15.1 How the Market has changed
The print industry has changed massively in recent decades, particularly in the last few years due to advances in technology such as the Internet. Printing has previously tried to focus on managed print services that save companies money. The market has also aimed at consolidating machines into singular devices. So instead of having separate printers, copiers, scanners, and fax machines, all manufacturers have created multifunctional printers that save companies space, time, and sometimes money.
Additionally, advancements in the area of digital, inkjet and toner technology has meant that high-quality printing has never been so accessible to huge amounts of people. This has given many industries the ability to move printing capabilities in-house, whereas only large companies with large budgets were once able to print in high quality.
15.2 Current Industry Issues
It is because of these advancements in technology that print providers and manufacturers are facing many issues and hurdles.
- Print volumes are projected to drop, and continue to drop, in industrialised countries, but are rising in countries that are not industrialised.
This is because of socio-economic innovations driven by technology such as the internet, and advanced print machine functions such as scanning to email or folder. The Internet has led to the development of managed print service software and machines that make printing for business much more efficient and cost effective, therefore reducing paper waste and the need for printing in high volumes in the first place. Workers are also far more mobile and more technology-savvy than in previous decades, reducing the need to print as devices such as tablets and laptops hold everything an employee would require in order to do their job. The opposite can be said for developing countries with limited monetary means and little to no technological education. These countries still use dated print techniques and have not optimised their processes in order to reduce waste.
- The cost of printing is rising faster than prices charged for print products and services.
Printing costs and the price of paper in general have been rising, and are predicted to carry on rising. This is because paper mills have been increasingly shutting down their machinery, as a result of less printing actually being done than in decades previous. These reductions in paper production have therefore reduced mill production capabilities and competition, which would in itself discourage rising prices.
The rising cost of petroleum and fuel is another reason for higher print costs. Petroleum is the base for most inks, so when petrol costs go up, so does printer ink, meaning that companies and providers have to come up with efficiency innovations. The transportation and delivery of print mediums and print machines is also affected by these rising fuel costs.
- New services aimed at efficiency are on the rise
The widespread use of digital print mediums and techniques has led to the development of digital services that manage print machines for buyers. These document management software’s, such as PaperCut and Equitrac software, are rising exponentially in a bid by companies to increase their print need output whilst also reducing waste paper as waste revenue.
These current market issues have therefore meant that many more manufacturer companies are exploring mergers and partnerships in order to accommodate the change. Companies may wish to unite in order to reduce production costs and improve efficiency – a challenging task in itself as costs are generally increasing at a faster rate than revenue comes in. Companies are also trying to adopt more effective sales and marketing methods, and clever positioning in order to acclimatise to these changes and expand their new market capabilities.
15.3 Market Changes
The market today is mainly dominated by household names such Canon, HP, Sharp, Xerox, and RISO, however this familiar industry landscape could result in more changes, due to the previously mentioned industry issues.
For example, in 2012 Sharp Business Systems nearly declared bankruptcy due to legacy debts causing instability and uncertainty. Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn then acquired the Japanese company, investing £2.4bn in Sharp to become a 66% majority stakeholder of the company – securing the future of Sharp as a company that is widely known across the globe. With the recognisable brand and market coverage of Sharp coupled with the production capabilities of Foxconn the uniting of the two companies should result in a bright future for Sharp, despite the current industry changes.
Additionally, HP acquired Samsung’s printing business in 2016 as part of HP’s biggest print procurement in history as both HP Incorporated and Hewlett-Packard. The acquisition took place in order to accelerate HP’s strategic initiatives; it also gives HP a powerful platform of technologies for future innovation. Therefore, inventive techniques are adopted by many companies in order for them to survive the changes faced by the print industry today.
15.4 The Future of the Print Industry
There have clearly been many advancements in the print industry in recent years, including the reduction in costs, and the technology used, but where is it all going? Technology is clearly where future changes to the print industry will take place. An initial example is that many machines now use touch-screen panels for their user interface, instead of using buttons. This technology will become more widely used until buttons are no longer used at all, enabling for a more fluid and user-friendly printing process.
Mobile printing is also growing rapidly. More people than ever before need the ability to print from anywhere, and with an ever-increasing number of devices entering the consumer market, the ability to print from these devices is also imperative. Therefore, future connectivity and networking capabilities will be more widely used and available across every manufacturer’s product fleet. Within mobile printing technology is the ability to scan to ‘the cloud.’ The cloud is a type of virtual storage space and allows you to have instant, and secure access to your important business data and files. Cloud technology is becoming increasingly popular because it removes the need to buy expensive servers or other computer hardware.
3D printing is believed by many futurologists to be the next frontier in the print industry, speculating that 3D printing signals the start of a third industrial revolution – succeeding the ‘production line’ assembly that largely dominated manufacturing in the late 19th century. It is already possible to 3D print in many materials, including plastics, metals, and even chocolate! But as this technology becomes more advanced and cheaper, it will become a staple of many industries, including print.
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