How The Print Media Industry Can Use The Digital Age To Its Advantage


“Data is the new raw material for our industry,” stressed Michael Neugart, chairman of the Board of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen Vertrieb Deutschland GmbH, at a recent convention of the print and media associations (VDM) for the German states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria in Wiesloch. 

Under the banner “This is the Future! Printing Industry 4.0”, around 150 experts explored the question of how the print media industry can use the digital age to its advantage. “As yet, there’s no conclusive definition of what Industry 4.0 actually means for the printing industry,” explained Alexander Lägeler, managing director of the VDM in Baden-Württemberg. He said that companies were still finding this out.

Bernhard Niemela, editor-in-chief of the Deutscher Drucker trade journal, confirmed there were, in any case, “a whole host of excellent opportunities” on offer, including for SMEs. “The opportunities in our sector may well be even better than elsewhere, because we’ve been working with digital data for some time and don’t have to start from scratch,” he added. 

It will be virtually impossible for printers to do without an IT infrastructure in the future. For Professor Klaus Thaler from Stuttgart Media University, Printing 4.0 represents “nothing more and nothing less than a paradigm shift, breaking the old rules and defining completely new ones.”

The speakers agreed that digitization means far more than printing digitally or automating print processes. “It’s no longer sufficient to say we can print well,” said Thaler. He stressed that market players need to provide services “extending far beyond printing technology” and said that personalized print products were a good start. Torben Schanz from Star Corporation, a media logistics service provider in Stuttgart, underlined the importance of using web portals in the data interface to customers. “As simple printers and suppliers, we’re replaceable, but not if we control the interface to the customer,” he pointed out.

Steffen Setzer from Berlin-based online print shop Laserline added: “We need to network all customer-related processes, especially when it comes to service. Intelligent use of data already makes it possible to take significant steps in the right direction. Data means customers.” According to him, there is actually no longer any need for conventional web shops. “Why shouldn’t it be possible for a secretary to simply order more letterheads at the touch of a button?” he asked, looking ahead to the digital future of customer relations.


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