The only attendees in the first PRINTING United Alliance Live and Local event, held in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday, October 3rd, that didn’t deliver quite as promised were the Minnesota Vikings. They were beaten 14-7 in a highly competitive defensive battle with the Cleveland Browns, despite the ardent support of the print industry fans who watched the game as they networked in a luxurious suite at US Bank Stadium for the day’s event complete.
The program, sponsored by the Indigo division of HP Inc., began this morning at the Elliot Park Hotel with breakfast and a fast-paced series of educational events. “The Printing United Alliance event in Minneapolis was very educational and informative,” noted Kevin Langstraat, HP Indigo L&P Manager, N / NE, who attended the program. “The participants learned about current and future economic trends and how companies are looking for ways to diversify their offerings in order to remain relevant in the market.”
After a welcoming address by Chris Curran, Group President of NAPCO Media Publications, James Martin, Group President, Associations, described the value proposition for printing companies in all industries of joining the PRINTING United Alliance. The alliance is the largest and most comprehensive member-based printing and graphics association in North America and comprises the former associations SGIA, Printing Industries of America (PIA) and Idealliance, as well as NAPCO Media (publisher of Printing Impressions and several other industries). -related publications and brands as well as organizers of the Inkjet Summit, Digital Packaging Summit and Wide-Format Summit).
Martin described Alliance members’ access to industry-specific subject matter experts and materials on human resources, legislative matters, OSHA and other regulatory matters; Discounts on Allianz-sponsored conferences and e-learning programs; free entry to the 2022 PRINTING United Expo (October 19-21, 2022, at the Las Vegas Convention Center); industry-specific research and economic reports; and more. Those attendees who were not yet alliance members were quite surprised to find that corporate (printing) membership costs only $ 400 a year.
Supply chain disruptions and labor shortages affect economic prospects
He was followed by Andy Paparozzi, Chief Economist of the Alliance, who gave a little insight into the “State of the Industry Report 2021-22”, which will be published shortly. The experienced economist forecast preliminary sales growth in the printing industry of between 5.2 and 6.2% for 2022. Industry sales will be hampered during the year by cost inflation from supply chain disruptions and material and labor shortages, which will suppress supply and drive inflation across the economy.
According to Paparozzi, 88.2% of those attending the “Stand der Industrie” cited material and labor shortages, or both, as one of their greatest challenges in the coming year. “When the economy slows down, we slow down ourselves and our ability to pass on inflation when higher prices wear off,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, in response to ongoing skills shortages and customer demands for longer lead times, respondents indicated that respondents would like to see the top three investments they would most like to make in the coming year to drive automation and efficiency further , binding / finishing devices, workflow software or e-commerce solutions.
Paparozzi qualified his industry forecast for 2022 that results will vary dramatically from company to company. The difference won’t be in company size, equipment configuration, markets served, or a traditional method of classifying printers, he noted. “The difference will be who is best protected from ongoing supply chain disruptions and their aftermath, and who is best prepared for the post-COVID-19 world.”
Paparozzi advised print shop executives in attendance that success in the post-pandemic world requires them to maximize virtual / distance selling capabilities, become more data centric, and lead the digital transformation of their business.
Overcoming the party of labor shortages requires increased commitment to your employees and the need to create an effective value proposition for employees, he advised the audience as well.
Convergence and analog-digital technology transfer
Nathan Safran, VP of Research at PRINTING United Alliance, concluded the program with a presentation based on the latest NAPCO research report, “Convergence in Print: A Shift to the New Normal”. He discussed some of the factors that are driving advertising, packaging, graphics / signage, and promotional print service providers to expand into segments beyond their main segments to serve a wider range of customer needs.
Since the first study was completed in 2018, not only has the proportion of service providers considering expanding a segment increased, but also the number of different segments that printers are considering entering into it: more than half of the printers surveyed are considering joining in three or more pressure segments beyond their primary focus.
The packaging market remains the most active, according to Safran. The most popular segment that service providers are migrating to is the label printing market, with 38% of all service providers rating this segment (40% of commercial printers looking to this segment, followed by 37% considering folding box production).
This migration to labels is being driven in part by lower barriers to entry compared to other packaging applications. In contrast to folding boxes or flexible packaging, which require complex finishing and processing processes in order to achieve their final shape, labels are two-dimensional and can often be produced on existing systems, according to the study. Packaging printers / converters (73%) also have a broad interest in expanding into adjacent segments of labels, folding boxes, flexible and corrugated cardboard packaging, also because they already have an existing customer base who could potentially purchase these additional products.
Safran also addressed the industry’s increasing migration from analog to digital print production. According to survey results, digital inkjet and toner presses for sheetfed offset (including B2 format digital presses) will continue to outperform sheetfed press purchases from commercial printers. This is being driven by customer demand for smaller runs, personalization, faster turnaround times, and the number of seasoned sheetfed offset printers that are pulling out of the industry as they age.
Safran advised attendees at the live and local event to continue exploring options to pursue new market expansion opportunities and expand into the segments that best match their current equipment capabilities, staffing skills and customer needs. “Also, find the right technology providers you can trust [long-term] Partner, ”he said.
Positive feedback from participants in the printing industry
Attendees at the Minneapolis event agreed that attending the live and local event was well worth it:
- The short and to-the-point presentations were valuable.
- The economics presentation was very enlightening.
- I came to learn more about the PRINTING United Alliance and to learn more about the association’s activities.
- I enjoyed the industry forecasts and learned how to make better use of the advantages of the PRINTING United Alliance.
- It was a great place and a wonderful time for everyone.
The next PRINTING United Alliance live and local events are scheduled for October 17 in Detroit, combined with a Detroit Lions soccer game; 25-26 October in Raleigh / Durham, North Carolina with golf excursion; October 28th and 28th in San Francisco, in conjunction with a Golden State Warriors basketball game.