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Year In Retrospect

Blooms of hope and unexpected twists made 2012 a year to remember for the printing industry.  The year provided many a grapevine for the industry to climb on and shake off from the recession hangover.

Though evolving digital media and technology prospects raised many brows on the survivability of print media, print continued to hold a sizeable portion in its kitty. Technology was at its best and we could observe a lot happening on this front.

Though many industry analysts argued that it is a long road to recovery, we could see that things were speeding up the fast track. Through this retrospective we bring to you a glimpse of the year that had gone by.

We would be highlighting major events and news that made a difference last year.

Movers and shakers

The year opened with a shocker; the insolvency news of manroland. Months of speculation and calculations came to an end when British company, Langley Holdings took over the sheet fed printing division, and Possehl & Co. acquiring its web press unit. Termed as an ideal investor, Langley took hold of manroland’s production facility along with its international organization in more than 40 countries. The German giant is slowly coming out of the grapples and is finding root under the new ownership. It was not only manroland that had to undergo change. Mergers, acquisitions and partnerships were the modus operandi adopted by many a company during 2012. Fabian Prudhomme, Vice President of Enfocus comments, “The print industry has probably seen more changes in the past five to 10 years than in the past 80 and I believe this spiral will only keep accelerating.”

On the contrary, in Dubai things seemed to start on a positive note. Despite the Middle East being immersed in Arab Spring, the Sign and Graphic Middle East exhibition held from 31st January to 2nd February welcomed around 10,000 trade visitors, who came to see the solutions of over 400 exhibitors from 30 countries. In the words of Sharif Rahman, CEO of International Expo Consults (organizer of the show), “Trade visitors were quite serious about the show and they largely came with the intention of placing orders.” Environmental friendly solutions and products were much in demand at the show. Latex printers, water-based inks and other clean technology solutions were on display at SGI 2012.

A week later, it was party time for printers when the sixth Dubai International Print Awards was held at Grand Hyatt in Dubai. Ninety one winners and 500 participants were honoured at the event. Ahmad Al Shaikh, then Chairman of the Printing and Publishing group forecasted a prospective future for the industry and said that the printing and publishing industry will grow to US$ 7 billion by 2015.

More than the print awards, the resignation of Ahmad Al Shaikh created waves among the printing group. His role as a mentor and leader will always be cherished by the printing sector in the region. Following his resignation, Mazan Haj was appointed as the Chairman of PPG and Zahir Hassan as Vice Chairman.

Expos and Conferences

Dubai has often played host to numerous conferences and exhibitions. End of February, the city of gold played venue to the 7th WAN-IFRA Middle east conference, which focused on the importance of digitalization and the role of social media in news coverage. Attended by over 280 media executives from various countries, the conference was developed around five major themes: social media, leadership and human resource management, innovations in newsroom, advertising revenue generation and the power of print.

Meanwhile, the printing industry in Sudan was involved in reviving its print matters. The Sudan print and packaging exhibition held at Khartoum brought in a lot of interest. Though the event is in its initial stages, it showcased the best available resources in the Sudanese printing and publishing sector. The exhibition has now become one of the strongest channels of trade and information and organizers give credit to the Sudanese printing industry for its success.

In Barcelona, Spain the 5th edition of FESPA was held from 21 to 24 February 2012. Attended by 12,178 visitors, FESPA Digital 2012 provided an opportunity to print service providers from Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and North Africa to engage with various digital print solution exhibitors and enrich their knowledge on digital printing.

Signs of red welcomed the month of March, when media personnel’s from all over the world were called in for a pre-drupa media conference in Düsseldorf, Germany. Fourteen companies revealed their drupa 2012 plans and it was evident that digital printing will play an unprecedented role in drupa, as six halls were dedicated to digital printing and related technologies. The presentations by companies proved that the future belongs to the successful integration of conventional and digital print technologies.

Back in Dubai, it was show time again as the second edition of Paper World exhibition was held from March 6th to 8th at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.  With ten dedicated country pavilions, the major attractions at the show was sustainable and food grade products. The paper expo also included a range of stationery solutions and provided visitors good networking opportunity.

Two events lined up in April: Nile Print Expo and the Sino Corrugated 2012. The former, which was held in the Sudanese capital – Khartoum, saw the participation of companies involved in the manufacturing of printing machines, inks, paper and packaging. With a growth rate of 8%, the industry has become a vital part in the economic development of Sudan and Nile Expo to an extent bridges the gap between the printing and packaging industry and the end buyers. Meanwhile, the Sino Corrugated 2012 held in China displayed more than 1200 types of corrugated and folding carton manufacturing equipments. It showcased the latest global corrugated equipments and consumables available in the market and acted as a business platform for buyers and exhibitors.

Catching up with the Industry

The month of April was made memorable with Frank Romano visiting Dubai. As part of his world tour on Queen Mary 2cruise, he spent two days in Dubai and utilized his valuable time meeting representatives from the regional graphic arts industry as well as by offering presentations. In his short trip, Romano visited Masar printing press and later attended a luncheon with top executives from HP, Canon, Giffin Graphics, Kodak, Heidelberg and Ali Al Hashemi, which was hosted by ME Printer. Getting to know him closer was a truly rewarding experience.

With the stage set for the most awaited event- ‘drupa 2012’- the who’s who of the industry took their flight to Düsseldorf, Germany to witness the Olympic of Print. Held from May 3 to 16, drupa 2012 was abuzz with some amazing digital technologies including nano printers and nano inks. Though its viability is still a much pondered topic, its glitz and blitz made it a center stage item. Offset technologies was at its best at drupa, and cost effective and efficient solutions were displayed this time. A turning point for the industry, drupa 2012 gave equal space for digital and conventional printing, which has never happened before in any drupa.  The exhibition was visited by 314,500 people from more than 130 countries and displayed the solutions of 1,850 exhibitors.

Trends and Tactics

World attention turned to Egypt, as the country stood to elect its first President after the January 25 revolution. It was not only a new phase for the country but also for the printing industry, as the demand for printed material crossed all records ever present in the country. It was estimated that around 130 million Egyptian pounds flowed into the market to meet the printing demands of the candidates. Another interesting trend was that candidates preferred traditional methods like posters and banners over digital media for broadcasting their election propaganda.

Apart from that the stepping down of Bernhard Schreier, CEO of Heidelberg was a major announcement made last year. The Heidelberg Supervisory Board unanimously appointed Dr. Gerold Linzbach as the new CEO. The decision was part of the company’s new strategic course and as a step to return Heidelberg to a sustained profitable growth.

It’s normal that summer casts a lull over the Middle East printing industry, but in 2012 it was not the case. As Ramadan started mid-summer, printers had to go overdrive to meet their job orders. Many printers reported a 30% increase in printing orders, which helped to boost the printing environment. Bulk quantities of Ramadan calendars, Quran, flyers, brochures and greeting cards were printed during this period.

Another decision that made headlines was when HP and Heidelberg said ‘No’ to IPEX 2014. The companies both explained it as a comprehensive rethink on their sales and marketing strategy, and not as a budgetary decision. However, both HP and Heidelberg expressed their continued interest in participating in other shows like drupa and FESPA.

International Events and Exhibitions

The event calendar was abuzz with exhibitions during the month of September. Cutting the line was KIPES 2012, which was held in South Korea. The 19th edition of KIPES attracted 225 companies from 22 countries including US, Japan, China and Germany. Going digital was the trend in KIPES, as many small companies displayed their innovative solutions at the exhibition. A major attraction was the display of clever, small solutions that can help printers in generating revenue stream without the need of a huge investment. It was later decided that the annual event, which attracted around 26,613 visitors from all over the world, will be now held bi-annually, viewing the state of the industry.

Flying back from Korea to Egypt, it was time for the 8th edition of Digi Sign Africa. Considered to be the largest and important event for the signage and advertising industry in Egypt, the expo caters to digital printing suppliers, large format manufacturers, screen printers, laser engraving suppliers and much more. Post revolution, exhibitions like Digi Sign have managed to increase the economic activities in the country.

Mid September, three events were organized at the same time in different parts of the world. The 3rd Print Pack Alger 2012 held in Algeria exhibited solutions from 100 equipment manufacturing companies and served as a venue to launch new products. The exhibition mainly focused on a B2B audience of professionals and is today considered to be one of the most important events in the region. In Saudi Arabia, it was time for the 4th session of the Saudi Media and Advertising Exhibition. The exhibition highlighted the latest trends and developments in the advertising industry, as well as served as a networking platform for advertising and marketing professionals in the Kingdom. Meanwhile, in Turin, Italy the annual ERA Conference discussed the status of publication gravure in the current challenging environment. Key insights from industry leaders, as well as presentations gave an insight into the future of the gravure industry. More than 100 representatives from publication gravure printers, supply industry and print buyers participated at the event.

Regional Attractions

Paper Arabia 2012 saw an increase of 11% in terms of size. The 5th edition of the paper event was attended by 6700 visitors. It was quite visible that though the demand for paper is high, the real growth was in the packaging and tissue industry. The increasing number of Chinese and Indian suppliers once again reminded us that the centre of gravity within the paper industry has shifted eastward.

Moving from paper to technology, we are glad to say that ME Printer for the first time became the media partner of GITEX Technology event. The increasing interest of the printing industry in GITEX clearly indicated its potential in the Middle East business scenario. Cloud and cloud based computing were the buzz words within IT as well as the graphic arts industry. Companies like HP, OKI and GSS International exhibited their product portfolios at the event.

Though things appeared quite rosy for the printing industry all over the world, in Syria it was tough time for printers. Revolution and economic sanctions led many printers to close down their business, with commercial printers being the most affected. Still, we were amazed by the indomitable spirit of the people there, who had the courage to carry on their business and venture into new areas. Packaging industry was the least affected and neighbouring countries like Jordan had to bear the brunt, as it had many business relations with Syria.

Events and occasions make a calendar look attractive and happening, and certainly we wouldn’t be the ones to miss an event. The World Publishing Expo held in Germany was one such event, which publishers all around the world looked up to. Held from 29 to 31 October, the event covered almost all aspects of publishing and offered the latest solutions for mobile/tablet, editorial/advertising or printing/post press. Organized by WAN-IFRA, more than 250 exhibitors from 30 countries participated at the event.

It is clear that Egypt is certainly a growing market for the paper industry. With a population of over 450 million people, the country generates billions of dollars from the paper industry. Tapping this potential is the Paper ME exhibition, which was held in November 2012. Leading paper manufacturers and distributors gathered under a roof to discover the potentials of the Middle Eastern and African market. More than 140 exhibitors from 22 countries participated, and showcased latest technologies and machines in paper, board and tissue industry.

Brighter Prospects

Though the re-elected Barack Obama claims that change is yet to happen, the global printing industry is already on the change path. Trekking on new avenues and diversifying their ventures, the printing industry is trying their luck on every emerging trends and tips. With restrictions on budgets slowly being lifted, the printing and packaging industry are seeing a brighter future ahead. Digitalization and digital printing will of course be the most happening topics in 2013 though we have to wait and see if they could evolve on a more complete and cost effective way in the coming year.

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