There are many ways to judge an industry in transition – you can look at all sorts of sales data and product shipments, can listen to what the pundits are saying or, if you're like Doc, take a look at the big industry events and see with your own eyes what's going on. On that level the recent Graph Expo printing trade show in Chicago was an eye opener (and believe me, Doc has had his share of eye openers).
It wasn't that many years ago that a trip to Graph Expo was an opportunity to see lots of big-iron printing presses cranking out samples and making quite a racket. Everything from small offset to large web presses were on display. This year, however, the theme was clearly digital, with few, if any, larger offset presses on the show floor.
So has the printing industry turned the corner and is it now headed toward an all-digital future? It will be a long time before offset printing is dislodged, especially in higher-run situations. But if you look at new capacity coming online, the indicators all point to digital presses as the future.
Plus an interesting development from Graph Expo is the trend toward hybrid solutions – offset and web presses outfitted with inkjet capabilities for personalization and one-to-one marketing.
Doc can remember when the pundits said that digital printing with inkjet or toner would always be a small niche. Clearly, that is no longer the case and it appears digital is going mainstream. This will provide new opportunities for printers and suppliers as customers demand the special features and services that only digital printing can provide.