With new technology abound and the ‘future workplace‘ seemingly already upon us many are questioning will printing be able to stay relevant in the near future?
Changing customer preferences has seemingly forced a shift and reshaping of the industry. 2017 was a mixed year for global manufacturers with consolidation from companies such as Hewlett Packard, Lexmark and Xerox refocusing on more of a traditional format. One the other side vendors such as Ricoh and Sharp have focused on IT services.
Something all share in common moving through 2018 into 2019 is the need to focus on keeping print technology at the forefront of the ‘future workplace’.
So where is the print industry placed in 2018 and how will these new strategies work?
The printing industry up until recently had seen very little change over many decades, so this presents somewhat of a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, the current and on-going industry services will continue to generate revenue, for now, but the outlook of anything close to the long-term sustainability of these methods appears somewhat bleak. Thus leading to an inevitable re-structuring process to move away and develop new capabilities, but as in any industry, this can be a difficult decision for board members to make while still maintaining a successful, profitable business model.
For printing vendors, they are left with little choice but to make moves to keep success moving throughout 2018 into next year and beyond:
Multi-functional Printers (MFP’s)
The market has shifted very quickly with the rise of MFP’s as they have given businesses an opportunity to cut down on office space, gain more control over efficiency, productivity, and wastage, while capturing a significant share of the SMBs market.
New enhancements are rife within this sector creating new opportunities that are inspiriting manufacturers and bringing new innovations to benefit end users.
Integration such as workflow apps and proactive service has transformed the traditional paper-based model into digitalisation, with attractive aspects such as significant reduction in downtime.
What the industry must follow is the blueprint being set down by tech visionary companies that purely focus on differentiation through software innovation basing their core value upon their speed-to-market while moving away from hardware.
Software expertise will be critical in speeding up the transition of digitalising paper-based processes within the print industry and heavy investment into this will be required.
With these innovations, manufacturers are now faced with new challenges such as cybersecurity and data privacy, both vital areas to addresses for augmented reality (AR).
A trend that seems inevitable will be partnerships, and mergers. As the MFPs sector becomes increasingly connected, mobility ecosystems are unavoidable.
We expect to see leverage towards diverse partnerships to create innovative technologies to assist new sales channels, having already witnessed Konica Minolta and Hewlett Packard partnering together to work on new platforms.
Analytics will play a more prominent role moving forward. Data has always been prevalent in the printing industry but to support efficiency for customers, this will need radical enhancement to keep pace. More heavily integrated predictive analytics using techniques such as artificial intelligence (Ai) and data mining will play a significant role.
Cybersecurity will be where companies can gain an edge over their competition. The main players in the vendor sector will invest heavily in protecting print devices as print management services are coming into play more and more and would be unable to sell their service without watertight cybersecurity. With printing connection becoming more commonplace within the market it becomes more vulnerable.
It’s is, without a doubt, a complex task, and out-of-date unsafe legacy and technologies will naturally not attract new clientele.
Authentication and intrusion detection are the keywords right now, but even intrusion detection is not infallible itself. Though it is possible to alleviate risk with anomaly detection enabling attacks to be identified in real time with new solutions hitting the market already this year.
Voice recognition is starting to become a factor with Sharp being one of leading protagonists who have already integrated MFP’s with Amazon’s Alexa.
Although still in its infancy for business launched only in November 2017, it is a very promising productivity booster; however, there is still a long way to go to in alleviating security concerns.
Biometrics are not to be forgotten as a solution either with Nuance coming into the arena with an authentication package that holds a lot of promise and it’s model already being followed by others with significant advancements expected in 2019.
In a technology landscape moving at lightning speed, the dominant forces in the printing industry have many issues to navigate and overcome in a tight space of time, need to move away from decades-old practices if they are to survive in the coming 3 to 5 years. Collaborations will be essential with technology companies and substantial investment in that field in particular paramount to their success in driving innovations. As they are embracing 2018 the printing industry is far from dead; it will survive and flourish as it re-invents itself but not as we know it.