Greene describes how changes in technology can affect the direction in which the printing industry moves.
By Tim Greene
The other event I attended this year was a sales affair for one of the leading suppliers to the screen-printing market. The compelling finding was the excitement the company has about its future. It was clear after speaking to some of the salespeo¬ple, as well as company management, that a big part of their enthusiasm comes from the recognition that there’s a whole range of digital products and services in each of those market segments that they can bring to their customers to help them compete in an industry that continues to augment its screen-printing capabilities with digital printing equipment.
The China issue
Yet another interesting development that I’ve seen has been the way that printing establishments in Europe sometimes deal with the China issue, which should really be called the Asia issue. Many of the printing organizations I spoke to over there indicated that as they work with their clients they have begun to offer what they called “China quality” printing for those jobs that are more price- than quality-sensitive. It was an interesting acknowledgement that their customers are aware that very low priced print-service providers from Asia are doing business over the Internet or through brokers.
This approach seems like the best way to deal with customers or jobs that are price driven, because it allows these printing companies to maintain the relationship with the customers by supplying those “China quality” jobs at a lower price than they offer printing services at their own quality standard. It may also allow the printing company to add some value to their customer relationship by suggesting that they could work with the Chinese printer on the customers’ behalf. This seems like an important development, because it allows one set of printing establishments in Europe to leverage the print capacity of another set of printing establishments that are running in Asia. This being the case, it’s less likely that high-end solvent inkjet printers will be installed in those higher cost areas in Western Europe, because they won’t be able to compete from a cost standpoint for those price-sensitive jobs.
What does it all mean?
For me, all of this new information helps adjust my thinking in constructing models and scenarios for the rate of change in the wide-format market, as well as adjacent businesses. For example, one of the ways that I think about the rate of change is based on the running costs of digital printing technologies. If digital running costs are significantly higher than analog running costs, the rate of change will be slow; the closer they are to analog running costs, the faster the rate of change, depending on other variables, of course, such as target applications, substrate variability, image-quality requirements, and so forth. Well, two of the companies I met with at FESPA—NUR and Matan—have suggested that by using variable-droplet technology and new UV-curable ink formulations, their newest wide-format UV-curable inkjet printers can provide comparable running costs to high-end solvent inkjet printers. If this proves true, then we will have to build greater adoption rates of UV-curable inkjet printers into the forecast.
Tim Greene has worked at InfoTrends (formerly known as CAP Ventures) since 1997 and been the director of InfoTrends' Wide Format Printing Consulting Service since 2001. He is responsible for developing worldwide forecasts of the wide-format-printing market and conducting primary and secondary research. Greene holds a bachelor's degree in management from Northeastern University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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