The most unusual venue for a print related event this year will be a television studio in Milan where a number of speakers will gather, but there will be no physical audience. Instead delegates to the Print4All conference on the Future Factory will be scattered across the internet, perhaps increasing participation in a conference that has hitherto only really attracted Italian delegates.
This is a shame because the content is a long way from product presentations and Powerpoint dominated discussions with graphs to hammer home the speaker’s point of view. Instead, delegates are presented with a number of current topics, each introduced by a non partisan speaker and then discussed by a panel from across the industry.
When introduced, delegates to the conference might then go to visit the adjacent exhibition of the same name with a bunch of ideas to judge the technology against. And this year Print4All had been set up as the antipasti course ahead of Drupa. Nevertheless, its key subjects of sustainability, artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0 and collaboration remain not only relevant, but perhaps more so given how the lockdown will change attitudes, habits and will accelerate trends.
Nigel Tapper, professor and climatologist from the University of Melbourne, discusses how the climate touches on all decisions about future investments and directions; Alice Bodreau, the Ellen McArthur Foundation, describes how this evolves into the circular economy, pointing out that profitability and sustainability must go hand in hand. The Trust works with major corporations like Phillips and Renault, which understand that they need to change. “It is not antagonistic to think about the consequences for your business,” she says.
“These companies have recognised that they are part of the problem in terms of waste and environmental consequences.” With pressure coming from government and from consumer behaviour, these businesses are examining their supply chains and are looking to implement the principles of the circular economy.
The theme is then taken by a panel applying it to the supply chain as far as printing and packaging companies are concerned, using case history examples.
The supply chain, specifically the first Italian project based on smart manufacturing, becomes a keynote from Vincenzo Baglieri, from the Bocconi business school, who has been involved with the roll out of the Industry 4.0 project, instigated by the Italian print and paper federation over the last three years.
Fabrizio Renzi, once a top executive in IBM Italy and now president and CEO of RNBgate and RNB4culture and an angel investor, picks up the theme to speculate about the reality of Industry 4.0 and implications of artificial intelligence on decision making. The accumulation of vast amounts of data that underpins any artificial intelligence algorithm, means that it can find new interactions and new ideas that might give us a new understanding of the past: why did we do something this way? “What happens if we have the opportunity to use artificial intelligence in a better way? I believe we can improve processes,” he says.
A panel comprising representatives of international organisations, including from Picon in the UK, will provide a broader perspective on how different countries are changing, with the trends and insight from India and the US as well as the UK.
The common theme to both the Industry 4.0 approach and the circular economy is that they call for greater collaboration and cooperation. Just what this means for the supply chains between printer or converter and his customer and between the brands and the end consumers also comes under scrutiny.
For printers in the audience the message is that it is no longer about waiting until the time is right; it is about taking the initiative and being proactive about change and driving the partnerships that deliver what is needed in terms of data flows and the recover, reuse and recycle economy.
The paper industry is already engaged in this activity, driven by the introduction of new guidelines on recyclability as explained by Ulrich Leberle, raw materials director of pan European paper manufacturers association Cepi and Massimo Medugno, general manager of Assocarta, its Italian member. There needs to be agreement and harmonisation across recyclability test methods and protocols in different countries.
The event ends with a presentation about ideas and actions for the future and an examination of different scenarios. What is clear, according to Lifegate founder Marco Roveda, is that understanding this means first understanding everything about the present. “Finding solutions is a process which starts from looking at things comprehensively,” he says.
Print4All is a free to attend, one-day event. There is no need for a drive to the airport, fly to Milan or book a hotel. Registration is required. It is not the sort of event that many in the UK are familiar with. There is more of a business school flavour to it than an industry conference where sponsors get to showcase products. Participants will not walk away therefore with a bag filled with leaflets and brochures, but with a head filled with concepts, ideas and tools to tackle the challenges of life after lockdown.
Participants will walk away from the Italian event with heads filled with concepts, ideas and tools rather than the usual bags filled with leaflets and brochures. Print4All will therefore be helpful when considering how print businesses will have to evolve in order to succeed after the coronavirus pandemic.