In recent years, the number of European printing establishments has continued to decline and employment levels have similarly fallen back. However, while some larger printing concerns have gone out of business, others have managed to adjust their offer to ensure that they are able to meet a more varied set of demands from their customer base.
Increasingly, customers are demanding faster turnaround times, shorter runs and more targeted printing with versioning and full variable content. Some print companies have adjusted to take advantage of this new reality. Although the pace of these changes can be overstressed, feedback confirms that printers are investing more time in ensuring that they are making the best use of their resources. Lean manufacturing techniques are widely adopted to optimise productivity, while workflow and MIS help keep the presses busy through a mix of long and short run work.
In the first instalment of a two-part bulletin detailing the current state of the European printing industry, Smithers Pira provides an overview of the current trends occurring in this market. Whether you are looking for new ways to adapt to the changing print industry or need to know how the market is shaping up over coming years, read on to find out more.
A move towards shorter runs and JIT (just in time) printing
There has been a general shift towards shorter runs and JIT printing, meaning that the amount of print being produced is coming more in line with the actual amount that is required, reducing manufacturing waste and redundant copies across the supply chain. As well as revolutionising point of sale advertising, digital print has meant that, in many areas, print has become a more efficient process. In some instances, this has allowed printers to command the same price for a print run that is slightly shorter.
Further moves towards shorter runs are likely, although there are barriers to overcome when it comes to changing perceptions about the role of print in areas like cross-media advertising. Printed advertising is still treated by some as a commodity item, but there are increasing numbers of print buyers at brands who are looking to printers to take a greater strategic role in cross-media campaigns.
Downward trend of graphic print
The decline of graphic print (i.e. not packaging) has continued despite something of a pick-up in the European economy in the second half of 2013. This confirms the view that the decline in graphic print is not a function of adverse economic conditions, but is related instead to broader changes in how information is delivered. As different products have different prospects, it is unlikely that the trend away from print into digital alternatives as part of the overall communication mix will ease up significantly. Whether it is transactional, entertainment, education, information or promotion, digital media will continue to make gains at the expense of print.
Changes in the information landscape
Adjustments in the communication market have had a massive impact upon graphic print demand and products over the past five to ten years. Predictions of the 'paperless office' late in the last century took time to have an impact, and there was perhaps a sense early on that the effects of computerisation would not be as significant as initially believed. However, forms and cheques have been among the first to witness major fall-offs in demand.
The proliferation of competing information and entertainment sources has meant that the shift to online arose irrespective of the best interests of the traditional publishing industry. Consumers are spending increasing amounts of time digesting information online, so big falls were recorded around the globe in newspaper and magazine advertising.
The book publishing industry has been more successful in adapting to digital media with the adoption of e-readers, but here too digital communications have had an impact, with online information sources leading to lower demand for technical and educational books, and the broader range of media options leading to book readership levels declining in most countries, particularly in lower age groups. Fall in book demand is also due to supply chain optimisation and reduction of unsold copies. Across other areas, directories have become slimmer and slimmer or disappeared altogether as people have opted to get this kind of information online or via smartphones.
There are bright spots, however, even in analogue printing where operations such as FlyerAlarm have adopted sophisticated workflows, linking on-line ordering with slick automated imposition to increase the efficiency of sheetfed commercial printing by grouping jobs and finishing to share set-up time and costs.
For more information about the European printing market see Smithers Pira's market report entitled The Future of Global Printing to 2018 now.
Part Two of this bulletin discusses the state of printing products, processes and equipment in the European printing industry.