03 Jan Print Predictions for 2024
Tim Carter, our commercial print director at Ricoh Graphic Communications, anticipates automation will be a key focus area for 2024. He predicts that more print businesses will invest in this area.
What were the main trends and key industry developments in 2023? Have they shaped your predictions for 2024?
My print predictions for 2024 include an even bigger shift towards the digital. In 2023, we saw increased migration away from offset. This is the direct result of the latest innovations and developments in the digital space. Transitioning delivers all the benefits of digital printing and powerful data-driven communications, without sacrificing the affordable media choices, image integrity, or offset speed. It’s a top choice for print businesses looking to futureproof their business in 2024.
Further, in 2023, problematic labour shortages continued in the printing industry. Automation can greatly simplify production methods, making it easier for employees to operate machinery and mitigating skills shortages. In 2024, it’s vital that print businesses embrace emerging technologies and automation. Doing so will boost efficiencies and help to close the skills gap facing the industry.
How have the continuing economic and market-specific challenges affected you and your customers during 2023? Have you had to do anything differently to adapt or react?
We are seeing a positive recovery from the pandemic, with our clients now achieving pre-pandemic print volumes, if not higher. Clients with lower print volumes are still managing to keep turnover and profit at pre-pandemic levels. They’re restructuring their operations, diversifying, and expanding their offerings.
To help retain this steady growth, traditional values of customer service are now more important than ever. We approach our customers as genuine partners and adopt the position as a trusted advisor.
Client success and satisfaction is always at the forefront of our agenda, and as such, we base our performance metrics on end-user retention, growth, and new customer acquisitions.
For Ricoh, client success means helping organisations enhance business competitiveness, productivity and working processes, which will ensure business longevity and growth. This is particularly important with the growing need for post-sales support. At Ricoh, we have a dedicated team for post-sales and client success, with customers experiencing great results from this collaboration and additional support.
What do you expect to be the main trends, key industry developments, and biggest opportunities for printers this year? What are your print predictions for 2024?
Automation will continue to be a key focus area for the sector in 2024. While traditional, manual printing processes can lead to human error, inconsistency in print quality and inefficient production, hindering business productivity.
Research from Ricoh’s Automation Gap report revealed that 51.3% of print businesses are sceptical about implementing automation. In reality, automation and emerging tech, such as AI, can streamline print processes, optimise print workflows, and monitor for maintenance needs and errors. As the digital landscape shifts, and the benefits of automation become clearer, we predict that more print businesses will invest in automation, boosting and improving efficiencies across the supply chain.
In addition, the continued acceleration of offset to digital will present an exciting opportunity, and has significantly shaped my print predictions for 2024, with exciting product launches on the horizon for Ricoh’s portfolio of digital printers.
What are your predictions, hopes, and expectations for Drupa 2024?
One of my predictions and hopes for Drupa 2024 is the recognition and acceptance that inkjet represents a viable alternative to analogue processes. With this, I hope there is genuine enthusiasm and confidence, underpinned by investment strategy, that the sector remains strong amid ongoing economic uncertainty and pressure from other channels.
AI (artificial intelligence) has been one of the hot topics of 2023 – what opportunities and threats do you think it poses for printing 2024 and beyond?
Emerging AI technology is fast-moving and increasingly prevalent. So it’s vital that the print sector keeps pace with emerging and innovative technologies. AI presents a huge opportunity for the print industry, with the ability to improve the productivity and efficiency of manual processes.
For example, for commercial printers, particularly of large-scale image generation, AI’s high-speed and streamlined processes can enable marketing campaigns to be created and launched in hours. Previously, this might have taken weeks. AI reduces production costs and increases revenue.
Intelligent dashboards also enable users to efficiently manage data, users, and processes. Accurate and timely data can help businesses manage widgets, choose from a range of visualisation options, and share reports in seconds. Using AI, presses can operate to the best of their ability, ultimately leading to more consistent organisational outcomes.
It’s true there are cyber-security risks associated with AI, so safe deployment and training is a must. Print businesses can benefit from AI-generated efficiencies, streamlined processes and shortened production times.
How can suppliers better help printers navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities in 2024?
When making predictions, looking beyond technology and cost can be hugely beneficial in helping printers achieve their goals in 2024.
Further, being supportive and empathetic can go a long way. Taking a genuine partnership approach that extends beyond hardware results in long-term client success and satisfaction.
Print businesses choosing to invest must have a clear understanding of their current capabilities and future business goals. Consultancy here is key. At Ricoh, our Business Development Programme provides industry expertise that help businesses choose the right areas for improvement. Whether that’s optimising hardware, workflow, or process automation, we can help.
This article was originally published in PrintWeek, December 2023.