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Taste For Success

Merging Markets

The industry has warped, merged, and diversified over the past two years. Carys Evans takes a look at the opportunities for businesses to grow as the market continues to change

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Space to succeed

The last two years have seen many industries flipped on their heads as sectors such as events and hospitality were forced to close their doors overnight. As a result, companies were forced to think on their feet and look at other areas they could operate in to keep income coming in.

This saw employees get in tune with their creative sides and set up side hustles online as well as workers lend a hand in industries that needed support such as delivery driving and volunteering at vaccination centres.

The print industry also had to diversify when usual revenue streams such as hospitality branding including wall and floor graphics, menus, and even demand for kit such as receipt and ticket printers all dropped out. The events sector saw a drop in demand for exhibition stands, banners, flags, and more.

There was a sudden surge in the need for PPE, safety screens, and safety and informational signage such as two-metre distancing spots for queues. These floor graphics can still be seen worn away becoming a form of ghost sign on many high streets and city centres that are bustling once more. Packaging demand also soared as people were forced to shop predominantly online, a habit that has remained in place for the most part.

Other areas that boomed included digitally printed home décor including wallpaper and soft furnishing patterns, and personalised print such as gifts, photo products, and more.

This provided plenty of opportunities for print businesses to reassess their operations and capitalise on new areas, and they did just that, with the opportunity still very much there for those who haven’t made the most of it yet.

Fantastic opportunities

Another way the pandemic caused an impact was the number of employees at a business, with some being made redundant, others deciding to pursue alternative career routes, and some companies reassessing the way they operate and utilise staff. This shone a spotlight on the part automation can play in the printing process and how streamlined automation can enable a business to utilise its staff in other areas.

Mathew Faulkner, director of marketing and innovation for Wide-Format Products at Canon Europe says that over the last couple of years there has been a growing interest in and a growing need for more automation.
“Automation is important because when your processes and efficiencies are strong as a printer, it makes you much easier to do business with,” Faulkner explains. “But when also you have those better processes it actually gives you the time back to focus on more added value opportunities for your customers.”

In terms of room in the current market to scale up and diversify, Faulkner says he sees fantastic opportunities. “Wherever you are today you can scale up. Let’s say you’re in an entry-level production printing environment, we have technologies that are more productive and faster and perhaps go into different types of technologies to bring that level of print volume.

“But also within the portfolio there’s opportunities for customers to perhaps diversify into new application areas.”

The opportunity to produce more applications is one key area to diversify and Faulkner says this could be moving from cut sheet promotional applications into something more wide-format or something like digital décor or wallpaper, where there’s huge growth.

“Digital décor is one fantastic example of wallpaper that can now be fully customised by producers. I think again back to the way that Canon likes to support its customers, if you’re a signage or graphics display customer, it can be quite daunting to think well yes I believe there’s an opportunity for wallpaper applications and perhaps technically I’m capable of producing these but is this a B2B (business to business) application or am I selling B2C (business to consumer) which then is a whole web-to-print operation and where does my content come from?

“But I think from that B2B point of view you’re then perhaps dealing with customers that are in different environments. I’m going from dealing with a print buyer for a brand or for an exhibition company to now architects or interior designers which is quite a different environment.”

Faulkner adds: “I think for the whole wide-format industry there are some great applications coming on stream, the ability to personalise and produce a whole range of different customised applications whether it’s products or décor is really exciting.”

Canon recently collaborated with Fotoba and Onyx to launch the Fotoba Canon Wallpaper Factory

With the boom in wallpaper printing and printed décor continuing, Canon recently collaborated with Fotoba and Onyx to launch the Fotoba Canon Wallpaper Factory. Using the Fotoba XLA170, differing widths of wallpaper drops can be produced without the need for manual intervention. This is achieved due to the automatic positioning of the vertical slicers and Bulk 400kg Jumbo Roll Loaders can also be added in high volume applications.

Is the future inkjet?

Looking at a different area of the print industry and industrial inkjet technologies manufacturer Xaar says the future is very much inkjet. Justin Noble, head of product management says that the ability to apply a wide range of fluids with precision and accuracy across a variety of substrates is causing inkjet to grow in importance. According to Noble, inkjet is either currently replacing traditional production methods or creating new applications.

On why this move to inkjet is happening now, Noble explains: “The move to inkjet has been gaining momentum for some years, however, it has recently picked up pace as technological advances have made it increasingly relevant to a growing number of sectors and applications.