Above: Charlie Eitel, chairman of the board, WS Packaging Group, informs PRINT 17 attendees that change is not to be feared.
The show floor is a big draw, but the breakouts were popular as well.
PRINT 17 has officially wrapped once again, and another great event in Chicago has drawn to a close. This year’s show saw many attendees and speakers juggling their time at the show with connecting with family back home as Hurricane Irma swept over Florida during the course of the event, and Texas was still recovering from Hurricane Harvey. And that’s not to mention the wildfires in the West impacting many states. But with all of that in the background, PRINT 17 was still a show that offered phenomenal educational opportunities to attendees.
Perhaps the best known of the annual educational portion of the event is OUTLOOK, a morning-long overview of the print industry held every year just before the show floor officially opens. This year’s event had an impressive variety of speakers, who touched on a wide range of topics that all printers of every size and type can relate to.
Change the Conversation
First up was Charlie Eitel, chairman of the board, WS Packaging Group. His overarching message was that change is not something to be feared, but something to be embraced. He focused on changing the way our industry leaders interact with the associates who do the day-to-day work. Eitel used quotes throughout his presentation, and one that resonated with me was, “What organizations need is a mutually agreed upon set of reasons as to why they are going to connect as individuals, form a team, and make a difference in their personal and professional lives.”
What that means for printers, he noted, is that leadership teams need to define their goals—both short and long term—for the shop, and then make sure the rest of the team is not only informed, but also on board with that vision. The vision can’t just be about technologies, or markets printers want to serve either. It needs to also take into account how they want both their employees and their customers to be treated. That shift of creating a business that is people-centric, rather than technology-centric, is what will ultimately drive growth and build revenue.
Another powerful point he made is that printers need to find their own niche, their own company culture, and their own way of approaching the market.
“When you try to follow a competitor, you must duplicate almost every facet of what makes you want to follow them in the first place, or you will probably fail,” Eitel quoted. Simply put, whether you are a production printer, a dealer, a quick printer, or you focus on some of aspect of the business, you will only succeed when you carve your own path to success, rather than trying to recreate someone else’s’ path.
The Economic Update
Alan Beaulieu, president of ITR Economics, followed Eitel with a detailed look at where the print industry is today, as well as where he sees it going over the next several years. He gave an in-depth account of various factors, but what it all boiled down to was this: There are good days ahead. In nearly every area Beaulieu tracks, he sees encouraging signs that things are starting to pick up again.
And Print Isn’t Immune
Beaulieu is forecasting strong growth for at least the next eight to nine months, so he encouraged printers to take risks now, make investments, and forge the relationships and cultivate markets that will increase the company’s bottom line. Beaulieu noted that he expects growth to be steady at least through 2019, so for printers and dealers alike, this is a good time to make bold moves with their business.
Print’s Bright Future
Those weren’t the only speakers at OUTLOOK 17, but OUTLOOK wasn’t the only great presentation attendees could take advantage of. One of the great features at PRINT 17 was a new Distinguished Leaders track, which featured two keynote speakers that all PRINT 17 attendees were invited to listen to as part of their regular show pass. Both speakers—Tod Szewczyk, vice president, director of Emerging Technology & Innovation at Leo Burnett, and Michael Chase, chief marketing officer of St. Joseph Communications—had great presentations, but Chase’s stood out for its peek into where print and digital technologies are converging in the future.
He gave a fascinating look at real campaigns that brands are running now that embrace digital technologies in myriad forms, but that still rely just as heavily on the print component. None of the examples he gave would have worked if they didn’t have strong, striking print to go with them, and that is really the biggest takeaway, not just from his session, but from PRINT 17 as a whole.
Innovation at the Forefront
The print industry is changing, and digital technologies are here to stay. But that doesn’t mean anyone should curl up or give up on their business. For the production printers, the name of the game is going to be innovation, and finding new ways to push their technologies and creativity to greater heights. For dealers, this is an exciting time to be targeting this market. More than ever before, PRINT 17 illustrated the sheer depth of choices that printers have today. They are going to have to make some tough decisions about where to invest their time and money to find the most success, and no one path is going to be right for all of them. More printers walking the show floor mentioned they were looking for partnerships, dealers, and vendors they could rely on to help them navigate these choices, and whom they can rely on to help them make the best decisions for them going forward.
It’s an exciting time to be in the print industry. Digital technologies, 3D printing, new ways to print on packaging, and even the ability to custom-produce a wide range of fabrics are creating amazing new markets that didn’t even exist a few years ago. Production printers are on the forefront of all of this change, and they are looking for dealer partners to help them navigate these challenging waters. PRINT 17 was a great look at not only the technologies that are shaping the market right now, but also at the thought processes that are driving those innovations today and well into the future.
THE NEXT INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION SERIES (PRINT 17)
Part 1 of 4 | The Future of Imaging on Display: With the increasing focus on inkjet and the ability to print on anything, manufacturers showcased devices that leveraged all the benefits of inkjet printing at this year’s event.