It’s been eight years since Ruben Silva, Agfa’s Vice President, Sales and Managing Director, Canada, gazed into his crystal ball and forecast what was on the print horizon for 2010. Graphic Arts caught up with Ruben in August 2017 for his 2018 print industry forecast.
C: What’s on the economic radar for 2018?
R: Optimism. The low Canadian dollar (Can$) is creating opportunities and some challenges for the print industry. Canadian printers exporting products into the US are experiencing increased business and profits. On the negative side, the weak Can$ has negative consequences for suppliers of printing plates in Canada. With no Canadian plate manufacturing plants, the low Can$ increases the purchase price for US manufactured plates. This places every Canadian plate distributor under severe margin pressure. We have already implemented two general price increases in an attempt to recoup from the effects of a weak loonie.
C: What are the industry trends?
R: Without question automation, speed and quality will be foremost on every printer’s mind in 2018, especially on the inkjet side of the business. The move from traditional print to digital, and wide format has structurally changed the industry. Inkjet printing will continue to grow. With less than 50% of Canadian and 25-30% of Quebec printers adopting inkjet technology, there is a considerable amount of growth potential for print, in general, to diversify and bring wide format capabilities into their shops. Agfa has done very well in that sector by offering inkjet solutions to our traditional customers.
C: What are the biggest areas of need for printers in 2018?
R: There is a huge need for talent: finishing workers, equipment operators and supervisors – anyone involved in the production side of the business. Printers comment that they are investing time and money for hands-on training only to find that as soon as a better opportunity arises the employee leaves. There are instances where business acquisitions are made not so much for the business, product or equipment, but to grab the talent. Labour shortages will help drive productivity improvements with new investments in technology in 2018.
C: Are there any particular areas that Agfa is really
optimistic about in 2018?
R: Optimizing the entire printing environment has been in printers’ minds for decades and continues to be hit and miss for most. Today, Agfa provides printers with innovative Press Optimization Software designed to drive costs out of print, in terms of makeready times, and paper and ink savings. This should be a key area of focus for the industry in 2018, and Agfa has developed many software applications to assist printers in reducing costs.
On the plate side of the business, Agfa is the leading manufacturer of chemistry-free plates in the world. Sustainability and reducing carbon footprints are at the forefront of Agfa’s cultural values as it continues to spend money in plate technology research and development to create products that require no or very low chemistry.
Inkjet: Agfa Canada will continue to expand its product line to include more media SKUs, as well as the expansion of our Jeti and Anapurna UV inkjet printers.
C: What advice would you give small print companies?
R: Print shops need to invest in new technology and automation that increases speed and quality to remain competitive. Printers realize that, without updating their technology investments, moving to the next level of profitability and growth will be very difficult.
C: What drives the print industry?
R: Innovation is fueling the growth areas in the printing industry. Equipment acquisitions are not just about increasing the overall capacity of business but improving burst capacity. The demand for quick turnaround makes this an absolute necessity. When printers find themselves using all printing resources to print a single campaign, they are undoubtedly turning other work away.
C: Closing comments?
R: Printers need to view their suppliers as trusted partners, rather than viewing them as just another vendor. Agfa finds that every printing establishment has its own unique set of opportunities and challenges. The year ahead will bring printers more opportunities to make the right investments, and weatherproof their businesses for the future. Agfa’s goal is to become intimate partners with printers using winning products and services to help build successful enterprises.