Print Leaders Forum: Many secrets to success

An excerpt from AP March 2020 Print Leaders Forum – by Cactus Imaging general manager of operations Keith Ferrel 

The main trend I see occurring in 2020 is sustainability. Having just attended the Fespa Global Summit, the majority of speakers were highlighting the need to replace PVC as the media of choice.

Cactus Imaging having been working on perfecting alternative substrates which are fully recyclable and PVC free over the last couple of years.

Over the last few months, we have been working with a number of clients and have now produced over 1000 fully recyclable billboards which have since been recycled into park furniture, railway sleepers and even trophies.

A number of manufacturers are also now coming on to the market with PVC free self-adhesive substrates. The power of the consumer will insist that to compete going forward, the offering of PVC free substrates are a must.

Besides sustainable products being a growth area, the move into textiles is also huge for printers in 2020.

Digital print only accounts for six per cent of all textile printing by volume, so this lends itself to significant opportunity. Many print manufacturers are making a move into this market and reaping the rewards. Over 80 per cent of all promotional signage at a recent trade show I attended was on fabric.

Moves into digitally printed interiors (such as wallpapers) give huge opportunity for growth. The use of Latex inks and water based inks only enhance the sustainability aspect of printing onto fabrics.

Other areas of growth are in the billboard area. Digital signage has had an impact on volumes but the move to four weekly changeouts has nullified this to a certain extinct.

We are seeing small growth in volumes and further down the track I see the day when classic billboards will go to fortnightly change outs in order to keep up with the immediacy of digital billboards. Speed, speed and more speed is necessary to keep up with changing times.

Print capacity and finishing automation is the key to further growth in this area.

Diversification and automation are two key areas where printers should be focusing their efforts.

Deadlines are getting shorter and technology is getting better. One machine can now print at such high quality and on many different substrates that it allows diversification into other areas, but if you cant finish it in the same time that it takes to print then you achieve little.

Its the old story – you are only as quick as your slowest point.

As for Cactus Imaging, we have invested a lot of money on finishing automation and are reaping the rewards of increased productivity.

The industry should also be investing in young people and providing them with career opportunities. They are the future of our industry and we need to encourage them. The Emerging 50 is a good starting point by acknowledging the younger generation in the industry.

Further investment in the younger generation is a must because if we don’t then more businesses will suffer.

I am optimistic that if you keep up with technology and produce quality products on time, this year will be a good year. Innovation will be a key driver and the gradual move into sustainable products will be a future growth are for the industry.


This article was written prior to the impact of COVID-19. The digital version of AP March 2020 is available here.

And as part of AP’s 70 anniversary, we’re pulling together a list of 70 local industry pioneers – you can make your nominations here.

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