Confidence is Leading the Future of Inkjet according to latest Survey

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FM Future, and Strategic Partner Ricoh Europe together created a survey into attitudes and trends for industrial inkjet into the future. In this article, Graham Kennedy, Head of Industrial Printing EMEA, outlines the key themes that the survey results revealed.

129 people from across the world took part in the recent Future of Inkjet Survey, which was conducted by FM Future in partnership with Ricoh Europe with further contributions from IT Strategies, GIS, IMI Europe, Sun Chemical and association partner SGIA.

Confidence is High & Growth Expectations Strong

Confidence in the future growth of Industrial Inkjet is high. 95% are extremely or very confident. Only 1% of respondents do not feel confident. This confidence is useful, as it will be required to overcome technical and commercial challenges necessary for acceptance in conservative manufacturing sectors resistant to disruption and change.

Expected growth for industrial Inkjet still outpaces any other market for print and aligns with previous growth expectations. 40% believe growth will exceed 10% for the next 12 months. However, this must be balanced with the fact that respondents mostly came from the Inkjet developing and wide format sectors so are therefore familiar with Inkjet and invested in its future success.

Speed and Quality Will be Achieved

Mirroring the confidence of the sample of respondents, overwhelmingly (78.1%) of the sample think that the speed and quality issues that confront Inkjet in different markets will be met! Only 1.56% believe inkjet would not meet these demands.

Packaging, Decor & Garment Textile Next Growth Markets

In particular, Corrugated and Folding Carton (56%) is considered to be the next application poised to become a significant Inkjet market. The number of digital print technology OEMs with Inkjet systems designed for this segment underlines this. Secondly, Garment (47%) and thirdly décor wall coverings (44%). Additionally, industrial flooring, and decor, in general, continues to be high in growth expectations for inkjet.

Conflicting Messages and Collaboration

Respondents felt customers (end-manufacturers and tier 1 and 2 suppliers) often get conflicting messages from OEMs and suppliers leading to confusion and misunderstanding. Within the industrial inkjet supply chain, there are many specialist companies that supply components and services and greater collaboration between them would nullify these issues.

Too Few Integrators Holding Back Growth

Whilst some outstanding companies specialise in integration respondents felt there was not enough of ‘scale’ to provide the service the market requires.

Challenges Persist

Respondents believe technical challenges (50%) are the highest of all, closely followed in second place by the commercial challenges of integrating Inkjet into conservative industries (36%). Thirdly, a key challenge to overcome is the lack of confidence from some customers in trying out new technology (35%) in any significant way. This isn’t surprising. Since the ceramics tile transformation, the Inkjet community has waited expectantly for the next Inkjet revolution to occur. This, arguably, is yet to happen, but most just think this is a matter of time until it plays a more significant role in new markets. Most, however, (64%) believe Inkjet will play a complementary role and not one that replaces analogue in future markets.

Understanding the Value of Inkjet is Key

Just because Inkjet can work in a new market is no guarantee that it will, therefore, grow quickly. The relatively slow commercial progress of direct to shape Inkjet printing is a good example of this. Understanding how Inkjet can provide value in a market that has its own unique culture and commercial demands is as much of a factor as solving the technical challenges in our view. And these answers need to come from the inkjet community to make it as easy as possible for new markets to adopt!

Key to Growth is Educating Manufacturers and Designers

Most (81%) agreed that a key to growth is education. There seems to be a general misperception of what role digital Inkjet should play in a production capacity from end-users. Customers often compare Inkjet ‘like for like’ with the output from traditional print. And this can lead to a misunderstanding of its value. The end-users that fully embrace the true capability of Inkjet to add agility and flexibility into production will have a greater chance of succeeding.

Inkjet needs to tell a Better Story

Lastly, 61% of respondents felt that the Inkjet community is not telling an effective story. If this improved then it would reduce confusion and misunderstanding. To connect with new customers and grow a market that is more conservative or unclear of the economic reasons for adoption, then better storytelling and education is needed. This is particularly useful in order to fully exploit the true value of Inkjet as a technology that can enhance, complement and add value, as opposed to one that provokes fear in traditional markets that it will disrupt and eventually replace.

The full copy of the report features further analysis and insight from IT Strategies. We also would like to thank our association partner SGIA and our contributors IMI Europe, GIS and Sun Chemical.

For a copy of the full report and analysis contact Marcus.timson@fmfuturenow.com

Graham Kennedy