The growth of digital media and the resulting decline in print runs, together
with rising raw material costs and increased pressure from Asian competitors
have put European printers in a tight spot. A VTT study on the current state
of the industry and its future challenges shows that these companies need
urgent actions in order to remain competitive.
For a decade now, the graphic and printing industry has been shaken by a
considerable structural upheaval. The growth of digital media has upset the
operating environment of the printing industry, driving businesses to merge
and to cut capacity.
The worldwide financial crisis that
unfolded in 2008 hit European printers hard, and although the worst is now
behind, the industry is not expected to recover its former volume. While
digital media are chipping away the demand for traditional printed matter, raw
material costs are also rising, and cost-effective Asian competitors are
putting pressure on the market.
VTT studied the present
situation of the European printing industry and explored means for future
survival by interviewing more than 30 representatives at 18 European
enterprises in the field. The study shows that in order to survive, the
European printing industry must either increase production efficiency and
flexibility, increase the value of printed products or launch new applications
and services exploiting printing competence. These are the ways in which the
industry can survive in a situation where print runs are shrinking but the
range of printed products is expanding.
may mean, for example, that printing presses support a wider range of formats
and products more flexibly than before. Hybrid printed products, combining
digital and traditional printing, are a case in point. Efficiency can also be
improved by moving production methods closer to the end user and using a
printing press for processing the printing substrate.
media combining digital and printed media enables product and service
applications, where the user experience is extended. Applications where mobile
phones are used as an intermediate link between these two media are already on
the market. Virtual reality proves to be a source of added value for printed
products. In the future, we will see an independent, interactive printed
product that does not need an intermediate device such as a mobile phone. The
third future option for the printing industry involves using their equipment
and expertise to serve the needs of other sectors, employing printing
technology to create completely new products.
is an issue the industry needs to take into focus both in product development
but also in marketing. There are different, not necessarily fact-based
opinions on the sustainability of printed media. In order to stay alive and
prosper, the European printing industry must conform to the needs of consumers
and corporate media users in terms of the sustainability and usability of its
The renewal requires the entire cluster to work
together. Although the whole industry is challenged, proactivity is needed
especially from the major enterprises, so that the change could be effected
smoothly and throughout the sector. Based on the study now completed, VTT is
setting up three research projects through which the competitiveness of the
industry is enhanced in the future. These projects cover all three survival
scenarios referred to above: efficiency, added value and new products. VTT is
to form industrial consortia for each three individual projects. Companies
throughout the print value chain are invited to join and to steer the research.