Digitalisation, global dynamics, sustainability: The future of print

By Markus Hoffmann, Executive Senior Vice President for Business Area Industrial Products & Application at LEONHARD KURZ

The printing and packaging industry is undergoing a continuous transformation process that is being driven to a large extent by digitalisation and the use of new technologies. This rapid development presents companies in the industry with challenges.

At the same time, however, it is essential for manufacturers and print service providers to keep their finger on the pulse and fully exploit the potential offered by technological innovations. After all, technological advances open up new business opportunities and markets. They make it possible to offer more individual and innovative products that meet today’s ecological and social requirements.

Opportunities through the successful implementation of innovations

This development not only offers new opportunities to increase efficiency and reduce costs, but also paves the way for personalised and flexible printing solutions that meet the changing demands of the market.

Digital printing in particular has proven to be a revolutionary force, enabling shorter run jobs, personalised print products and packaging that can be produced on-demand without compromising on quality. This flexibility is crucial in order to be able to react promptly to individual customer requests and market trends.

New technologies also contribute to more environmentally friendly production. Digital techniques and innovative finishing processes reduce the consumption of water, energy and chemicals. These technologies also make it possible to use materials more efficiently and minimise waste, which make a decisive contribution to the sustainability of the industry.

Global merging creates the need for a worldwide presence

In an increasingly interconnected global economy, the printing and packaging industry is experiencing a wave of consolidation, with larger companies acquiring or merging with smaller competitors to strengthen their market position. This development has far-reaching implications both for the companies involved and for the market as a whole.

Consolidation through mergers and acquisitions offers companies the opportunity to pool their resources, exploit synergies and increase their efficiency. For larger companies, this often means improved access to new markets and technologies as well as a stronger negotiating position with suppliers and customers.

However, this can also lead to reduced diversity in the market and restrict competition, which poses major challenges for smaller companies in particular. They are increasingly confronted with the pressure of competing in a market dominated by a few large players. This makes a global orientation all the more important – even for smaller companies. This enables them to benefit from economies of scale, diversify their risk and gain access to new growth opportunities.

Strategies for a successful global orientation

Successful companies in the printing and packaging industry use strategic partnerships to expand their global presence and gain local market knowledge. Digitalisation also plays a decisive role here by making it possible to decentralise production processes and serve customers worldwide more efficiently. In addition, flexible adaptation to local market conditions and customer requirements is essential for global success. To survive in this dynamic environment, companies must find a balance between global expansion and preserving their unique values and qualities.

Accelerated market dynamics and scarcity of resources are keeping the industry busy

Our industry is under increasing pressure to adapt quickly to changing market requirements, while at the same time facing rising production costs and increasingly scarce raw materials.

The cost of raw materials, energy and transportation has risen in many parts of the world, which has a direct impact on production costs in the printing and packaging industry. At the same time, the scarcity of certain raw materials creates challenges in the supply chain and requires strategic planning and diversification of sourcing channels. Companies need to increase their resource efficiency, use alternative materials and turn to technologies that are more cost-efficient and sustainable.

In a market characterised by constant change, the ability to develop products quickly and bring them to market is crucial. Customers expect not only high-quality products, but also rapid realisation of their individual wishes, including small series and limited editions. This requires companies to be highly flexible in production and to work closely with suppliers in order to shorten the time to market. This also includes the implementation of digital printing technologies that enable high variability and personalisation while keeping setup costs low.

Strategies for efficiency and flexibility

It takes a successful combination of technological innovation and agile production methods to survive in the market. By introducing automation, advanced planning tools and real-time data analysis, companies can optimise their production processes and react more quickly to changes in the market. In addition, investment in research and development enables the creation of new materials and production processes that are both environmentally sustainable and cost-efficient.

The ability to respond quickly and efficiently to the ever-changing needs of the market, while controlling costs and improving sustainability, can provide a significant competitive advantage in the printing and packaging industry. Having technology partners who can provide end-to-end solutions from a single source can be critical to speeding up production and shortening coordination paths.

Global supply chains and the evolution of marketing

Optimising global supply chains and adapting to changing marketing demands are critical for companies in the printing and packaging industry to succeed in today’s fast-paced and information overloaded world. A well-organised, global supply chain is essential to respond to the dynamic changes in the market.

Companies must be able to rely on a network of suppliers and partners that enables them to procure and distribute materials and products quickly, reliably and cost-effectively. Digitalisation plays a key role here by ensuring transparency and efficiency in the supply chain and enabling companies to identify and resolve bottlenecks at an early stage.

At the same time, in a world in which consumers are confronted with a flood of advertising messages every day, it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract and retain the attention of the target group. Customers increasingly value honesty and authenticity in communication.

They are looking for brands that reflect their values and interact with them in a transparent and credible way. Companies must therefore develop innovative marketing strategies that go beyond traditional advertising measures and create real added value for the customer.

Strategies for authenticity and transparency

To be successful in this new marketing environment, companies need to build and maintain an authentic brand identity. It is important to be transparent in all communication and product presentation, especially in terms of production processes, material sources and sustainability efforts.

Given the growing importance of sustainability and social responsibility for consumer decisions, it is essential for companies to integrate these aspects into their brand strategy. This includes not only the use of environmentally friendly materials and production processes, but also open communication about the company’s efforts to achieve a positive social and environmental impact.

Sustainability in the printing and packaging industry

The growing awareness of environmental issues and the need for sustainable business practices have led to a fundamental rethink in our industry. Companies are faced with the challenge of rethinking their business practices and implementing sustainable solutions that go beyond mere lip service and greenwashing.

True sustainability requires a comprehensive view of the entire value chain – from the procurement of raw materials through production to recycling or disposal of the end products. It is about minimising environmental impact, using resources efficiently and taking social responsibility seriously. Companies that pursue this approach recognise that sustainable management is not only an ethical obligation, but also an opportunity for innovation and the creation of competitive advantages.

Strategies for sustainable action:

Use of sustainable materials

The use of recycled or renewable materials helps to reduce the consumption of natural resources and the ecological footprint of products.

Increasing efficiency in production

By using modern technologies and production processes, companies can save energy and raw materials, reduce waste and improve overall efficiency.

Circular economy and recycling

Promoting the circular economy, in which materials and products are designed in such a way that they can be reused, recycled or composted, is a key aspect of sustainable business.

Transparent communication

Honesty and transparency regarding environmental efforts are crucial to building trust with customers and partners, whilst avoiding greenwashing. Companies should disclose the steps they are taking to become more sustainable and the goals they have set themselves.

Sustainability does not necessarily mean doing without but it can also lead to improved products and processes through innovation and efficient design. Companies that implement sustainable practices often discover new business opportunities, increase their brand appeal and meet the growing demands of consumers and business partners for environmentally friendly products and services.

Is print still relevant in an increasingly digital world?

There is a clear answer to this question: Yes! Because despite the increasing digitalisation of all areas of life, print retains its important role and significance. In the printing and packaging industry, the importance of print is particularly evident in its ability to highlight products through creative and appealing design and thus differentiate them at the point of sale (POS).

Print media offers a sensory experience that digital media cannot replicate. The feel of paper, the quality of a stylishly finished printed image and even the smell of freshly printed material create an emotional connection that can reinforce the perception and memory of a brand or product. In a world where consumers are inundated with digital content on a daily basis, print offers a soothing break and the opportunity to engage with content on a deeper, more personal level.

Differentiation at the point of sale

At the POS, countless products compete for the attention of shoppers. This is where print can make a decisive difference. Innovative packaging designs, high-quality printing processes and special finishes can make products stand out visually from the competition and positively influence the purchasing decision. Attractive packaging not only appeals to the senses but can also increase the perception of the quality and value of the product.

The printing industry has made significant progress towards sustainability and environmental responsibility. By using environmentally friendly materials, recycled papers and energy-efficient printing processes, print media is helping to reduce the ecological footprint. Innovations such as biodegradable inks and recyclable packaging underline print’s potential to adapt to the demands of an environmentally conscious society.