The fourth industrial revolution has arrived and it will have a dramatic impact on industrial print.
(Pictured above: Guy Gecht's (left) fireside chat with Eric Bacourt, CEO of Hinojosa Packaging Solutions (second from left) and Mal McGowan, CEO of McGowans Print (far right).)
On January 23, 2018, in Las Vegas, EFI opened the doors to Connect 2018, its annual users’ group conference that we have attended since 2004. As always, this year’s event was an educational forum showcasing the latest technology, new products, and strategies on how to profit from the analog to digital transition.
What separates Connect—one of the printing industry’s longest-running user group and hardware manufacturer meetings—is the discussion is not all about EFI but instead, with a broad mix of educational tracks and speakers, the industry as a whole. Another distinguishing factor is that it is led by EFI CEO Guy Gecht, who always delivers a compelling keynote address.
At this year’s event, Guy referenced the history of technological change to make his points. He started by informing his audience of commercial printers that it all began in 1988 when Electronics for Imaging (EFI) was formed. In his engaging presentation, he took us through the digital revolution to the Internet of Things (IOT) that has forever changed our relationship with the physical world. He dramatized this with a chart showing the steep reduction in the number of people living below the poverty level between 1990 (1.96 billion) and 2010 (750 million). It was not said but rather obvious that this change can be attributed to advancements in technology.
Over the many years we have attended Connect, Guy invariably illustrates that print is far from dead. While discussing direct mail, he pointed out that in 2012 the direct mail market was $41 billion. Five years later it has grown to $76 billion.
Think of all the pages printed and jobs run all because a single application had grown by $35 billion. Listening to Guy all these years has made me a convert and that is why we are still so bullish on the future of print, particularly industrial printing.
Guy spoke eloquently about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its impact on the world of print. Fueling this upheaval is:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Big Data
- Fast Processing Devices
- On Demand Printing
- Printing all kinds of media and material
- Printing employed in manufacturing of apparel and building materials
Another aspect of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is Virtual Reality. That was illustrated during Guy's keynote and on the exhibit floor with a Virtual Reality demonstration of the Nozomi printer. In our opinion Virtual Reality will expand the abilities of sales people to demonstrate new technologies and new products to customers.
As in previous years, Guy hosted prominent executives in two separate Fireside Chats, welcoming Eric Bacourt, CEO of Hinojosa Packaging Solutions and Mal McGowan, CEO of McGowans Print on the first day of the conference.
Bacourt discussed how digital printing technology enables his company’s 12 factories across Spain to more quickly produce high-quality packaging on corrugated media for an array of prominent customers. Hinojosa Packaging Solutions has the distinction of being EFI’s first worldwide Nozomi customer.
“Customers expect a short delivery time, and for them, digital technology [offers] an advantage,” said Bacourt who has been impressed by the overall efficiency of the Nozomi.
He noted the following advantages of digital printing:
- Reduction in down time
- The ability to change jobs quickly
- Consistent color image quality
- The ability to print on demand for profitable short runs
McGowan’s, based in Ireland, handles a wide variety of print jobs. On the small format side, the company produces financial reports, direct mail, and brochures on Xeikon and Indigo devices. To differentiate themselves in small format printing, McGowan reported that the company has added special finishing equipment such as Motioncutter’s sheet-fed digital finishing systems for cutting, creasing, engraving, and personalizing output as well as the Scodix system for embossing and adding glitter to printed output. He said this allows them to command a higher price for their printed output.
The company also produces outdoor media such as billboards and bus shelter displays. McGowan’s roll-to-roll division creates PVC banners and prints on mesh and fabrics while its flatbed division creates point of sale, signage, and display graphics. It is also one of the few companies around the world that have acquired EFI’s Nozoumi printer. Since McGowan’s got involved with digital print more than 20 years ago, it has been able to produce longer runs digitally and are now competing with medium run litho, and in its flatbed department before the Nozomi, put two competitors out of business because digital could do it quicker, better, and more competitively.
Speaking about the Nozomi, McGowan observed, “To me it’s a game changer. The print is different, it has a gloss finish, and it looks better. You can tell a Nozomi print a mile away. It’s a completely new era and the biggest change I’ve seen in digital technology in the last ten years.”
Where are the dealers?
We would like to end this discussion with a deep concern we have about dealers’ lack of participation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This year neither Scott, CJ, nor I saw any of the dealer personnel who have attended this conference in previous years. These are dealers we know are heavily into production print.
I asked CJ to contact many of these dealers to find out if they sent anyone to Connect. Virtually everyone we contacted did not send a representative. The one dealer that was represented was Atlantic Tomorrow’s Office. They are pushing the boundaries of their production print business by engaging in industrial printing. They will soon install a device that will result in a $400,000 sale.
Fourteen years ago we made a decision to attend Connect as well as Graph Expo so that we could better understand production print. We did this because we believe it represents the greatest growth opportunity for the independent dealer in the world of print.
Dealers need to get up to speed because the technology is moving at an amazing pace. We can see by the results of our dealer survey that many of the dealers are not participating in this space and that is a terrible mistake.
EFI and Graph Expo are two must-attend stops on the annual dealer calendar.
EFI is considering adding a dealer track to the 200 seminars they already produce at Connect. The company plans to contact dealers via direct mail towards the third quarter of this year about Connect 2019 and the benefits of attending. Take advantage of this opportunity and send the person who leads your production print business. If you don’t have one, hire one!
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