Written by Hubert Soviche
Vice President, Graphic Communication Solutions, International Operations 
Xerox Corporation

One heavily-discussed statistic from this year’s Xerox Premier Partners Congress in Barcelona, Spain: by 2019, 58 percent of color production pages will be printed on inkjet technologies, nearly twice today’s volume1.

xerox premier partner congress

Founded in 2000 to coincide with the anticipated launch of the iGen platform, the Xerox Premier Partner Global Network has always acted as a user-community to help provide supporting resources for Xerox-customers navigating the fast-moving digital printing landscape. Almost two decades after the industry’s last major change, the signs are once again clear: the color printing landscape is undergoing yet another major shift.

“(Inkjet) is a space that I think everybody in this room has to have a view on, specifically for when and how it might or may not fit into your business mix,” said Robert Stabler, senior vice president/general manager, Xerox Continuous Feed Business, in his plenary presentation.

More than 200 of Xerox’s leading graphic communications customers were present to hear this message at the two-day meeting May 9-10, which focused on business growth opportunities under a theme, “Connecting Your Network.” The program included industry presentations and seminars, updates from Xerox and business partners, networking opportunities and customer site visits to Grup Maculart, which specializes in scented packaging, and Novoprint, which prints 20 million books annually.

Among the attendees was Carsten Gram, General Manager of PRinfoParitas A/S of Denmark: “I am here to network, to learn and to hear about the good things that others are doing,” he said. “And I hope it will make me a bit more clever than I was yesterday.”

What Does the Future Hold?

Xerox CTO Steve Hoover noted that social media, mobile communications, analytics and the cloud dominated the last decade. What’s next? Machine intelligence is coupling with the Internet of Things to enable a closer integration between physical and digital worlds, he said.

This presents the opportunity to reinvent whole processes, as exemplified by autonomous cars, intelligent building systems and intelligent assistants. Closer to home, these advances are changing marketing—with interactive smart packaging, QR Codes, and personalization based upon context such as proximity to a store—and printing, with capabilities like automated color correction and image alignment.digital print personalized packaging

Moreover, these technologies are the foundation for building Industry 4.0, according to Keypoint Intelligence and InfoTrends Group Director Barb Pellow. She described Industry 4.0 as the fourth wave of the industrial revolution in which the maturation and convergence of numerous digital technologies are transforming the manufacturing sector. (The first three waves were the steam engine in the 1700s, harnessing electricity and mass production from the early 1900s, and the computer age from the mid 1900s.)

Unlike previous industrial revolutions, this one is evolving at an exponential—rather than a linear—pace. To participate, print providers need three critical components:

  • The right technology infrastructure to drive growth and add value
  • A redefined set of offerings focused on high-growth areas and around customer needs, and
  • A cultural change, to continually track technology developments, encourage innovation, adjust business models and communicate the changes

Top Growth Opportunities

In her Q&A session, Pellow was asked if she had to pick one application for growth, what would it be? “If I were investing in a printing company, I’d say get in the packaging world,” she said. “That’s a very secure market,” adding that it won’t be replaced by electronic technology, and that it’s growing at a 34 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2015-2020.

Other high-growth areas she cited included:

  • Catalogs, with a 17 percent CAGR, driven partly by increased personalization and versioning—the topic of a panel session at the Congress led by developers of the Smartalog solution from French companies Naos and Nuukik.
  • Transaction, with an 8.1 percent CAGR—“We hear a lot about the decline in transaction printing, and I understand that, but in terms of the migration to digital it’s still a growth opportunity,” Pellow said.
  • Books, seeing “a huge growth in raw page volume” with a 10 percent CAGR, as publishers embrace digital printing

Inkjet printingtranspromo growth driven by digital print accounts for much of this growth, though xerographic color printing continues to grow as well. Not long ago, inkjet focused on transactional applications, not the higher value pages that the Premier Partners produce, as Stabler went on to note. “But we really feel that this technology is moving at such a pace—improving image quality, media latitude and acquisition price—that now we have a great intersection of the technology and the market needs of commercial print.”

Navigating that intersection would indeed be a clever strategy for most print providers.

1 I.T. Strategies — The Continuous Feed Production Inkjet Market 2017