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IPEX 2014 ; Event or A Trade Show?

Ipex 2014 is just around the corner and despite all the challenges it seems that the event is ready to inform and educate the visitors.

After major exhibitors including Heidelberg, Manroland, HP, Xerox, Kodak and Canon pulled out of the show the very viability of Ipex as the second biggest printing industry event was hanging in the balance. Nevertheless despite all the high profile withdrawals some major manufacturers including EFI, Fujifilm, Goss and Konica Minolta decided not to go with the flow and keep their stands.

In this article Rod Hayes argues that for anyone whose livelihood depends on print a visit to Ipex 2014 is a must.

Only after Ipex 2014 is over, all done and dusted will it become clear whether Informa’s handling of some pretty difficult issues has been a success, a failure or somewhere in between.

Agree? Or perhaps you don’t care one way or the other. Here is something then to think about: is Trevor Crawford over hyping when he says “I believe we’ve moved from being a trade show to being an event.” Not entirely clear what the difference is but he adds: “Ipex has and always will be technology neutral, and will be showcasing applications covering all aspects of the print production process – from concept right through to the finished product, and how print adds value and complements marketing campaigns.”

Hype or not, Crawford is making some good points. There are two kinds of printers who go to a trade show, the first goes there with an almost blank sheet of paper and an empty head hoping to see something that might be interesting, or useful, or perhaps capable of solving a problem that he wasn’t aware he had. The other printer goes to a trade show because he has clear mind and a strong sense of purpose for the visit and will delight in the opportunities presented to compare, discuss, be informed and ultimately be able to make a confident choice, strong in the knowledge his quest has been thoroughly explored.

There was a thought that when many of the industry’s leading players such as Heidelberg, KBA, Canon and the likes withdrew from Ipex 2014, Crawford and his team were in danger of being caught between a rock and a hard place. Now with only a few weeks to go before London’s Excel will be home to this year’s Ipex, Informa the owners of the Ipex brand have turned the tables: it will be the stayers-away who will be the losers, rather than those who have supported the event.

The reason for this is quite obvious. Though it may be timid to say that Ipex 2014 is technology neutral it is fair, for it is the stake holders in the printing industry, the ones who have to make their bread and butter from buying and selling services that decide what technology is the one that suits, not the presenters of Ipex 2014. Litho will be important till long after most of us have departed for the afterlife, but it is no longer the dominant tune on the song sheet and rather more importantly it is not necessarily the most profitable way to make money from print. Those decisions are made by the people who work in the industry and it is clear that the Ipex Organisation has grasped this point, even if it has at times stumbled before grasping.

Something for Everyone

Ipex 2014 is set to offer something for everyone; whether you are interested in the latest print technologies, looking for inspiration from case studies that can be applied to your own customers, or want ideas on the measures you can implement to improve the day-to-day running of your company, or hear about the future of the industry to make strategic business decisions London will be the best place for the best answers. The reason? Having a diverse range of exhibitors (there are over 500) is important – in fact very important, but Ipex 2014 embraces what is in effect obvious but not openly stated. Printing industry is no longer trade specifically oriented and Informa has recognised this by demonstrating a need for cross-skill education. There will be over 120 educational sessions on offer to those who visit Ipex 2014.

Andrew Thornhill, the event’s marketing manager has a few words to say on the topic – in fact a little more than just a few words, his heart beats with enthusiasm: “We have succeeded in bringing agencies, marketers and publishing businesses to Ipex 2014 to demonstrate how print works alongside all the other communication channels out there.”

He describes this as being about ‘the how’ of running what he describes as ‘a cross-media campaign’, the intention being to help printers make the leap from straight commercial printing into marketing services, and strategy fulfilment. He is stating what is really how the market is now when he says: “The landscape is full of businesses who have gone from just putting ink on paper to becoming full service marketing businesses.”  For the first time probably anywhere in the world the real weight of Ipex 2014 is for presenting education opportunities: not only with specific sessions structured to present the latest developments in business opportunities and the methodology of their implementation but also complementing this initiative will be over 60 theatre sessions and demonstrations from manufacturers of digital cross-media technology. These will include augmented reality, variable data printing, outdoor display print, digital asset management, multi-platform publishing, email marketing, creative packaging and mailing and fulfilment.

Plethora of insightful discussions and workshops

Other strategies incorporated at Ipex 2014 reflect the way our industry is changing and include a comprehensive content programme addressing the main issues printers face today. A plethora of insightful discussions and workshops to help attendees identify new business opportunities and will power them to stand out from the competing crowd.

Work forces from SME printers will also receive the support required to ensure their businesses have all the fundamental structures and processes in place to be a success. This is provided via practical workshops at the Ipex 2014 Master Classes, overseen by Print Future’s Neil Falconer, helping delegates to improve profits and streamline production efficiencies while the World Print Summit, a senior-level strategic thought leadership programme, will provide attendees with exclusive access to previously unheard content from industry experts on the trends and pitfalls revolutionising the industry.

There is a refreshing feeling that Crawford and Thornhill and their teams have been walking around with printer’s heads on their shoulders. Thornhill says: “What we want printers to do is to create a blueprint of their current business situation so that they have the opportunity to discover what the future of print holds.”

Ipex 2014 will have ‘The Future Innovation zones’ and will showcase printed products and technologies which are set for rapid expansion over the next few years and include photo products, digital print on packaging, 3D printing and printable electronics.” To help reinforce the strength of the zone idea, leading futurologist and author Richard Watson, speaking at the World Print Summit, will explore the immediate future of print to help printers make the right strategic decisions before forecasting the print industry’s development over the next 25 years.

All rather heady stuff, but Ipex 2014 seems to have tapped into a pulse that beats with a belief that print has a demonstrable future and here additional exciting new features – including Inspiration Avenue, Eco Zone and the Make Ready Challenge – are certain to inspire and generate new ideas, while championing the art of print within the communications landscape.

It is certainly wise to listen to why exhibitors have chosen to come to Ipex 2014 than explore why the ones who chose not to. Konica Minolta the largest exhibitor says that Ipex 2014 aligns perfectly with its strategy of investing in the production print industry, and to set new standards in a rapidly changing sector. With a commitment to provide “an easy path to digital”, that creates an underlying status of being a partner of choice in responding to fast-changing printing requirements.

Olaf Lorenz, the General Manager, International Marketing Division, Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe describes his company as a ‘business enabler’ for the production printing industry, and he believes Konica Minolta provides substantial value to its customers. He says: “Ipex perfectly aligns with our aim to continually invest in developing technical innovations and focus on the future of our business, making it the key international event for Konica Minolta in 2014,”

Capitalising on London

Konica Minolta’s stand is located at the heart of Ipex 2014, next to Cross Media 2014, which will be co-located with Ipex 2014 at the ExCeL International Exhibition Centre. This event will add a creative and unique angle to Ipex 2014 by attracting brands, marketers, creatives, and printers on all off-line aspects of the marketing campaign and the role of power of print. With its production printing division that delivers best in class technology for colour and black & white print, various software.

Many exhibitors reflect Konica Minolta’s viewpoint and Crawford believes he has the answer: “We undertook an independent international market study in Q4 2012 and it highlighted the industry’s need for Ipex 2014 to move from being a general print event to a highly focused print and multi-media experience; promoting the essential role print plays in the community. Konica Minolta and the others who have chosen to invest in Ipex 2014 are capitalising on the way London is a key international business hub and the way it is giving them an opportunity to share visions for the industry and doing business at the same time.”

That’s fine, but the industry as a whole will only prosper if it takes up the gauntlet that Crawford and the exhibitors have thrown down. London has been a commercial hub for over 500 years and is still one of the world’s largest centres for doing business. Is this why press giant Goss has picked up the Gauntlet? Quite probably, its International Vice President Jean Segura says: “London will allow us to send a clear message of commitment to the markets served by the show.” It plans to bring ideas across a broad range of opportunities that include magazine production, packaging and converting.

Screen is another who feels this way and its Truepress technology will be a major draw at the event. Truepress Jet is a high-speed, continuous inkjet printing solution and Brian Filler, President Screen Europe says: “Ipex is the only major print event in 2014 and it always attracts premier print companies from around the globe. We have already had considerable interest from the Middle East, Africa and Australia. The timing in March is perfect.”

It is not unreasonable to suggest that Ipex 2014 is an event majoring on driving greater efficiencies and greener principles along with the more traditional print processes and equipment. It has been created through circumstances admittedly to be a show that concentrates significantly on the education of printers and the role of the way newer technologies can help to bring more cost-effective and efficient working practices.

This is a major role for Ipex 2014 to play and one that EFI endorses. It is taking a robust position at the show with an emphasis on streamlining work processes, a task that is necessary to remain economically viable as a business. EFI believes visitors to this year’s event will doubtless be looking at the options available to help more efficient functionality and those with this frame of mind will be making a beeline to its stand.

A platform to promote ecofriendly practices

Ipex 2014 will definitely be parading ideas that stimulate environmental considerations and has accepted Komori UK’s sponsorship of its Eco Zone 2014 feature. Part of the event’s rich educational content, the Eco Zone will educate visitors on the ecological and business-related advantages of reducing their environmental impact of print production.

This will be done using a five colour Komori 40 equipped with H-UV.  The printing demonstrations will help educate printers on the importance of calculating their environment foot print, a must in today’s competitive climate. Neil Sutton MD of Komori UK says: “This is a wonderful opportunity to show our market leading position in the supply of low emission, eco-friendly and innovative H-UV printing.”

Sounds like, a win- win opportunity for everyone who loves print. The message is clear; for anyone whose livelihood depends on print they would be foolish to forego a visit to Ipex 2014.

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