FRANKFURT, Germany, Feb. 4, 2014 (Press Release) - The German printing and paper technology industry looks back on a weak 2013 business year. The sales volume of the total industry decreased by eight per cent compared to 2012. The order intake fell ten per cent. "Our cautiously positive expectations have not come true," said Dr. Markus Heering, Managing Director of the Printing and Paper Technology Association of VDMA, at the annual press conference of his association in Frankfurt on Tuesday.
The development in the markets of the paper technology, paper converting technology and printing technology sectors were different. Sales with machines, systems and components for papermaking rose by 14 per cent. "This is a basic effect after the considerable sales decline in 2012," Heering explained. Orders received in this sector declined by 21 per cent.
As regards printing technology, sales were ten per cent lower than the year before. The order intake also decreased by nine per cent. The development of the technologies was different: The demand for web offset printing presses dropped clearly. For sheetfed offset, the situation is stable, while the demand for flexo and gravure printing presses rose.
The 2013 sales of paper converting machines also went down 14 per cent. The order intake decreased slightly (-4%). The globalisation trend continued. While exports to EU countries declined, those to North, Central and South America as well as North Africa and the Middle East rose.
Exports to BRIC countries weaken
According to Heering, the weak business development was due to the declining demand from the BRIC countries. Exports to China fell 12.5 per cent. The decline in the most important foreign market of the German printing and paper technology manufacturers affected the manufacturers of paper technology (-17.6%) and paper converting technology (-16.6%) more strongly than the printing technology manufacturers (-8.7%). The decrease of exports to India was unexpectedly high as well. Exports of paper technology decreased by four fifth. Exports of paper converting machines were 34 per cent and of printing technology 19 per cent below the level of the previous year. India fell out of the top ten of the export markets in all sectors. Business in Brazil and Russia also largely fell short of expectations.
Consolidation and structural change continue
Due to the weak demand, utilisation of the production capacities was on average only 75 per cent in 2013. The market consolidation continues. Nearly everywhere, capacities and employment are being adjusted to the market situation. The structural change also continues in the customer industries. Smaller non-specialised printing houses shut down by the dozen. Which means for the manufacturers of printing and paper technology: There are no potential investors in new technology any longer. Second-hand machines push into the market. At the same time, the requirement profiles of printed products change. Trends towards individualisation, personalisation and finishing require radical technical changes. The same applies to the packaging printing market whose product and process environments change massively.
VDMA initiates comprehensive "Print 2030" strategy talks for manufacturers
The VDMA Printing and Paper Technology Association used the last few months in order to hold intensive strategy talks within the industry. "Under the motto "Print 2030", we organised a series of strategy workshops in order to develop a "mission statement for the future" of our industry," Kai Büntemeyer, the Chairman of the Association, reported. They had a focus on the question which role printing and paper can play in an increasingly digital future.
"Print products become more individual, more functional; they become more sophisticated and more emotional. For printed products, it will no longer be sufficient to merely inform. They also need to offer added values - and they must remain affordable with short runs as well," said Büntemeyer shortly describing the challenges. The strategy workshops which were attended by board members, students of Media University Stuttgart and representatives of the member companies raised the awareness of all participants for the need for technological and organisational actions. Strategic fields of action were identified and a roadmap up to 2030 was prepared.
Analogue and digital worlds merge
The workshops identified "convergence" as the crucial challenge. "The analogue and the digital world are merging," Büntemeyer explained. This requires harmonised, largely automated process chains with defined interfaces. The Working Group "Process Chain", for instance, hopes to be able to create a realtime-capable system for a process chain for all manufacturers concerned for presentation at the next drupa in 2016 already. The aim is a merger of digital and analogue printing methods which shall enable the increasingly industrialised customer industry to individualise and personalise printed products on large configurations. "If we succeed in harmonising the process chains in printing, our VDMA joint stands at international fairs and exhibitions will get a new significance," said Büntemeyer. Then, interested parties from different regions and different industries will be able to order complete process solutions quasi from one single source. "Printing and paper technology "Made in Germany" will continue to stand out positively from its competitors," he said with conviction.
The "Print 2030" initiative has shown that the companies will have to concentrate even more strongly on future-oriented areas like on-demand-printing of books and catalogues as well as "printed electronics". The developments in 3D printing were a subject of discussion as well.
The VDMA will promote 3D printing in a Working Group
Since 3D printing is of great relevance as a cross-cutting topic for different sectors of the engineering industry, the VDMA has decided to set up a Working Group Additive Manufacturing. In future, it will bring together all parties concerned from all parts of the value chain - manufacturers of 3D printing systems as well as industrial users, material developers and representatives of research and science. They wish to join forces in order to increase the huge technological and economic potential of additive manufacturing methods in industrial applications.