A History of drupa Global Trends: Key Financial Measures for Printers


The recent history of the print industry is very much a success story of digital printing. In 2014 we started our drupa Global Trends Report in a challenging time for our industry but we are happy to report a positive trend as print embraces the new and exciting technology of digital print.

Looking back on 6 years of drupa Global Trends Reports, we want to look at the development of yet another interesting and important aspect of our industry: The key financial measures for printers through the years, from 2014 to 2019.

A Slow Start

Due to rather poor economic conditions and major market changes in 2014 driven by digital communications, prices and margins started out under severe attack. Only 19% of printers were able to report raised prices and increased margins, while 39% saw prices decline and 43% saw their margins go down. Still, printers reported a remarkably strong operational performance, with 47% of printers growing their revenue throughout the past year. The second Global Trends Report still didn’t see a return to normal but the changing market also offered printers the chance to branch out into different and fresh added-value products and services.

In 2015, digital print remained on the rise, impacting all areas of the print industry. For the publishing market, the trend is clear to see with small increases in all parameters year-on-year. The new technology enables printers to increase the use of variable content, a high degree of personalization and an increase in online only digital editions. For the packaging market, digitally printed packaging still only raked at a modest 23% of printers worldwide actively selling it. Even though added value packaging elements were becoming more widespread with variable content, interactive print, personalisation and versioning. But it was functional printing that transpired as the industry to watch, regarding digital printing. This market created positive conditions for growth, in sectors like textiles and home decor. Digital electrophotographic played an important secondary role in many markets.

Digital Print on the Rise

And digital print remained on the rise throughout the years to follow: In 2016, printers reported 35% growth in digital print for commercial printers, 24% of publishing printers and functional printers leading the pack with a whopping 59% growth! Printers and suppliers still had to navigate challenging market conditions but they remained committed to good levels of capital expenditures. Of course, Digital cutsheet colour was the most popular choice for most markets and even Digital rollfed inkjet ranking high. Overall, both suppliers and printers had to face rapidly changing markets in generally tough economic conditions. Everyone felt the constraint of a general lack of demand for conventional print. But in 2016, suppliers decided to oppose the challenges by developing new sales channels and develop new products or enhance existing products which would prove to be helpful in the years to come.

In 2017, printers were finally able to report better financial conditions on all topics again. And at the top of the list of used print technologies – you guessed it – Digital toner cutsheet colour presses with +25%, followed by Digital inkjet rollfed colour at +11%. The other fourteen technologies all scored around 10%. The print industry was and still is a very diverse industry when it comes to the print technologies used but digital print technology still managed to stand out.

A Success Story

2018 was a good year in print. It was the most positive drupa Global Trends Report to that point and had both suppliers and printers optimistic and eagerly looking forward. Global economy was finally on the up again – and our industry felt it, too! Yes, digital media and communications still continued to spread and integrate but instead of viewing it as a threat to the future existence of print, printers and suppliers now increasingly found ways to exploit these new and evolving technologies and adapted them to place print as a central tool for consumers. It might have taken all of us a few years to get used to those changes and adapt the former invader into our range but at this point, we were better for it: E-books were now seen rather as complementary to printed books instead of replacing them, social media and emails made customers value printed communications even more everything was integrated. Innovation and the exploitation of new technologies were key and were being reflected in the positive investment plans that drupa’s expert panels reported. One of those opportunities was inkjet printing which we even made the topic of our first ever Spotlight report.

But as our 6th Global Trends Report showed, it was just as important to invest wisely to ensure that companies continue to thrive. And printers did invest more in 2018 than they did the previous year, despite still going against overall challenging conditions. Regional expenditure patterns largely followed the overall performance of the regions, with North America as always in the lead, followed by Asia and Europe. The most positive feedback still came from packaging and functional printer while commercial and publishing printers fell some way behind.

It’s A New World

Overall, our Global Trends Reports showcase the changes and challenges of the new advancements in technology throughout the past years. While some markets managed to use those changes to their advantage and adapt early on, others were hit harder and took more time to recover and step into the future. For publishing and commercial print those changed their fields forever and threated their very existence for some time. Functional print on the other hand, was ever extending the ways that print can support consumer lifestyles, as it embraced the future technologies of digital print with ease right from the start.

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