IOP Autumn Conference: Opportunities and Challenges in Online Print 2021

Networking under corona conditions: After the spring conference of the Initiative Online Print e.V. (IOP) had to be held virtually due to corona conditions, the autumn conference 2021 took place again in presence – in compliance with 3G rules. The host for the event on 26 and 27 October was Koenig & Bauer AG in Radebeul, Saxony. With mypromo AG, the IOP also welcomed a new member company.

f.l.t.r. Thomas Masselink (board member IOP), Bernd Zipper (board member IOP), Heike Lübeck (managing director and board member mypromo), Arndt Eschenlohr (consultant and owner ESCON Consulting), Wilhelm Soll (board member IOP)
© Photo by zipcon consulting /

The platform mypromo has set itself the task of supporting the promotional products industry in its digital transformation. So bringt das Wiesbadener Unternehmen die Hersteller von Werbeartikeln mit den Anbietern und Händlern solcher Produkte zusammen. The focus here is on individual online shops through which promotional products retailers can not only make the leap into e-commerce, but also tap into new target groups.

“Process automation and web-to-print technologies are becoming increasingly relevant for the promotional products industry,” explained mypromo Managing Director and Board Member Heike Lübeck. “We are very much looking forward to exchanging ideas on this with the IOP members and, conversely, can bring a new and somewhat different perspective to the possibilities of online printing.”

mypromo AG was unanimously accepted by the members of the IOP. This means that the interest group now has a total of 42 member companies.

Between order upswing and paper shortage

In addition to the admission of the new member, the autumn meeting of the Online Print Initiative was mainly about current developments in the companies of the industry. There were reports of increasing orders and rising sales – but also of the problems caused by the current paper shortage and the shortage of skilled workers.

The focus was also on the impact of the Corona pandemic on the printing industry. Dr Paul Albert Deimel, general manager of the Bundesverband Druck und Medien e.V. (bvdm) and Bernd Zipper, managing director of zipcon consulting GmbH, spoke about how productivity has developed since the beginning of the pandemic. In the meantime, they said, the order situation has largely normalised at most companies and is now back at the level of 2019. However, in all likelihood they will not meet expectations for 2021.

This is not least due to the challenges that the post-Corona period brings or will bring, according to an industry survey by the bvdm: strong fluctuations in orders and capacity utilisation, a shortage of orders as well as rising supplier prices, which was reflected both in the participants’ field reports and the ZOPI (zipcon Onlineprint Price Index).

“We see all these challenges that print service providers currently have to deal with. But we also see effects that could have a positive impact on the online print industry in the coming months. These include, for example, that we expect higher advertising volumes from product providers in the medium term, that the interest of industrial customers in B2B portals is increasing, that print sales are rising despite lower print volumes, i.e. that printed products are becoming more valuable, or that trends such as social media printing are opening up new generations of customers for print,” explains Bernd Zipper, CEO of the Online Print Initiative.

What (online) print will look like in five years’ time

But it was not only the current situation that was discussed at the autumn conference of the Online Print Initiative. Rather, the member companies – above all the software manufacturers among the IOP members – ventured a look at what online print will look like in five years. Among other things, change management, a high degree of automation – from calculation to fullfilment -, Industry 4.0 plus interfaces in all directions and the intensification of customer relations across all levels will play an important role. After all, the market is changing rapidly and with it the demands on print service providers – and not just in purely technological terms but also in the way companies will be run in future. Those who ignore topics such as new work, mass customisation, big data, closed-loop production or IoT, to name but a few, could
quickly be left behind.

An outlook on future developments was also provided by Koenig & Bauer AG in Radebeul, which hosted the autumn conference this year. Thomas Göcke, Head of Digital Business Transformation, not only showed what the new demands of customers mean for the machine builder – namely to offer more proactive communication and service and to be a strong advisor and partner to customers who can react quickly and also independent of location with the help of digitalisation, intelligent processes and IIoT. IOP members also had the opportunity to look behind the scenes of Koenig & Bauer AG’s machine development. In the test centre they were able to take a close look at the latest printing and finishing machines, which address the market for packaging as well as commercial printing.

From direct mail to turbo-digitisation

Other topics at the IOP Autumn Conference included the bvdm campaign on local advertising and information mail inclu sive discussion on whether the opt-out should be changed to an opt-in procedure, as well as the “turbo-digitisation” that took place in large parts of the industry in the wake of the pandemic. While the turnover of online printers in the B2B sector stagnated and even declined, companies in the B2C environment even recorded growth rates of up to 20 percent.

The IOP members clearly see a trend for the coming year in mass customisation. Those who focus on customer centricity and individual wishes have a good chance of making a successful start in 2022.

The next IOP conference will take place in spring at the Schätzl printing company in Donauwörth. The exact date will be announced in good time.

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