It can be said that the year 2012 did little, if anything, to alleviate the fears of the world grown weary of economic pressures. What will 2013 hold for the printing and packaging industry, or will it be status quo? Western Cape printing and packaging powerhouse, Colourtone Aries, says that while the year could just begin to see a turnaround, the industry is being proactive and standing up to the pressure.
So what is foretold? Since 2009, the world has been held in the steely grips of deep depression. The struggle to break free has challenged even the most astute businessmen.
Colourtone Aries managing director, John Bywater, says, "Four years since the world was plunged into an economic meltdown, one thing remains positive. That is our resolve to fight and adapt to conditions and emerge with a new robustness. At the same time, the dynamics of printing and packaging coincided with a rapid advancement in technology against the seriousness of the economic backdrop."
Now that we can look back on the world's collapsed economies, can we be confident that these same economies can be fast-tracked to full recovery? And, will our local printing and packaging industry wait at the station to jump onto this train? Well, the short answer is...no, not likely.
"Indications are that 2013 will not bring any epiphany that was hoped for in 2012," says John. "Printers, however, are cautiously optimistic that after a few consecutive years of economic challenges the environment is beginning to show signs of recovery. Tentative steps on the upward curve have been taken and are proving to be the first positive signs in the industry for a number of years, albeit we are fully aware of a long road ahead."
The future trend of print is driven by various factors:
Technology. The technology revolution mesmerising the world is on a steep upward trend. Adapt to it or perish, there simply is no other choice. Obsolete technology is the death of the printer as faster, leaner and more efficient technology overshadows traditional methodologies.
Lean production. The industry, also reeling from a poor economy has focussed on efficiencies in outcomes. Print in the past was notorious for lengthy make-ready times, endless test runs until the perfect print was achieved. This luxury is no longer available as costs need to be slashed, speed increased and accuracy guaranteed to ensure a competitive front-foot while maximising output through productive efficiencies.
Diversity. Printers and packaging companies are evolving to offer a diversified range of specialist services. Digital provides some diversity, but all related services are now on the table. Printers and packaging companies need to adapt to the demands from marketers and clients.
Competitiveness. One industry that has always been driven by price is printing and packaging. The perfect blend of technology, lean production and a diverse range of solutions elevate companies above the rest. Offering value added services while still offering exceptional pricing structures based on quality output are what marketers demand, not always the lowest price.
John continues, "Marketers understand the intrinsic value in quality. The consumer is increasingly viewing quality of packaging and print as a core value they seek in a brand. It comes down to consumer experience with brands and products. If they feel that the brands they aspire to purchase value the way they look, price will not always be the overriding factor."
While the world is still gripped in the backlash of the economic recession intent on lowering output and quality expectations, consumers are more responsible with their purchasing decisions. Price, in a depressed market, will always be a factor, but the ratio between quality and price is the key in the decision making process as the world moves into an upward economic swing.
John concludes, "Rather than adopting a "wait and see" attitude and expecting recovery to magically appear, printers need to tackle issues head-on. The industry is not waiting for economic recovery or expecting government to provide the solutions. We are seeking ways to satisfy broader client demands, seeking ways to provide exceptional customer services and to maximise output based on lean production, keen prices and absolute client satisfaction that cement all our client relationships."
As in most industries, there are pessimists commenting on the viability of its future. But for a long while still, the printing and packaging industry remains a large economic contributor to the country's GDP.
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