Print vs. Digital - How digital really is the printing industry? -- drupa - May 28 to June 7, 2024 - Messe Düsseldorf

Print vs. Digital - How digital really is the printing industry?

Print and digital solutions: At first this sounds like a contradiction in terms. However, the printing industry has known for a long time that it can only go hand in hand. Anyone who processes data needs a digital infrastructure to offer solutions quickly and efficiently.

Already at the last Drupa 2016, digital solutions were presented that make everyday work easier and satisfy customer needs in an automated way. In 2024, digital transformation is even a key topic of the trade fair.

When we asked industry participants on Facebook about digital progress, the most common answers were "we are at the very beginning" and "we don't know where to start yet". This also corresponds perfectly to the studies of the German market. Germany is still to be seen in the midfield of progress. In a survey by the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research, companies from the DACH region in the packaging industry were questioned. 80 percent even completely reject the introduction of artificial intelligence in the work area of transport routes and chains.

Digital transformation in the printing industry - where do you start?

The following areas in particular are considered for digitisation:

  1. productivity and collaboration
  2. security & compliance
  3. analytics & intelligence
  4. flexibility, efficiency and sustainability
  5. mobility

 The easiest way to start is probably to increase productivity by starting to automate processes that make it easier for us. This frees up staff to spend more time on value-adding activities and also on further concept development. Once the start is in place, it also makes it easier for them to collaborate and achieve higher quality results.

 A study by Apenberg & Partner clearly shows that this first step has not yet been taken everywhere. Only 6 per cent of the respondents from the German printing industry stated that they had automated their administration as far as possible. Almost half of all respondents are still in the process. On the other hand, 60 per cent of our colleagues have already completed the preparations by purchasing software and have already put it into operation. Only two percent still check and process data manually, and just under a quarter are still partially involved.

The printing industry focuses on production before administration

During the survey it was clear that the printing industry places its main focus on productive processes. More than half of the participants already map production processes (such as production, makeready and downtimes) in their operating system. Production planning is also automated. Whereby only 6 per cent state that the automation potential in pre-press has been exhausted.

In contrast, only 10 per cent have completed automation in accounting.

Likewise, 50 per cent of the companies use production data acquisition to identify problems at an early stage.

Decisions are made on a digital basis

A cornerstone of digitalisation is knowledge. Knowledge that is drawn from data. Around 75 per cent of the printing industry already uses this knowledge to make decisions.

Status quo of digitalisation

The theory of Print 4.0 - the digitalisation of the printing industry, has one goal: the process from the customer's order to the delivery of the product runs completely digitally and autonomously. The manufacturing and delivery processes are digitally linked and automated. Seamless processes between paper supplier and printer, prepress, printer and material transport: stocks are filled by sensory observations. Human intervention is no longer necessary.

Our industry has already produced many best practice examples from which we can learn. In reality, many industry players have dared to start and have already automated individual workflows. Printing machines behave autonomously. The Corona crisis has once again increased the willingness to digitise. Many companies are switching to digital offerings. Digital providers are entering the market, forcing other entrepreneurs into digitalisation in order to maintain competitiveness.

Now it is time to use this beginning as a competitive advantage and take the next step.

Read more about digitalization