Mick Rowan: The digital printing revolution has levelled the playing field

This column by Think Laterally’s Mick Rowan was originally published in print in the June 2023 issue of ProPrint magazine. To read the full story, click here.

I spent years attending trade shows the world over and loved every minute. Along the way, I gained an intimate knowledge of how quickly technology evolves; it is almost mind-blowing.

I would block out hours to chat with vendors about integrations and possible automated workflow solutions, imagining how far we could go linking upstream and downstream operations via e-commerce.

Jump forward to 2023, and it is no longer a competitive advantage but an absolute requirement. If you haven’t connected your digital front-end with CRM, MIS, digital press, inline finishing and so on, you are missing out. It doesn’t seem that long since I had imagined a time when an order could be automated from commencement directly into the warehouse. As it turns out, this is only the beginning of our digitally connected future.

From a manufacturing perspective, the digital production line can produce finished output inline. So, a savvy operator can automate from commencement to completion. This offers the ability to integrate custom embellishment techniques into the workflow, such as embossing, laser die-cutting, and even foiling. Adding these types of finishes can increase quality perception, the quality that customers recognise via an item’s look, touch, and feel, by up to 46 per cent. Take packaging, for example; foil enhancements increase attraction rates by more than 250 per cent.

Then there’s the evolution of the digital presses themselves, where the world’s most productive B2 digital solution, the HP Indigo 100K Digital Press, prints over 100,000 impressions per shift. Combine that speed with abundant upstream and downstream capability, and you have one hell of a workflow.

Not to mention the AccurioPress C14000. It’s the flagship model in Konica Minolta’s range of SRA3 format digital toner production presses, introducing new levels of automation and self-calibration, plus plenty of configuration options and inline finishing modules.

Then there’s the Scodix Ultra 2000 digital enhancement press that fuses flexibility, quality, and productivity. Scodix provides a vast array of enhancements on a single platform, replacing the need for separate systems on a production floor. Included as standard is: Scodix Sense, foil, metallic, glitter, and spot, plus a range of optional extras.

These days, print companies are no longer content to simply churn out standardised products; they’re innovating with cutting- edge digital tech and becoming increasingly focused on delivering personalised experiences. So, we’ve gone from one size fits all to tailor-made solutions. Which makes perfect sense if you check the data.

According to research from leading industry analysts, Smithers, the analogue print industry was worth $734.5bn in 2017. By 2027, this market is expected to be worth $721.4bn. Digital print, on the other hand, was worth $122.9bn in 2017 and is expected to reach $189.8bn by 2027. We should also see a 3.1 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for packaging over the next five years but an 11 per cent CAGR for digitally printed packaging, representing a massive gain in market size.

Along with growth will come increased cross-channel marketing opportunities, such as tech-enabled interactive labelling and packaging with links to social media, QR codes and even interactive games. Digitally created interactive labels will also enable users to integrate with the brand at a deeper level, with the ability to access brand-specific micro-sites to promote individual products, events, or campaigns.

When you buy something online, it’s a wonder the physical universe hasn’t broken down yet. Between orders, printing, embellishing, and packaging to tracking, delivery, follow-up notifications and special offers, we owe our modern- day convenience to an intricate dance between digital and reality.

Get ready to enter a whole new shopping dimension. Consumers of the present and near future are all about speed, convenience, and having access to every channel available. Without further ado – welcome to frictionless retailing.

In a world of advanced technology, the ability to implement digital printing, integrated workflow, automation, and enhanced finishing options gives business owners an undeniable edge. The digital printing revolution is here, levelling the playing field for all brand owners.

The benefits are clear. Streamlined production, cost savings, and improved customer satisfaction are only a few of the rewards that businesses can reap if they incorporate modern technology with tried-and-true production methods. With increased access to advanced tools, there’s never been a better time to take control of your printing process and get ahead of the competition.

The future has arrived, calling for innovators to power their businesses forward. Get ready – it’s time to start planning how you’ll bring cutting-edge technology into the fold.

Mick Rowan has spent the past decade building printIQ into one of the most recognised software brands in the printing industry, and with over four decades of experience, Mick truly has ink in his veins.

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