03 June 2018 Business

Research confirms rush to short print runs – and the problems that follow

Infotrends has produced a report looking at the state of print across Europe, its findings confirming that the move to short runs is accelerating.

The three biggest issues that printers across Europe face are coping with short runs; job changeovers and makereadies and material waste. The findings come from a survey conducted by Keypoint Infotrends ahead of the Print4All trade show in Milan last week.

The report looked at conditions and trends across the industry in Europe, through an in-depth attitudinal questionnaire. Most answers come from commercial printers, followed by those in label and packaging and display printing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey found the three areas where printers plan to invest are web to print, workflow automation and colour management. Implemented correctly these will address the major concerns, minimising waste of time and materials, the purpose of a lean manufacturing approach.

The consultancy business draws a number of conclusions from these and wider trends. “Print production is no longer a linear process,” says Ron Gilboa, one of the report’s authors. “Everything can now be interconnected and transparent. The new workflow is also characterised by collaboration, flexibility and responsiveness.”

Printers need to harness innovation in order to deliver more than just print to their customers. That innovation can be in creating new products from the insight gained by listening to customers, through continuous improvement of existing products and by offering unique products that others are not delivering.

“There is pressure from clients on their suppliers to do new things,” says Bob Leahey, Gilboa's colleague. Seven times as many printers report having to tackle a growing number of short runs as those that claim that longer runs are growing.

This highlights the opportunities for digital printing but also the issues that the technology needs to address, at least the issues that digital printers raise: reliability, cost of toner, spot colours and repeatability. “Digital is changing fast, but offset is not going away,” he says.

While digital has made the deepest impact on the sign and digital sector, it has barely touched packaging. The opportunity is there, however, as brands want to achieve stand out on the shelves, to use more customisation and through the proliferation of Skus, increasing 4% a year over the last 40 years.

“Digital has been in packaging for 20 years through label printing,” he points out.

Analogue printing is not going away, though some of the traditional printed products will change or disappear “or be very much smaller than they are now. It is like the buggy whip manufacturing industry, which flourished before the arrival of the motor car. There are still whip manufacturers, just not so many of them.”

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Short runs are growing fast – seven time as many printers are having to find ways to cope with an increasing number of short runs as there are printers finding their print runs are increasing. This is pushing companies to consider investment in technology to tackle the growing issue.

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