The Toronto-based Digital Imaging Association’s (DIA’s) Print Summit webinar was held online Wednesday, December 2 from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm. In previous years, the live in-person event was an annual and extremely popular Christmas Luncheon that featured special guest speakers. This year, the virtual event saw “a panel of printing pundits and prognosticators” discuss statistics, current trends and opportunities that have emerged and evolved over the past year. These included industry veterans Bob Kirk, Frank Romano and Warren Werbitt. Platinum sponsors of the summit included Spicers, HP, Konica Minolta, EFI and Canon. Gold sponsors were Adobe, Fujifilm, Heidelberg and Graphics Canada.
Bob Kirk, General Manager of PESDA (Printing Equipment and Supply Dealers’ Association of Canada) led off the hour-long session. PESDA was formed in 1975 by 6 graphic arts dealers of equipment and other materials who were suppliers to the printing and graphic communications industry. Kirk gave an overview of the state of the $9 billion Canadian printing industry today, given the current COVID-19 pandemic. He reported that as of September, overall print shipments were down about 15%, while digital was down 31% across the country. Employee layoffs had plateaued to a few hundred over the past few years according to Statistics Canada. Despite this, Kirk pointed out some good news. He pointed out that total revenues had remained steady, with little change over the past 3 years – and on the digital print side, revenues were actually up about 11%.
Frank Romano, Professor Emeritus at RIT and well-known industry speaker, examined U.S. figures and revealed that, though overall shipments were down 5% – 6%, as a whole the printing industry in America was holding its own. He cited increased demand for printed signage as well as a corresponding move by many shops into digital printing – especially wide-format applications. The re-purposing of production lines into PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) was also a factor, he said. Romano also stressed the resurgence of buying online, with USPS deliveries driving the packaging print market. He predicted pent-up demand once the pandemic is over that will drive increases in inkjet and variable-data printing. He even cited a rise in book printing, mentioning sarcastically that there has already been 27 books published about Donald Trump! One of the biggest problems moving forward, he revealed, will be finding and retaining skilled labour to run older printing equipment still being used by companies across the U.S.
Warren Werbitt, founder of Pazazz Printing in Montreal and a self-admitted “print fanatic,” insisted that print “isn’t going anywhere, as it occupies an important place in our society and always will.” He lamented that too many in our industry are simply too negative and that positivity must rule as we continue to move through this pandemic. To stay upbeat, he suggested we can learn a great deal from companies who’ve continued to be successful during COVID-19 despite the challenges. His opinion was that shops that quickly adopt high levels of automation will get a “running start” as we emerge from COVID-19. Plus, those who improve their online marketing will experience the most success, at least in the short term. Werbitt also felt that shop owners must be more innovative, must better educate themselves, and should better understand their costs if they’re going to survive and thrive. “We’re in the service business, so stop thinking about price only. Stop the race to the bottom,” he insisted.