06 June 2019 Events

La dolce futura vita: Print4All provides intelligent prophecy

Italian conference applies flair to thinking about the future of print.

They do things differently in Italy. A conference will begin after lunch, run through the rest of the day, reconvene the next morning and finish with a lunch before returning to the Milan sunshine.

The Print4All conference met this criteria with a further smart idea: a speaker from outside the print and packaging sector would open up a theme, say marketing to millennials, and then a panel from the industry would provide their thoughts and experiences on what they had just heard.

The kick off keynote session addressed the future of the printing business, given by Alberto Mattiello, author of Mind the Change, lecturer at the University of Bocconi and leader of the Future Thinking Project in Miami. The problem he explained was that predictions about the future often turn out to be wrong.

One that has stood up well is Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, written in 1964, which predicted the information overload that we suffer from. That was written before personal computers let alone the internet, quantum computing and artificial intelligence. “In the near future processing data will no longer be a problem”.

The shocks in the near future will include 5G and the total connectivity that this will allow. It will appear in packaging, require printed electronics and will connect point of sale and the people that will be encouraged to interact with it.

Augmented reality is one of those technologies that is here, though unevenly distributed at present; artificial intelligence is on its way with an impact on the marketing of make up, leading to autonomous vehicles, to filtering of documents and automated no chef kitchens. “Everyone is in the tech business and you need to understand technology to understand the future of your business,” he said.

The follow up panel picked up on sustainability which is driving converters and technology suppliers to respond. This means development of single-material protective flexible films for packaging with single-polymer products which it is possible to recycle. But brands want the same protective and aesthetic properties, let alone the cost.

“We are working on a package of ricotta cheese that has a film material on top and solid plastic container currently with different requirements. The consumer wants to have minimum impact without losing the safety, protective aspect of the packaging,” said Rossano Lambertini, from packaging giant SIT.

And his experience is far from unique. Andrea Caselli of Uteco explained that the press manufacturer “was constantly overwhelmed by questions from customers, Can we do this or that? Can we find a solution to this issue?” And these are all around sustainability, about handling waste, ink types and the glues used in lamination.

“This is going to require new packaging machines to meet the requirements that customers have now,” he explained. “The entire supply chain is moving and will have to move in a different direction, which means that we all have to be on board.”

From the future of the print business, attention turned to the way that the different markets print services are evolving. Keypoint Intelligence director Ron Gilboa joined Bocconi University professor Carlo Alberto Carnevale Maffe on stage. The professor has perfected the art of delivery that beguiles students, but this can make it difficult to capture. His theme was how packaging has become far more than a carrier for legal and product information, spilling into unboxing videos. “Packaging is now a service,” he said, “it is part of the product experience and needs to be designed with that in mind.”

Following on the lifecycle of packaging includes the data it can gather about customer using embedded technology. “There should be no difference between online and offline, between analogue and digital. And this data feeds back into product development.”

Gilboa had the statistics to show where the pressures on a print business lie: for 35% it is coping with short runs, 20% claim the pressure is on job changeover and for 10% it is material waste. All are linked. It means that printers need to offer more services and to automate.

The panel endorsed the keynotes with messages coming from users and manufacturers that some profound change is underway. “There is a change in how business is done, Gilboa had said. “It is about the elimination of stock, about late stage customisation,” citing how 101 Caffé had installed a digital press to print exactly the right number of packages for coffee at the point that the ground coffee is being packed. The company has 1,400 different products and pack designs, so saves the logistics of stock holding for this volume of packs.

As with the first panel, sustainability is driving change, both in materials and processes to encourage recyclability and cut waste. Over the last 15 years presses designed by Omet have been reducing the amount of waste produced through improved makeready and reduced time, the machines were resigned to make them smaller and more compact.

This was not something that was at the top of the agenda, but an incremental development. Now the value placed on these features has shot up in importance. “Smaller machines mean less material used in production, less waste and less makeready,” says Paolo Grasso. “Replacing UV lamps with LED means 50% less power needed in drying and now we can print some food packaging labels which previously needed water based ink.”

A round table on sustainability continued the theme. Recycling rates in Italy are reported as 67.5%, ahead of the target of 65% by 2025 and coming close to the 70% required by 2030. “Paper and board are already there,” declared Eliana Farotto, R&D manager at Comieco. “But we need to be able to recycle most packaging types, labels and plastic bags included, not just corrugated boards.”

The plastics debate has hit Italy with pressure on brands and packaging companies to switch away from single-use materials and to adopt single polymer materials which can be more easily processed. It needs to be designed for end of life collection and reuse. Even recycler friendly corrugated is gaining starch based glues for simpler processing.

Ducatti, one of Italy’s most iconic brands, explained how print still has a role to play for the motorcycle and lifestyle business. Brand design manager is Enrico Peroni. His task is to help set Ducati apart from its competition, to ensure that the brand is recognised by an audience that is wider that just motorcycle enthusiasts.

“A brand is the external surface of a company” he told the audience. “The brand needs to know what it is, so that everyone in it has shared values so that the company can move in the same direction.”

“But there’s a difference between how we want to be seen and how consumers see us and the aim is to narrow that gap, to cover all the touch points of how we present ourselves to our clients. That communication needs to be consistent.” For the motorcycle company the portrayal is about style, sophistication and performance he explained and “everything we do is checked and verified to be consistent with those values”.

These are presented through the growing array of channels with digital and social media becoming more important than run of press advertising. The stores are kitted out in a uniform way, from business cards to large format graphics and user manuals. “Printing is crucial and we need printing to be the physical point of contact to clients via catalogues and brochures,” and he added that even the cases that are used to transport the bikes from the factory to the store, are branded in a consistent Ducati way.

The Italian sense of style continued with Sergio Spaccavento, director of the Conversion creative agency, who used a presentation peppered with clips from silent movies and Facebook videos to make the point that emotion and humour are more successful than statements of facts. The stuff that goes viral is almost always humorous, he pointed out.

Daniele Pes, president of Corner Stones, co-founder of iLoox Tech, tackled customer experience and how the emphasis of the marketing message is adapted according to consumer’s needs (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is useful here). This model worked well until the arrival of the internet which has changed everything. “Now customers want to be part of the creative process,” he pointed out. Customers want a deeper relationship with the brands, to be listened to, no more so than the millennial generation.

Pes pointed out that the attitudes of any generation are formed by their parents’ experiences, so millennials are the offspring of the optimistic baby boomer generation while Generation Z have parents that grew up during the uncertain 1970s, hence messaging needs to reflect these formative experiences.

The panel that followed stressed the importance of forging relationships between printers and agencies in order to make best use of the tools each has. “It is no longer about price and quality. When you become a partner, the relationship changes completely,” declared Antonio Lafranceschina, from ACM.

The final theme was introduced by economist Ivan Ortenzi. Predictions about the subject of product and process innovation in the future he said is always based on experiences of the past. But the speed of change is accelerating and the future becomes more affordable thanks to the exponential increase in data handling speeds and capacity. Quantum computing, robotics, artificial intelligence are all on the way. “There is a difference between being and doing,” he said. “Innovation is all about doing.”

By Gareth Ward

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