve learned about your eating habits.

By moving services into the cloud, manufacturers of digital printing equipment have delivered unprecedented flexibility, but may also have opened a Pandora’s box when it comes to cybersecurity. Any device that is online could in theory be attacked or hacked, which raises the possibility of data theft and creates the need for you to be able to reassure your customers that their data is safe.

Even better than the real thing

Artificial intelligence is another technology that we predict will move from the exhibition hall to the printshop during 2019. Also known as “machine intelligence”, this is the ability of devices to analyse data and learn from experience and from each other – in other words, to begin to replicate the ways that humans think.

The advantages include increased automation and a reduced reliance on human operators, potentially saving costs and allowing you to divert human resources away from supervisory roles to the vital tasks that still require a real brain.

Sustainable growth

While technological advances are almost inevitable in a competitive industry like commercial printing, we also believe that 2019 is the year when “softer” – but no less important – aspects will come to the fore.

Specifically, customers and consumers will start to look at how sustainable our operations are. This could be particularly relevant in terms of packaging, where two opposing forces are at work.

Firstly, consumers are starting to notice – and reject – what they perceive as excessive or wasteful packaging. Secondly, the growth of online retail has seen a huge rise in demand for certain kinds of packaging – especially the humble cardboard boxes that so many of our ecommerce purchases come in.

Naturally, there are opportunities here. As a packaging converter, you can demonstrate that you are actively seeking to minimise your impact on the environment. At the same time, you can also benefit from the business opportunities that all these extra deliveries will create. And finally, you can offer value-added services to your clients: all those boxes represent thousands of opportunities to communicate with consumers by literally putting advertising and branding messages in their hands. That’s not happening – yet.

Some printing industry trends towards sustainability will be driven by market forces – such as the current global paper shortage, caused in part by manufacturers switching production to yes, you guessed it, packaging for online shopping deliveries.

Green is the new black

Just as compelling will be pressure from your customers and consumers. Consumers, especially, take a dim view of companies that are not trying to become more ecologically sensitive. As a PSP, there are several steps you can take – and don’t be shy to talk them up when you do!

Responsibly-sourced paper is an obvious place to start. Several certification schemes exist to help you show that your print stock comes from well managed forests and hasn’t been processed using harmful chemicals.

Plants are now also being used to produce commercial printing ink: by choosing vegetable- and soy-based inks, you can again ensure that your business is fitting in with this important printing industry trend.

Advances in technology can help you save energy (which also saves money, so it’s a win-win situation) while adopting modern printing practices such as print on demand and variable data printing can lead to a significant reduction in the materials you use and the waste you create.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2019

This year, we predict that 2019 trends will see a continued convergence of print and digital and a more connected, greener approach to doing business. Later in 2019, we’ll return to these predictions and see how accurate they were. In the meantime, do let us know your thoughts, and how you see this year unfolding.