It is with a heavy heart we roll out our 2017 predictions. We are saddened by the loss of one of our longstanding prognosticators and good friend, Jim Hill.
Jim Hill was the managing partner for Benesch. We first met him at the AWA M&A Executive Forum, where his presentation on industry trends included a dizzying array of metrics and insights.
As impressive as the man’s presentation was, we were even more taken by his personable charm and friendly nature. But it wasn’t just lip service with Jim.
We’ve worked with him on numerous occasions, as he was a frequent contributor to the Rock Around the Block blog, and his commentary was always well-informed and impactful.
When we saw his obituary, we also learned that his heart was as big as his intellect. Jim was a major supporter of the arts and civic causes in the Cleveland area. As evident by his wife and four children, a dedicated family man.
Jim was taken from us too soon -- he was only 63. For what it’s worth, this year’s predictions are dedicated to his memory.
Rest in peace, Jim. You will be dearly missed.
2017 Predictions - Industry and Otherwise
We’ve assembled a group of predictions from industry prognosticators and folks who specialize in marketing, sales and other niches. Take a look at some compelling insights from industry thought-leaders!
President & CEO
My outlook for 2017 is BRIGHT!
Bright is the word for a vibrant marketplace. Across the board, we’ve seen strong growth in wide format, labels, converting, signage -- everyone is doing well. In 2017, you should be pushing 20-30% growth rate. Otherwise, you’re lagging.
Right now, it’s a great seller’s market, but it’s an even better buyer’s market. The buyers really know the marketplace, they know the future. They have the talent, strategy, and resources.
One of the biggest stories in 2017 will be talent. I can’t tell you how many owners I’ve talked to who have said they can’t get enough operators to grow their businesses. Who will invest in the training programs to grow your own well-trained workforce? I’m not sure you can count on the government for anything these days - who will make it a priority to do it themselves?
It’s going to be a fascinating year in so many ways. Buckle up, folks. The wild ride has just begun!
President & CEO
Predictions are usually predicated on identifying current trends that may gain more momentum or lead to specific situations, so in that spirit I would offer the following:
Digital printing is continuing to blur the lines between what were once discrete segments within our industry based on technology used. If you were a screen printer, for example, or an offset printer, you printed those things that were suited to that method and the particular economies associated with it. With digital print, once you understand the mechanics and have the basic workflows, the barriers to moving into another related segment are much less than the required investments in an entirely different analog print method. This blurring of the segments will continue apace as companies look for ways to expand the industries they serve and the products with which they serve them.
Related to this will be an increase in sales of digital equipment to consumer brands that already have some in-house printing capabilities. More brands will purchase everything from label printers to wide format equipment. This represents another market segment for the OEMs to develop, and another source of competition for traditional print service providers.
That said, this blurring of segments and the addition of new players, will be challenging for manufacturers to tap into. It will also be difficult for Associations that have targeted specific segments in their service offerings, as well as research companies and consultancies that need to aggregate data and understand shifting dynamics across an industry. It will require changing how we view segments and who we think is in them.
Finally, the more robust development of R&D partnerships and collaborations will expand the solutions available in the realms of equipment, inks and substrates, as machines are developed for more niche applications and integrators move in to tap a burgeoning marketplace. This will add even more complexity to an already complex and shifting landscape.
Keynote Speaker and Author
I have many thoughts about what could happen in 2017 and how it could impact our profession. Selling has changed a great deal in the past years and the last few have brought huge change in how we connect and sell. So what’s my prediction for next year? Here we go:
1. Evolution is no longer an option – it’s a must. How people buy and make decisions is changing rapidly and our selling skills have to adapt as well. People make buying decisions in the blink of an eye and the 30 second elevator pitch is no longer an option. In fact, the elevator is broken. Selling means grabbing someone’s attention in the first seven to 10 seconds and keeping it. If you waste it with your title or your credentials you will lose the opportunity. Sales professionals must find new ways to engage that are effective and meaningful in seconds. You may not get a second chance.
2. Presence. In 2017, there will be a greater than ever emphasis on your ability to be present with your client. Your body language, eye contact, how you dress and how you show up will be scrutinized like never before. Being present is the art of selling before you say a word and people are paying attention to presence more than ever. If a client thinks you are preoccupied, or are rushing them or worse yet, not listening – you will not be successful in your sales pursuit.
3. Silos must be brought down. 2017 will be the year that we embrace the fact that everyone helps clients say “yes.” If salespeople keep their business in a silo and do not engage, they will be looking at a mediocre year. Sales professionals take a run at the silo and see it as an impediment and not a safety net.
4. Targeted Networking. Great salespeople network effectively and get that networking is about getting involved, being consistent and being present. They also know that the core tenant of being successful means that highly successful networkers know it’s not a business card exchange and it’s not about them. In 2017, networking will be a more focused and targeted experience due to the time constraints we have.
2017 is the year that the evolving and successful sales professional will find significant success in letting go and making vulnerability and transparency their trademark. The very successful sales professional is the one that practices my maxim that “vulnerability is money in the bank.” 2017 is a year of embracing that sales is a mindset and a behavior and not just scripted sales tactics. Clients and prospects KNOW the difference and make their decisions accordingly.
Communications Director / Packaging Consultant
The last twelve months has seen much progress in the implementation of Active & Intelligent Packaging (A&IP). We predict next year will see an acceleration in the use of these technologies, particularly in the areas of Consumer Engagement and Product Security/Authentication.
More and more major Brand Owners are seeing the potential to differentiate their products, as well as protect them from counterfeiting. So the adoption of RFID/NFC tags and IoT (Internet of Things) smart platforms is going to grow rapidly. We are already seeing major investments by leading packaging companies such as Avery Dennison and Stora Enso as well as venture capital, particularly in this sort of Intelligent packaging products.
As the Falsified Medicines Directive deadline draws closer we anticipate more interest from the Pharmaceutical sector in A&IP for traceability. While 2D barcoding is the specified technology at the moment, we believe A&IP offers a much more sophisticated solution, as well as other added benefits – for little extra cost. We also think that the whole area of patient compliance through smart packaging products will gain more traction. In fact, we are quite surprised it has not had more exposure, as this time last year there were a lot of trials going on.
Food waste and food security are two natural and highly promising areas for A&IP. Predictions for the growth in antimicrobial packaging in the short term are highly encouraging. As the interpack exhibition next May has a major feature on food waste, we expect levels of activity to be high in 2017. With so many cost effective products on the market we only see more and more adoption of these Active technologies. The food industry is usually slow to change its ways, but there are clear signals from Legislators and Regulatory Bodies that the spotlight is very much on these issues and that the industry had better come up with solutions – or they will!
AIPIA believes Active & Intelligent Packaging is entering the next five-year period of development in very good shape. It is now firmly entrenched in some markets, such as the Apparel sector (RFID), Beverages, Cosmetics and Luxury Goods (NFC Tags) and in Supply Chain Management of, for example, Cool Chains (Time Temperature Indicators). And even the humble QR code is making a comeback!
Consumer Engagement and Scalability (mass market production) are key elements of future A&IP success. But we believe all the right elements are in place for strong growth in 2017.
Owner and Chief Strategist
Building a web presence will become less a “marketing department” task and more an organization-wide initiative, as company's begin the realize that social media and content development can create opportunities beyond just visits to your website.
By collaborating on content with other thought-leaders, partners and even prospects, Internet marketing is helping companies in unexpected ways. And the smart ones are using it to showcase innovations and build partnerships.
Marketing departments in sales-driven organizations are going to slowly understand that this can link up directly with leads and help build business for face-to-face sales. It’s not just about having a nice website anymore. I think marketing and sales are going to find ways to co-exist that we’ve never seen before. And that’s a very good thing.
MPS predicts a strong growth in the shrink sleeve and flexible packaging markets. Furthermore, hybrid technologies are filling the gap between digital and flexo printing. Hybrid technologies, such as the EF SYMJET press, allow for extreme flexibility and very short turnaround times, which are required in today’s increasingly dynamic market.
The past 12 months have shown what makes narrow web label printing and converting such a vibrant and exciting sector of the printing industry. And as the calendar moves into 2017, I see no signs of a slowdown. Momentum will carry over into the New Year, and companies that are not current players in the space are going to continue to look toward labels and packaging as a potential area for growth.
The year 2016 was chock full of activity. Events such as Dscoop, drupa and Labelexpo Americas saw the global and regional introductions of breakthrough digital technologies. Hybrid printing – processes combining flexography and digital technologies – have also made major inroads in the label market. Over the last few months, numerous digital and hybrid press installations have been announced from converters of all sizes, and I only expect the rapid pace of digital press purchasing activity to continue into 2017.
Inkjet printing technology keeps improving with regard to speed and quality and will continue to challenge and compete with the leading electrophotographic (EP) press manufacturers. There are numerous digital press manufacturers now, and of the newcomers, it will be interesting to see who emerges and who falters.
In addition to major equipment acquisitions forthcoming, I also envision some major M&A announcements. I predict big players will make big moves, thus throwing their hats into the label ring – and digital will prove to be a driving force. Recent developments have been Brother acquiring Domino, Bobst acquiring Gidue, Heidelberg adding Gallus, and Flint Group acquiring Xeikon. I’m anticipating more moves like this.
Innovation is fueling the growth of the label industry on both the converter and supplier levels. Brand owners and end users are getting accustomed to and now demanding innovative, personalized labels. The bar has been set high, and we at L&NW, are looking forward to what’s in store for 2017. To stay on top of the label industry, subscribe to both the print issue as well as our weekly e-newsletter!
Vice President, Marketing and Business Development – Digital Solutions
2016 was a year of change for digital printing in the narrow web labels and packaging market. Hybrid technology made considerable advancements in its ability to meet, and exceed, expectations of both converters and brand owners. Converters considering the purchase of a digital label press found ROIs to be far more compelling than previously, transforming the former question of “what work makes sense to run digitally” to now asking “what work makes sense to run flexographically?”
A primary driver for this paradigm shift has been speed. As label production speeds are now exceeding levels of 200 linear ft/min (61 m/min), it is no longer only very short run sizes which are cost advantaged to run digitally. Couple these advances in speeds with the wholesale shrinkage of run sizes and production order quantities and we are now at a point where digital label production is making more and more sense for a wider variety of jobs.
As we move into 2017, higher-speed digital hybrid presses, coupled with right-priced consumables, will make those former breakeven points between flexo and digital almost non-existent. This doesn’t mean an elimination of flexo, but rather an optimization of job and asset management. Converters who take advantage of all-digital workflows and single-pass digital hybrid printing with product decoration and converting, will free up space in their flexo work centers to run larger jobs more exclusively. This flexibility in job and asset management will yield more sellable units, lower costs and ultimately higher profits for the entire operation.
With the growth of application methods for metallic decorating, there is sure to be a continued upsurge in the use of foils and metallic finishes in 2017. Recent technology advancements in digital inkjet foil processes by companies such as MGI and Scodix and the increased use of inline cold foil for sheet-fed presses indicate that the upward trend in the overall use and growth of metallic finishes will persist.
In the last few years, there has been a huge uptick in methodologies for how metallic foils are applied to printed products. This has helped our industry see growth in new metallic processes as well as with more conventional hot foil stamping applications.
I predict the new digital inkjet methods will help increase the use of both foil and specialty spot UV coatings. The ease and speed offered by digital finishing will spark the use of more foil and coatings on products such as direct mail, greeting cards, invitations, report covers and other printed materials. And, with the increased exposure, I predict growth in more conventional decorating techniques, such as offline spot UV coatings and more conventional foil stamping and embossing.
I also see growth opportunities for foil and coatings within folding carton and label manufacturing. Brand owners have seen the benefits in applying metallic foils or specialty coatings to cartons and labels to help attract consumer attention and influence purchases. FSEA has recently finished a second study, in conjunction with Clemson University, that demonstrates the impact of foil and specialty effects on shelf presence.
In addition, inline finishing and decorating methods, such as inline cold foil, will continue to see growth in 2017 for both folding cartons and labels. Cold foil and other inline foil on narrow web flexo and digital presses open up new opportunities for foil because of overall decreased costs to produce the decorated carton or label. There are new projects coming on board due to the feasibility of applying foil inline with the printing.
I admit that although there is potential growth in the number of projects that will incorporate foil and specialty coatings, many of those applications may be small- to medium-sized runs. The increase in digital printing and the ease of internet marketing will continue to have an influence on print run lengths.
In conclusion, there will be an overall increase in foil and specialty coatings on both commercial printed products and packaging applications for cartons and labels. There has never been a time in the history of the printing industry where there are more potential methods available for applying foil and specialty coatings. We believe this increase in application methods will have a continued positive impact on the use of these processes in 2017 and beyond.
We’re optimistic that if our country supports a pro-business environment, innovation will be sure to follow. Innovation and expansion thrive with low corporate tax rates and reduction of costly regulations. These changes will act as a catalyst for our customers to develop more new products and give us -- the machine builder -- the opportunity to find innovative solutions to help get them to market.
The demand for innovation also increases the demand for high-quality engineers and designers. Already we see a growing need for quality mechanical, electrical and process development engineers. This is a great open door of opportunity for today’s young people who are looking to make a mark in technical fields and provide financial stability for their future.
President and CEO
It can be assumed that technology will continue to direct the future of our industry, specifically the kind of products and materials to which clients will gravitate. However, even more highly desired than the latest trend will be exceptional service.
Using the demand for efficiency as a pretext for impersonal service will no longer be acceptable. Companies, large and small, are already requiring one-on-one service from their vendors. In fact, they are no longer seeking a “vendor” but rather a partner with whom they can build a relationship. Just like a valued friend, that business partner must demonstrate trust, honesty, and sense of selflessness for it to be reciprocated.
The genuine interest in helping another company grow its business is simply priceless. Catalogs are frustrating for clients while brainstorming together is energizing. Emails are impersonal while video chat builds rapport. And typecasting will almost always miss the mark while listening reveals deeper goals and future objectives. In short, companies that will succeed over the next decade will be the ones that value relationships, and by becoming an extension of their team, companies in our industry will find mutual and abundant success.
There you have it! Our 2017 predictions. We’ll see you same place, same time in 2018 to see what next year will bring!