According to the report and additional analysis by Lamanna Consulting Group, the global print industry was worth US$743.4 billion in 2020. This was down 13.4% compared to 2019. Publication, advertising, and graphic applications suffered the greatest impact, while packaging and label markets proved more resilient.

Smithers Info Trends 2030A snippet from the Smithers Info Trends 2030 infographic

By 2030, the print landscape will be very different to the pre-COVID-19 world. From 2015-2030, the global print and printed packaging market will fall from the equivalent of 49.2 trillion A4 prints, to 41.8 trillion A4s in 2030; down by just over 15%. However, the value of the market will grow by nearly 6.8%, largely due to changes in the product mix.

This forecast comes just as Smithers' latest research also revealed that the number of people employed by the print industry worldwide has shrunk by 14.8% since 2018. Additionally, the number of print businesses declined in the same period from 667,630 in 2018 to 587,934 in 2022, a drop of 11.9%.Agfa Onset high five PPA 1200x800Increased use of Robotics (Agfa Onset image)

However, a revival of normal business activity since 2021 will see the print market continue to rebound slightly to reach US$752.8 billion. Value growth will return to push the market to US$846 billion by 2030, says the Smithers report.

Smithers analysts believe that the coronavirus/pandemic crisis will continue to accelerate the trends that were already in the market. These trends will lead to profound changes in print markets by 2030.

Changes already underway:

The importance of publications work will diminish, pushing print businesses toward packaging print. Much of the graphics print volume lost in 2020 will not return. The volume of graphic papers used will fall. The use of packaging and label materials with heavier basis weights will rise.

The total volume of print substrates will fall from 1.95 trillion square meters in 2019 to 1.85 trillion square meters by 2030.

Due to the increased use of heavier packaging materials, overall tonnage of print substrates will increase from 251.7 million tonnes in 2020 to 264.4 million tonnes in 2030.

The economic shock of the pandemic will lead to a significant fall in the number of print-service providers (PSPs) due to bankruptcies, acquisitions, and mergers. Companies that survive will have to adjust to a new marketplace to remain competitive. This will place a new premium on cost, responsiveness, and digitization.

PSPs are looking to broaden the range of products and services they provide. During the pandemic, this included providing social distancing signage and personal protective equipment (PPE). This trend will expand with more PSPs moving into industrial and functional decoration.

Print buyers will favor agility and faster time-to-market for many products. Improvements in response will take place as print companies adjust to the “Amazon Effect” and expectations for same-day or next-day delivery. Rush jobs will be the new normal.

In labels and packaging, some brands will take production in-house, or invite partners to cooperate via 'through-the-wall' operations.

Print-service providers (PSPs) will implement smart, more digitized, short-run printing. The demands for agility and faster service will create further impetus to incorporate more digital and Industry 4.0 concepts in the print room and beyond.

AI and automation surge

PSPs will use workflow and automation to simplify artwork generation and print production and embrace online specification and ordering. AI (artificial intelligence) will increase in use by PSPs and their clients.

Interest in new techniques, such as serial manufacturing, will support the wider use of digital presses, particularly inkjet presses.

By 2030, print jobs will contain process information that will allow jobs to be automatically directed to PSPs based on time, cost, location, or other criteria. This trend will benefit larger, digitally integrated print suppliers.

Multiple manual production and administration tasks will be handled by robots, with vision systems controlling quality. Automation on analog and digital print lines is already accelerating. By 2030, machine learning will be built into automated equipment, allowing machines to make more decisions about print or finishing quality.

Artificial intelligence will be more prevalent in print from creation to delivery. In administration, artificial intelligence will minimize waste and environmental impact.

These changes will ultimately lead to the 'hyper-autonomous press.' By the end of this decade, equipment builds will be highly autonomous. Operator involvement will be required primarily for specific problem-solving actions. Robotics will essentially run the presses.

The full Smithers report is available for purchase on THIS LINK

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