Regional and International industry players talk to ME Printer about their challenges in 2020 and their hopes for 2021
Year 2021 is upon us. While year 2020 will be remembered as an anomaly at best and a bad dream at worst we decided to ask people at the heart of printing industry about their experiences in confronting the challenges of year 2020 and what they hope to achieve in 2021. Their answers inspire us to self-reflect and stay hopeful for 2021. Here are the comments:
Naoki Nishikimi- Roland DG
During the nine months ended September 30, 2020 (from January 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020), although the world economy faced an extremely difficult situation due to the spread of COVID-19, economic activities resumed gradually, and movements toward recovery were seen. However, the timing of a return to normal is still uncertain, and the situation remains highly unpredictable. The group is working toward the achievement of a medium-term business plan ending in the fiscal year under review. Positioning the fiscal year under review as a transitional period toward a new growth stage, we are placing emphasis on changing the business portfolio and enhancing operational effectiveness, with “expanding growing markets,” “stopping the down trend of sales of printers in the sign market,” and “improving profitability” as key issues. During the nine months ended September 30, 2020, owing to restrictions on economic activities due to the spread of COVID-19, the Company took alternative methods utilizing the Internet, including the dissemination of information using SNS, websites and webinars, as well as by providing remote service support utilizing AR (Augmented Reality) technology. After the lifting of lockdowns and states of emergency in various countries, the Company worked to strengthen online sales promotions and service support.
Nour LABIDI- BOBST Area Sales Manager -Business Unit Web-Fed
What I learned from 2020 is that there is always another way to do things with even more efficiency, we have just to admit and adapt quickly. I hope in 2021we all go back to the normal life and business style, without dropping down the good practices of COVID 19 period. One of the most important new habits is the online solutions (meeting, webinars, conference calls). I believe this will take an important place in our day to day activities in our professional life. COVID 19 accelerated the IoT world, and also gave us more time to spend with our family.
As you may know effective as of 01st January 2021, we have in Great Middle East, Africa, Turkey, Iran, a new organization, see our press releases (English and Arabic),
Mohamed HASSAIRI- BOBST Regional Marketing & Communications Manager
2020 was unexpected but it accelerated underlying trends and made decisions more obvious. It has confirmed that the industry vision we worked on is relevant and timely. Connectivity, Digitalization, Automation and Sustainability will be the four cornerstones shaping the future of the packaging world and we want to achieve this with meaningful innovations.
In 2020, we celebrated our 130th anniversary with three fully revamped sites, and we deployed a new company structure with an entrepreneurial spirit to be closer to our customers. 2021 will ultimately not be very different from 2020. We will need to be resilient and at the same time we need to focus on what matters the most – meaningful innovations made to last.
We will continue to deliver best in class machines and services, but with added intelligence and software capabilities to make packaging production better than ever. All our machines and new products to come will illustrate this commitment. You can count on us.”
Graham Norris- Managing Director, Tech ni Fold
My takeaway for 2020 from an economic point of view is how our company reacted to adversity to quickly find opportunities, not only to survive, but to begin to thrive. There was this moment where customers and distributors stopped buying, and I felt numb, one major reseller returned all their stock and it could have really hurt us.
I held my head in my hands for the best part of a day as the first Lockdown hit, and knew there was a choice, either to be frozen like a rabbit caught in the headlights, or face the new reality by “fishing in other ponds.”
We noticed the greeting card market was strong, with some individuals setting up to sell online, so we aligned our solutions to this wave of positivity and have done really well. We sold all returned stock with even better profit returns and continued making global sales direct.
So next year we are launching at least 3 new products, including a card creasing/folding solution and setting up our showroom to accommodate product launches and demonstrations via Zoom. At the end of the day it is up to us how we react, and despite this being a very difficult period, and maybe continuing to be so for a while, a lot of our destiny is in our own hands through taking back control.
Ayman Aly- Senior Marketing Manager, Canon Middle East
My take away from 2020 is to prepare yourself on how to be agile, resilient, and to stay focused during unusual circumstances. Covid-19 sudden impact of shifting live from normal to complete lockdown was so shocking and required quick adaptation to maintain continuity in both business and personal lives. The experience we all gained throughout 2020 is unprecedented and will make all of us stronger, effective, and efficient will help us for a strong recovery when things will improve.
I hope for 2021 life will start to normalize, students are back fully to school, employee are back to offices, economy to start recovering. I know that printing industry was heavily impacted, as forecasted Digital Printing will play bigger role adding value to personalized and customized communication in addition to more flexibility and faster turnaround for short runs, and then Canon Middle East will add value in printing industry recovery.
Costanza Cerutti- CEO, Gruppo Cerutti
We would like to remove the uncertainty we have experienced in 2020: it has been one of the major impediment to investments. Uncertainty is coming both from global political stress and obviously from pandemic. In 2021 in my opinion we will have all what is needed to boost the world economy. Some major factors will be: a new President in the US, who will further inject funds to help the American economy; the “Recovery Funds” in Europe, aimed at a green economy for the future generations; the availability of a number of vaccines against Covid-19 for a large portion of world population. All this we hope will permit easier borrowing from banks, borrowing that was the bottle-neck in 2020. In this scenario, companies like ours will have to act in order to grasp opportunities!
Katrin Hoffmann- Public Relations, DTM Print
2020 hasn’t been easy to everyone around the world. But what the year brought to me personally but also to our company are opportunities. Opportunities to come closer together as an industry, opportunities to work with incredible and amazing people all around the globe and to learn that you can make business relationships work even though you’re not able to meet face to face, that you can close business deals and consult customers in ways that were already there but weren’t used as they are used now. I’m grateful to live in a time were we are all connected digitally, where we have the technology to do video calls and still get to see each other. Imagine what it would be like if the pandemic hit us 20-30-40 years ago.
And for 2021 I hope we can continue that path as it’s now clear that Covid-19 will be a part of our lives and hopefully with the vaccines available we can also meet again in person. Because of course personal, face-to-face contact is important and can’t permanently replaced by “digital” contact. But I also hope that we take with us the new ways we work, offering different ways of work and life by making home office opportunities a constant not an exception, making it easier to balance work and family. In terms of business I hope for 2021 that the printing industry, in our case especially the label printing industry continues to thrive, continues to bring out amazing products that also support the more digital approach of work and implementing it in all kinds of industries.
Zahir Hassan- CEO, Power Print
Year 2020 was a toughest year for the whole world let alone for business community. In fact, it is first of a kind catastrophe that affected the whole world which also is a first time experience for this living generation. Never in their lifetime this generation experienced such a complete stop of life in every respect.
There were numerous bad effects that brought the Pandemic to the world in 2020. Almost every industry barring couple of digital based ones was taken to its lowest level performance as whole world was placed under lock down to curb the pandemic restricting local to international travel which subsequently impacted people and goods movements.
As with any other industry printing industry was also badly impacted with the pandemic hence 2020 was a year no one would like to remember for business numbers. For printers 2020 had a double impact of shrinking business due to continued penetration of digital activity in to marketing promotions for brands coupled with pandemic related business slow down. It is this tough scenario which made every printer pushed to the corners to find solutions for survival and on how the future is holding for them.
However, there were few positives which made the industry to look beyond business numbers. It’s the first time in the history that printers were provided with ample opportunity to sit back, relax and think about what’s next for their business in terms of future of printing and how they can position in to it.
Possible scenarios printers would have pondered upon:
- Cutting down cost of business operation by implementing automation in every area of business starting from digital files to final delivery. There are numerous platforms available to make this transformation a reality.
- Working along with digital platforms to create the synergy of using paper as a traditional and environmental friendly way to achieve futuristic marketing goals.
- Providing solutions to brands by creating short term packaging visibility which would enable them to do varied marketing on packaging, as frequently as required, as against the existing conventional one- time package design for a longer period of time. This would open up opportunities to compete with digitalised marketing activities.
- Careful evaluation of existing machinery and process systems to achieve quick printing solutions which would subsequently result in improving quick time print marketing solutions.
- Highlight the importance of traditional easy to use packaging which promotes green environment and conventionally traditional marketing activities using paper products.
On a collective industry point of view efforts should be made to promote printing as the way of life for people with its unique ‘convenience of use’ factor for commercial print marketing purposes.
2021 is a challenging year for printers with an opportunity to utilise what they have learnt hard way in 2020 which mainly focused on reducing cost of business operation and transforming existing services to match to the competitiveness of the new requirements of the improvised market. The new year would bring along a renewed energy for printers to strengthen and transform basics of their business approach with new methods of process systems combined with futuristic marketing approach.
Danna Drion- Senior Marketing Manager EMEA, Mimaki Europe
2020 has been a tumultuous year, with the COVID-19 outbreak confronting companies from all industries with a tough challenge. And the printing industry was no exception. While printing companies have been forced to promptly change their overall strategies in the constant quest to maintain revenue streams and support long term growth, they managed to bounce back from those adversities at an astonishing rate, by rethinking their business models and adapting their production and application range to the new circumstances. Many large format and textile printers repurposed their technology altogether and switched to manufacturing face masks to help the medical industry during the first lockdown, while simultaneously addressing emerging application requests. In fact, new trends have emerged throughout the year, with an increasing demand for wallpaper and floor graphics applications in the interior decoration space, and growing interest in the environmentally-friendly, which has consumers evaluating the sustainability of purchased items.
Digital printing technology has been key in enabling printing company to swiftly address these changes and make that shift. As a provider of digital printing solutions, Mimaki has worked hard to ensure we maintained communication with our customers to support them through this difficult time. This thinking inspired us to hold a series of virtual events to help keep the industry connected and together explore ways in which printers, whether they specialise in textiles, large format, 3D or signage, can keep their business going and even be reinvigorated during these trying months. We have also kept innovating, and throughout 2020 we have launched new solutions, which include the super wide format solvent printer SWJ-320EA with the BOFA air purifier, the 3DGD-1800 printer, designed for large format printing and visual communication sector, as well as the 100 Series and the new 3D printer, 3DUJ-2207. Mimaki has also advanced its software to push on automation and Industry 4.0, which we consider key for those companies who are striving to take their businesses to the next level.
Looking forward to 2021, the future is still unpredictable, but there are lessons to be learned. A global crisis on this scale is something that companies can never properly prepare for, but we’ve certainly found that it helps to have a broader range of opportunities available, as applications fluctuate in and out of demand. At Mimaki, innovation has always been central to our vision and a constant strategic driver to grow our business. Therefore, we strongly believe that those companies who leverage both their expertise and technology equipment to diversify their offering and explore a new technology propositions for new markets – re-assessing solutions offerings to lessen existing dependency and ensure all opportunities are seized – are ultimately better equipped to face and overcome tough times such as these.
Mehmet Sezer – General Manager, Saudi Xerox
Throughout the pandemic, we have all learned a different way to think about the future. We’ve learned the futility of making long-term plans to mitigate a disease with symptoms, diagnoses, treatments, and prognoses that are complex and poorly understood. Most of us have learned that denial, and magical thinking are not effective ways to manage a pandemic. We have also learned the usefulness of considering scenarios and increasing our agility and flexibility. Scenarios help us anticipate alternative potential futures, so that we are prepared not only for what we might hope or dread but also for what actually happens. Agility and flexibility help us move quickly and adaptively as circumstances change and new information comes to light. Now is time to consider how the overall business environment will emerge from the pandemic and how information technology can help.
There will be three phases for the anticipated change in business environment:
Restore –We will be focused on figuring out what to do to get back to where we were before the Pandemic. Evolve –We will be focused on adapting to the new normal.
Transform –We will be focused on redefining our organization and taking an active role in creating the innovative future of business environment.
Under these 3 phases our 15 top strategic priorities in 2021 will be:
- Cost Management – Reducing costs, increasing workforce efficiency;
- Online Learning – Strengthening online & hybrid learning techniques;
- Financial Health – Revising budget models and IT governance;
- Affordability – Increased support for customers’ technical needs & technology availability;
- Digital Transformation – Workflow Automation & Information Security.
- Service Success – Customer support services for our customers to attain their financial and strategic goals;
- Equal Access to Technology – Providing technologies, support, and policies for diverse users;
- Remote access – Progressing from emergency remote access to online services;
- Digital Transformation – Developing a cybersecurity operations and full workflow automation strategy
- Financial Health – Developing new funding sources and ensure risk management.
- Corporate Culture – Contributing to a culture of transformation;
- Technology Alignment – Applying digital strategies and innovations;
- Technology Strategy – Organizational architecture keeps pace with strategic change;
- Recruitment – Implementing creative holistic recruitment strategies;
- Cost Management – Focusing on digital transformation.
One of the obvious change following Covid-19 will be the offices, whether, companies move towards working from home or look to bring their teams back, we do not know. What we do know is that the ability to transition from the office to home working has been made possible through the Cloud and Remote Access Solutions built around this. The arrival of Covid-19 has changed all technology solutions from the top down and the change has been coming quickly because it was needed asap. What we would like to see this time next year is that the virus will be under control and a vaccination has been developed. I wish, all organizations stop talking about digital transformation but at least start to execute their digital transformation journey. As Xerox we are ready to help all our customers to succeed in this journey.
Joanna Kruszewski- PR & Communications Manager, EFI GmbH
2020 has been an unusual year for us all and it is difficult to find any part of our business and personal life that has not been impacted. The pandemic has changed the way we work, travel and interact with one another, but what remained strong was our connectivity – and how digital technologies have enabled us to move forward in a new way of living and working. We at EFI offered webinars, virtual experiences, online meetings, remote assistance via augmented reality and much more to ensure that our customers continue their daily business from a safe place. We want to further our commitment to our customers next year, so EFI will be kicking off the new year with EFI Engage, a virtual user conference, spanning 10 days and offering sessions covering a broad range of our solutions from EFI Productivity Suite MIS/ERP to EFI Display Graphics as well as corrugated packaging. COVID-19 may have prevented many things but innovation does not stop, and neither do the conversations.
Lisa Milburn- Managing Director, Gulf Print & Pack & Labelexpo Global Series
2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, and speaking to our friends in the printing industry, we know how much live shows and meeting face to face have been missed. Nevertheless, I’ve been truly impressed how much everyone has risen to the challenge at all levels – diversifying, adapting, going virtual, and working together to find solutions as essential businesses during the pandemic. My take away themes from the year would therefore be adaptability and resilience. Looking ahead, I have every confidence that our shows in the US, Europe and Asia will go ahead in 2021 and play a vital role in getting our dynamic industry back on track as we move into the post COVID-19 recovery phase. We’ve already seen from the huge success of our recent launch Labelexpo South China in Shenzhen in early December that it’s possible to run a high quality safe show, so I fully expect this to continue. The importance of live shows has never been greater than now; they are vital for fostering business, progressing industry and bolstering economic growth.
Som John- General Manager, DE Agfa ME Inkjet
The year 2020 was a teacher year for Agfa ME from where we could learn many lessons particularly how to survive in crisis. Standing at the end of year, I could say, we successfully overcame the situation.
Towards end of 2020 our target was to build up an fair order book of 2021 and I am glad to see we are somewhat satisfied ourselves.
Honestly not to keep big hopes in 2021 beginning, but our confidence is to reach at least 80% of our pre-Covid performance by the end of 2021.
Giuliano Bianchet, VP sales Director, Kodak EAMER
The pandemic is one of the biggest challenges that our industry has faced. Kodak, like all businesses around the world, has been impacted. We have had to find alternative ways to engage with customers and prospects.
One of the biggest takeaways from 2020 is that adaptability is critical. We’ve been using this unprecedented situation to identify new ways to engage with our customers. Through virtual product launches, webinars, and other communication methods, we have continued to stay connected with and serve our customers. Despite all the challenges imposed by the global pandemic, Kodak introduced new innovative solutions to the market, including the KODAK PROSPER Ultra 520 Press, the UTECO SAPPHIRE EVO W Press, KODAK SONORA XTRA Process Free Plates, the KODAK PRINERGY On-Demand Workflow and the PRINERGY On Demand Business Solutions as well as new CTP solutions with cutting-edge speed and automation capabilities.
In 2021 we will continue to innovate, bring new products to market, actively engage with our customers, partners, and prospects to become more sustainable, profitable and efficient.