Drupa has published its 5th, and most positive, Global Trends Report which states that the printing industry is generally optimistic about the future.


For this years report Drupa interviewed 708 printers and 234 suppliers, and the resulting data highlights that following the recession in 2008, the recovery slowly but constantly continues, and that the printing industry is focusing on how to exploit the integration of digital communication and technological innovations the best way possible.


Packaging remains the most buoyant market and there has also been a steady improvement in confidence over the five years from Commercial printers. Functional printers (industrial print and printed electronics using conductive inks and coatings) were following a similar positive story but there was a puzzling increase in uncertainty this year for both printers and suppliers to this market. Publishing printers probably face the most challenging strategic changes and there is a decline in assurance this year, despite the reducing threat from E-books.


In regional terms North America has been consistently the strongest region over time, although Europe has shown steadily increasing confidence, while Africa and the Middle East see a clear decline in confidence over time.


Globally this is the fourth year of increasing confidence reported by suppliers. What is striking this year is the surge in sales of core equipment/software/materials (+29% net balance). Indeed all supplier revenue streams showed their best ever net positive balance.


Printers globally report that the squeeze on prices and margins continues and is coped with best by ever increasing utilisation, while holding costs as steady as possible. There is evidence that over time the squeeze on prices and margins is somewhat lessening globally. However the regional picture is far more patchy. For example while North America reported some increase in prices, Australia/Oceania reported a clear drop in pricing. Equally Packaging prices are holding up globally while Publishing and to a lesser degree Commercial prices continue to decline.




The transition to digital print continues but slowly, with Functional printers now largely dependent on digital print but few packaging printers reporting significant digital sales as yet. (60% of Functional printers report more that 50% of turnover is digital, while just 12% of packaging printers report more than 25% of turnover is digital.) 


Globally printers were more willing to invest: 42% reported an increase in capital expenditure compared to the previous year while 9% reported a decline – a positive net balance of 33%. North America performed best with a net balance increase of 51% while Australia/Oceania lagged farthest behind with a net increase of only 18%. Not surprisingly Packaging printers reported the biggest positive net balance at +45%, Functional at +42%, Commercial at +30% and Publishing at +20%. 


It can be concluded that the global economy is experiencing a significant growth, and capital expenditure is looking good with Finishing the most popular focus for investment for the second year running, followed by print technology and then prepress/workflow/MIS.


What does raise concerns is that only 27% of all printer participants operate a Web-to-Print/ Storefront installation, up just 2% from 2014. I find this figure quite alarming because digital ‘connectivity’ with customers is going to play an ever increasing role in our industry. It might a bit of a hackneyed old cliché to say that if you aren’t connected to your customers then somebody else will be, but this really is the way that things are going. 


Now is clearly the time to to develop a strategy to implement some form of web-to-print solution for your print business.