Over the past two years, industries all around the world have been rocked by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic - and the print industry is no different. Supply chains have been severely disrupted, there have been labour shortages, companies have been forced to change how they operate, and the cost of raw materials has generally risen.
Although the worst effects of the pandemic appear to be curtailing and the world is returning to normal once again, conflict in Ukraine poses another threat to businesses in the industry. The situation in Ukraine means that many of the world’s leading paper, printing, and packaging companies have been impacted by a sudden refusal to deal with Russian firms. This has subsequently meant that supply chains already in disarray from the pandemic have been hit once again, as companies in the industry look to comply with the latest set of sanctions.
However, as with any period of economic uncertainty, opportunities for growth have emerged which will give the industry reason to be optimistic About the future. Packaging, flexible packaging, and labelling are all segments which have experienced growth and can be leveraged by businesses to exploit burgeoning revenue streams.
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has had a huge effect on the printing industry. Companies are dealing with a lack of investment and they will have to adapt to these changes as they aim to recover from this period of economic turbulence and ongoing uncertainty.
One way of doing this is to tap into segments of the market that have experienced growth during the pandemic, such as:
- Packaging: with consumers forced to isolate at Home, demands for goods through ecommerce sites exploded exponentially, and this shows no signs of slowing down during recovery.
- Flexible packaging: the popularity of flexible packaging increased during the pandemic for two reasons: it’s considered more hygienic due to limited handling, and demand soared with more consumers using food delivery services.
- Labelling: labels have always been a fundamental component of the supply chain as they convey vital information. As a result, labels are in higher demand now more than ever, with food, pharmaceutical and ecommerce businesses all in need.
The conversation around digitisation in the print industry is nothing new, but the pandemic has acted as an accelerator for this trend. Due to labour shortages and measures that hampered companies from operating how they usually would, the shift to digital adoption will be high on the list of priorities for business leaders. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will become more integral to the printing process, with machines trained to make decisions About finishing quality. Companies will seek to be more efficient and less susceptible to the effects of similar problems the pandemic posed, and ultimately, it’s these companies which will recover best in a post-pandemic world.
After two years of disruption to supply chains, safeguarding against future shortages and disruption will be a major priority for businesses in the industry. Printers will be focusing on simplifying their production process, so faster time-to-market products will naturally be in high demand. These new printing methods will allow them to pivot to a more cost-effective and efficient way of working, one which is better protected from potential disruption.
Another knock-on effect of the pandemic is an increase in consumer demand and changing expectations around ecommerce businesses. These businesses have made same-day or next-day delivery the norm; it’s what consumers now expect as the default option. Therefore, companies will have to become more responsive to these demands as the need for labelling and packaging grows. A major driver of this change will be the incorporation of digital methods within a Factory setting, which will simplify various stages of the printing process from artwork generation to general workflow.
How the ongoing situation in Ukraine impacts the industry
Although the pandemic has unquestionably altered supply chains for printers and how they operate post-pandemic will have to be responsive to these changes, one issue they didn’t think they would have to contend with is full-scale war in Europe. This has once again thrown the proverbial spanner in the works for printers as they now must battle against further supply chain issues as a result of economic sanctions placed on Russia.
Mondi, the UK-based multinational packaging and paper group’s Lviv plant in western Ukraine, has suspended production, while its Russian pulp and paper facilities remain operational. And for any Company with a base in either country, the story of disruption to business operations will likely be the same.