Digital, packaging, automation and sustainability at drupa

“Digital is the buzz and not the buzz” – Jean Pascal Bobst

Veteran journalists honoured at drupa 2016. Patrick Howard/Australia; Marco Picasso/Italy; Kurt K. Wolf/Germany; Naresh Khanna/India; Mike Hilton/South Africa and Russia; Frank Romano/USA, Monika Kissing, manager of the drupa press department, Messe Dusseldorf. Photo idea: Gareth Ward. Photo: Messe Dusseldorf

Laurel Brunner writes, “Drupa 2016’s attendance and sales numbers show that printis inrude health.” (Just so this British idiom is not misunderstood – if someone’s in rude health, they are very healthy and look it.) Brunner writes this in the context of sustainability but I am quoting her so that our readers can benefit from the considered opinion of a savvy industry expert.

The overall drupa visitor numbers were down and less carpet area was sold than the previous fair but overall I would agree with Brunner’s verdict of rude health. And although signings of earlier agreed deals (and letters of credit still to come) are really behind many of the exuberant announcements at the show, we do have information from some exhibitors and Indian distributors that signings exceeded expectations as far as Indian printers and converters purchasing new equipment and technology.

Several exhibitors confirmed the high ratio of India visitors whose visibility was amplified by their improved ratio in the overall visitor numbers and their almost obvious inclination to make purchasing decisions. Moreover the show had a universal business buzz that was apparent when we met buyers from other markets including a larger than ever number of both early adopters and volume buyers of new technology. Significantly, a large and unprecedented number of Chinese printers attended this drupa whereas only Chinese exhibitors have been visible at the last four shows.

My interpretation of JP Bobst’s statement quoted above is that drupa had a predominantly analog buzz and business buzz for equipment and technology that is in serial production and ready for sale today – that the improvements in automation and productivity really dominated the show. These were all buyable products and while some will say who needs a high configuration offset press to run at 20,000 sheets an hour or diecutter running at 11,000 sheets an hour – the answer is that many printers including packaging printers from India. And packaging was truly centre-stage at this drupa – in both the improved and automated traditional offset, flexo, gravure and drum and toner digital technologies and in the still to come futurology of digital inkjet.

The improvements were in efficiency and automation – although the print industry is complex, it is also a pioneer industry in automation and Print 4.0 is leading Factory 4.0. These improvements extended to both prepress and postpress where the process efficiencies have become mindful of the need for short-run and personalized print. There were also significant improvements in the sustainability, security and safety of the printing process by several exhibitors at the show who showed complete solutions in collaboration with each other.

And from my side that was another lasting impression of drupa 2016. No manufacturer can survive alone or in fact by collaborating with just one partner. Diverse and flexible solutions are required both from printers and from print equipment and technology suppliers – the road ahead is for complex thinkers and complex processes and automation. And the next generation is up to this challenge.

Packaging South Asia is a cooperating media partner for drupa 2016 which was held from 31 May to 10 June at Dusseldorf, Germany

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– Naresh Khanna (25 October 2023)

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Naresh Khanna
Editor of Indian Printer and Publisher since 1979 and Packaging South Asia since 2007. Trained as an offset printer and IBM 360 computer programmer. Active in the movement to implement Indian scripts for computer-aided typesetting. Worked as a consultant and trainer to the Indian print and newspaper industry. Visiting faculty of IDC at IIT Powai in the 1990s. Also founder of IPP Services, Training and Research and has worked as its principal industry researcher since 1999. Author of book: Miracle of Indian Democracy. Elected vice-president of the International Packaging Press Organization in May 2023.