By Alyssa Dalton
Change is on the horizon — an adage that holds truer today than most sayings. Last month PrintAction attended the inaugural Printing United tradeshow in Dallas, Texas, and within a few hours of walking the show floor, there are an undeniable observation: OEMs and printers alike are embracing convergence, the concept of researching and strategically entering market segments outside of their traditional core offerings.
Built on the foundation of the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) Expo, Printing United featured the latest solutions for apparel, graphics/wide-format and functional printing applications, while also extending into the commercial, packaging, and in-plant printing segments. Ford Bowers, CEO and President, SGIA, explains the show’s new direction is in response to market demands for a single exhibition that provides “one-roof” access to all printing technologies. From October 23 to 25, over 650 exhibitors and tens of thousands of attendees gathered to explore a broader, more comprehensive range of leading print technologies across 720,000 square feet of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
“The industry has asked, and we are delivering,” Bowers said. “In 2017, when SGIA and NAPCO came together with a vision to meet the widespread need for an invigorated tradeshow and educational format to address the convergence of industry verticals, we immediately got to work. The fact that we sold out of our exhibitor booth space in our inaugural year is a testament to our idea of bringing together all printing disciplines under one roof.”
“There are so many different variables in print and I think this shows the future [of the industry],” Jason Hamilton, Solutions Architect, North America for Agfa, said. “Sometimes we make printing more difficult than it needs to be. I think this [convergence] really helps people understand that with the right tools, the right partners, new [technology and solutions] can impact their business in a positive way.”
Heather Poulin, Senior Director, Marketing, Commercial Printing Business, Ricoh USA, notes that print shops are becoming all-encompassing solutions providers. “A lot of our customers want to bring in new and different technology — we have wide-format printers that want to bring in production sheetfed products so they can provide shorter run jobs, and we also have commercial printers and in-plants that are looking at wide-format, either it’s bringing those jobs in-house that they [have been] outsourcing or offering new applications to their customers.”
SGIA and NAPCO in January 2018 surveyed nearly 500 commercial, graphics, in-plant, garment, packaging and industrial printers about the changing market dynamics.
“Printers, across all segments, see the opportunity to better serve their customers with an expanded set of offerings. An overwhelming 95 percent see opportunity, are researching it, or have taken steps to expand their offerings,” according to the Convergence in the print industry report. “As one printer stated, ‘those that deliver value are the ones that grow and get the opportunities.’ Some of the reasons printers see such strong opportunity is because of increasing customer expectations – whether directly within the printing industry or from their perspective as consumers (e.g., Amazon two-day delivery) – which, in turn, raises the bar for all.”
Meanwhile, 93 percent of respondents say they are experiencing some or a significant degree of expansion. “In addition to expansion in their own businesses, the perception of widespread expansion occurring within the industry as a whole is significant: 80 percent of printers see it as accelerating,” states the report, with the most interest in the areas of commercial printing, graphics and signage, and printed product applications within packaging. As well, the survey finds there is strong interest expressed by both graphics and garment printers in each other’s segments, in addition to commercial’s interest in packaging, and graphics’ interest in commercial.
“The next few years for the printing industry are likely to be just as challenging as the recent past, with the changes in technology, customer needs, and the seemingly ever-shrinking amount of time to get an ever-increasing amount of work done. However, it also promises to hold substantial opportunity for those printers savvy enough to stay connected to the opportunities within their own market and to explore opportunities that exist within adjacent markets,” SGIA and NAPCO conclude.
As Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, the only constant in life is change. Can you afford to sit on the sidelines?
This column was originally published in the November 2019 issue of PrintAction, now available online.