It was good to be at the Hunkeler innovationdays 2023 again, with next level automation as its motto. This certainly held true. 50 print application lines were shown live with many in-line or highly integration solutions.
Hunkeler launched several interesting new pieces of equipment like a B2 cut-sheet finisher moving into a new level of productivity. In the traditional web finishing space a high volume, yet variable book block production line (the Starbook) with added Book Sorting Module was presented. Adding to flexibility and automation was a new autosplicer for fast and easy roll change – either in front of a press or for near-line web finishing lines.
The innovationdays are always a great opportunity to showcase new printers as well. Canon introduced a revamped ProStream. On the spec sheet the improvements are mainly in substrate handling for heavier papers but the improvements in set-up, energy consumption, print quality and footprint will be important for many users. Equally the first European showing of the HP PageWide Advantage 2200 brought limited changes on the spec sheet (a faster high quality print speed of 152 m/min) but lots of interesting features in automation, an impressively small footprint and innovative engine design. Being the first big event for high-speed digital print for years the 2023 innovationdays saw the first live presentations of the Kodak Prosper Ultra 520, the Ricoh Pro VC 70000e, RISO Valezus 2200 and the Xeikon Sirius SX30000. Screen showed the TruePress PAC520P for paper-based flexible packaging – not a core application for the Hunkeler innovationdays, but nevertheless a very interesting product.
A full article on press launches has already been published at Inkjet Insight. More insight on cut-sheet and web finishing will follow in a WhatTheyThink.com article, while a deep-dive on auto-splicers for digital web presses will follow in April.
Yet, first and foremost the innovationdays are a place to meet and talk to other people. Thanks for all the conversations I had – they offered me incredible insights. And it was great fun to catch up with so many people again. The live trade show is back again!
For me it was the 10th visit at a Hunkeler innovationdays with my first visit dating back 2003. The Hunkeler innovationdays 2023 confirmed the ongoing importance of live trade shows with at least as many visitors as before the pandemic. The “next level automation” for print production will mean less human staffing on the production floor. However, the event also confirmed that human interaction is what keeps our industry alive by exchanging ideas, getting information and giving feedback.
2022 started fairly well in terms of inkjet press activities. It was supposed to be a decent year after the pandemic weighed down on businesses in 2020 and 2021. However, sales/placement announcements dropped off in Q2 and Q3. Finally, Q4 2022 sees inkjet press placements picking up finally. It ties in with printing companies having a more positive outlook again, e.g. in Germany.
For years I keep on collecting sales and placement announcements for production inkjet devices and use those to analyse trends and data. Placements and sales numbers for 2022 show a good start into the year with a decisive drop in activity in Q2 and Q3. However, Q4 showed a significant rise in numbers, easily surpassing even Q1 2022. Keep in mind that Q4 has not even ended, so there might be a few more units to add.
The lower activity in the mid of 2022 could be caused by a lack of components and supply chain issues mounting in 2022. This has been confirmed by industry analysts and vendor information. It seems that companies are getting a better handle on it now.
Continuous feed (CF) inkjet remains the main driver in the market and accounted for the largest number of installations again. B1 and B2 cut-sheet presses had a good year, with a bit more even distribution across the year. B3 inkjet presses had a very strong second half of the year, although these devices, not being as expensive as the two other categories, are more likely to fall through the grid.
The German Federation of the Printing Industry (BVDM) is publishing a monthly overview of the current state and business outlook of the printing industry. November 2022 survey data has just been published and it shows that the printing industry seems to be finally pulling out of the depression that started in early 2022.
The survey data covers the current situation, a short term and a long term outlook. Especially the long term outlook for the next six months (Geschäftserwartungen – grey line) showed a strong recovery. Also, the short term outlook (Geschäftsklima – red line) had a 6% upswing, indicating that conditions already start to improve. On the current business situation (Geschäftslage – blue line) remains almost unchanged. All indicators remain in the negative, however.
In the media and advertising world in Germany the decisions of major supermarket chain Rewe and home improvement store chain Obi that it is time to ditch their flyers made headlines recently. Both are a staple in the post boxes or are distributed as inserts in newspapers or free magazines. Instead, both companies announced that they will be focussing on digital channels in the future.
Both companies cited as main arguments for ditching the flyer environmental concerns. This might be true, although none cared to make a calculation of the environmental impact of replacing print with digital media – nor mentioning that they considered making their print products more environmentally friendly.
The true reasons are likely cutting costs (possibly tied in with the high paper prices) and the belief that customers are better served by digital. It might as well be the perennial urge in retail/marketing to jump on the latest bandwagon.
The catch might be whether customers will follow. The Austrian Post made an interesting end user survey in 2019 on, among other factors, which advertising channels are consulted before making a purchase and which advertising channels are the most amiable (in lack of a better translation of the German word “sympatisch”). Displayed are selected results for the category of groceries.
Flyers, or small catalogues, tick both boxes in being consulted most often and being the most amiable/likable/pleasant – by a wide margin. Digital channels rank much lower, especially on the likeability scale. This is certainly down to the more mundane nature of groceries as most people do not consult the web before buying a pack a bottle of milk. Both companies are not selling high-tech products, rather products of daily living. Flyers are still the easiest and best inspiration in this category, even for younger buyers. It might be a premature time to ditch flyers.
The pandemic did show us many processes moving digital. Communication is no exception. There is a huge push to move books to digital, although there are grave disadvantages. Magazine has been a bit under the radar and the declines in circulation in many countries are known. The better to see that launches of print magazines rebounded after the pandemic slump in 2020. According to Mr Magazine, Samir Husni, U.S. print Magazine launches were doubling in 2021 compared to 2020.