How do the megatrends of sustainability and digitization influence processes, products, business models, and the future of the industry? Here you can read interesting information about the two main topics of drupa 2024.
Sustainability is much more than a market trend. Unless we succeed in significantly reducing resource demand and greenhouse gas emissions, humanity will deprive itself of its livelihood. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), global resource consumption has tripled since 1970. Demand for fossil fuels has increased by 45 percent* since then. The consequences: Species extinction, water scarcity and global warming as well as a frightening increase in catastrophic weather extremes. If all countries in the world consumed as many resources as the industrialized nations of the USA, Australia, France, Germany or Japan, three to five Earths would be needed to meet the demand.
Societies around the world are currently in transition from linear consumption (products and packaging are manufactured, used, and then disposed of more or less properly) to recycling, where materials are reused as much as possible. This is often accompanied by a loss of quality and use in inferior products. Product and packaging designers are countering this downcycling with ideas for upcycling – whether it‘s reusing classy folding boxes or tin cans to store household and food items, reusing non-toxic plastics from food packaging for toys or toothbrush handles, or giving them a second life as flower vases already built into the design of beverage bottles.
Modern printing techniques finish a wide range of substrates: paper, cardboard, metal, glass, ceramics, wood-based materials, textiles, and a wide range of plastics. Water- and solvent-based printing inks and often transfer foils are used for print finishing. Adhesives and release agents are also used. Metals are also used, especially in the young field of 3D printing. The energy requirements of the equipment, machines, and systems along the process chain from prepress to pressroom and drying to postpress and binding as well as packaging and shipping also play a role.
For the step from resource consumption to resource utilization to succeed, overarching systemic approaches are required. Waste must be consistently collected, then sorted by type and finally returned to the respective material cycles. With the Digital Product Passport initiative, which documents all of the ingredients, spare parts, and production-related emissions of each product, the EU is attempting to create the conditions for the longest possible useful life and consistent recycling.
Some talk about the digital transformation. Others see digitalization as an industrial revolution with the same potential for social change as the upheaval 200 years ago. In fact, a comprehensive transformation process has been under way since the beginnings of the Internet in the late 1980s. The interplay of ever more powerful processors, storage technologies, and data connections, on the one hand, and the range of ever more specific software solutions, on the other hand, is driving innovation at all levels. Digital workflows are shaping everyday working life and are having an enormous impact on companies and their structures. Wireless and wired broadband networks offer unprecedented connectivity that can be used almost anywhere thanks to smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. Sensors continuously deliver the raw data from allround quality-monitored production processes, from which intelligent algorithms extract the necessary information for highly efficient, resource-saving production processes.
Continuously networked, digitally controlled, qualitymonitored, fully automated, vertically from the sensor to the cloud and horizontally integrated across company boundaries – these buzzwords summarize the most important technology trends on the road to Industry 4.0*. What is more important for users is what specific benefits they will derive from each of them. Answers are provided by a look at the economic development in the Print & Packaging sector:
Cost pressure and increasing competition
The trend toward globalization continues
The quality and environmental awareness of the customers is increasing
Run lengths are falling and large orders are called off in batches as required
Demand for individualized/personalized print products on the rise
Print and Finishing 4.0 provides the right answers to these challenges.
Modern Print & Packaging technologies are equipped with tightly meshed sensor networks, inline inspection systems and digital measurement and control technology. Deep learning and artificial intelligence now provide a toolkit to reap the harvest. They extract information from the second-by-second growth of production and machine data that points to impending quality problems, imminent malfunctions*, machine wear, or hidden causes of recurring faults. Such condition monitoring, based on continuous data evaluation, makes it possible to fully exploit the service life of wear parts and operating materials, to proactively plan and synchronize repairs and maintenance and therbey to minimize machine and plant downtime. However, the potential of intelligent data evaluation methods is far from exhausted. Artificial intelligence is far better at recognizing complex relationships in large amounts of data than the human brain.
Whether Amazon or Alibaba, Spotify, Uber, Airbnb, Apple, or Facebook: The platform economy is changing businessto-consumer (B2C) markets at a rapid pace. Without owning a vehicle, an apartment, or a song themselves, platform providers have made the initiation of business contacts between providers and demanders of their business model. The intermediaries are now worth much more on the stock exchanges than global media groups, car manufacturers, or hotel chains. Thanks to strong brands, they are the first port of call for connected customers all over the world when they are looking for vacation accommodations, streaming music or movies, or simply want to shop. The most successful providers are characterized by digitally optimized order processing, simple and transparent payment processes, and intelligent data analyses, on the basis of which they can align their services and offers ever more precisely to customer needs and satisfy them optimally. In an increasingly digital society, the players of the platform economy are conquering one B2C industry after another. Even if there are critical tones, the openness of end consumers to the use of digital platforms is increasing. As centers of agglomeration on the Web, they are attracting not only customers but also more and more providers – further fueling the rapid growth of platforms.
The Internet speeds up our communication and makes information available more quickly and easier to compare. The service providers and technology suppliers in the Print & Packaging community are using this connectivity to their customers‘ advantage. Digital prepress, computerto-plate processes, web-to-print offerings, and the increasing interaction of brand owners with their digitally networked end customers in the design of products, packaging, and campaigns show how open the community is to the new digitally networked process worlds.