Seismic marketplace shifts and rapid technological evolution redefining the global package printing industry.
Marketing printing services and technologies in the brave new digital world may seem like trying to sell whips and horse-buggies in the early days of the mass automobile production a century ago, but contrary to popular belief, history does not necessarily always repeat itself.
While there’s no denying or understating the profound permanent impact of digital online publishing on the traditional global commercial printing markets—as any major newspaper publisher of note will sadly confirm—the widely-held popular belief that “Print is Dead” has little relevance in today’s global market for package printing and converting technologies.
According to the leading packaging industry group PMMI of Reston, Va., sales or packaging and converting equipment accounted for a 10 per cent share of the US$7.7 billion worth of packing machinery shipped by all U.S.-based packaging equipment manufacturers of packaging machinery—hardly a tell-tale sign of an industry in permanent decline and acute distress.
Not surprisingly, many major commercial printers who have seen the writing on the wall early enough have been stepping up their efforts to find new customers in the package printing and converting markets by investing in new-generation printing technologies able to accommodate cost-efficient production of various types of product labeling and selective pre-printed packaging products—albeit with various degrees of success.
And even more remarkably, leading brand names traditionally associated with office and other commercial printing technologies are also belatedly following suit—as evidenced by the rapid proliferation and popularity of the Hewlett-Packard (HP)’s famed Indigo series of all-digital label printing systems and, more recently, the grand entry of office photocopier giant Xerox into the package-printing marketplace that is starting to show its limits against the backdrop of a faltering global economy.
According to the U.S.-based market researchers Global Print, the global market for all print products is expected to reach an estimated US$724 billion by 2014, with the package printing segment accounting for US$202.1 billion of the projected total, and related prepress systems and services for another US$18.1 billion.
Conversely, the global commercial printing market (excluding newspapers) is expected to decline from US$366 billion in 2008 to $358.9 billion by 2014, according to the Global Print’s forecast, which also expects Asia to replace North America as the biggest regional market for print products and technologies during the forecast period with a nearly 35-percent global market share.
That said, the U.S. will still be the runaway biggest single market for print in 2014 at $185.9 billion, with Canada slipping from eighth to 10th place at US$18.9 billion, being surpassed by the fast-growing print demand in the BRIC economies of India and Brazil.
With more commercial and general printers turning to the packaging markets to maintain and grow their business, the last few years have witnessed a rapid acceleration in the development of more digital on-demand printing technologies and software to enable them to compete with the more established players, according to some prominent industry insiders.
“Just a little over 10 years ago, the graphic community was a ‘fat’ society,” says Larry Moore, director of Software Services North America for the leading global graphic arts prepress systems developer Esko Group, Belgian-based prepress hardware and software manufacturer operating five production facilities in Europe, along with factories in the U.S., China and India.
“For the most part, business was pretty good—until new market influences, namely the Internet and the post-9/11 economic conditions made the global print community much more cautious about its future prospects.