Changes in Print Market Pave Inkjet Growth Path
Commercial printing is undergoing a profound structural change thanks to worsening labor shortages, a precipitous drop in revenues and changes in the way people consume and buy print.
Enter production inkjet.
At the sixth annual Inkjet Summit in April, keynote speaker and conference chair Marco Boer, of I.T. Strategies, insisted that inkjet can help to remedy all of these ills with its automated productivity and its broadly acceptable print quality. Inkjet, he said, is enjoying double-digit growth while it enables mass-customization and changes the entire print business model.
Traditionally, pointed out Boer, printers tried to compete by selling the highest quality output at the lowest price: a formula that no longer works well in print markets where fast delivery and ROI-producing results are the paramount requirements. What inkjet makes possible is a model in which price is determined not by quality, but by the value that data in the form of personalization adds to the printed piece.
Boer acknowledged that adapting to this new model will be a difficult shift for the industry to make. Printers who grasp what is happening, however, are showing it by investing in inkjet and reaping the benefits.
Inkjet’s increasing acceptance is seen in the fact that last year — riding the momentum of a 66% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) since 2008 — the process was responsible for producing 300 billion pages. Technical advancements in productivity and substrate compatibility are helping inkjet stay ahead of a market whose motto is “data-driven everything” and whose consumers have intensifying appetites for “more relevant things” in printed form.
The market areas in which Boer forecast strongest growth include direct mail, books and graphic arts applications where inkjet achieves good results on offset stocks. Applications that blend data and graphics — for example, personalized prospectuses from insurance companies — are other natural uses for the process.
Boer wasn’t predicting the abandonment of offset lithography in a mad rush to inkjet: the conventional printing method still accounts for 95% of all pages produced and sits on a base that is simply too large to be replaced by anything else. But he said that because of all the advantages inkjet can bring, movement toward it will be “unstoppable” in the applications where those advantages are the most obvious.
“Inkjet technology is proven,” he assured, “and people are making money with it.”
Inkjet technology has advanced to a point where “there are no bad products,” he said; just solutions that suit some applications better than others. Inkjet systems have demonstrated their reliability and profitability. The task before prospective adopters is to find the combination of printing, paper, software and finishing that lets inkjet be everything it can be.