drupa 2020: Realism & Reliability Will Chart Package Print’s Path Forward

Sabine Geldermann is director, drupa and global head print technologies for Messe Düsseldorf GmbH. Her tenure dates back to early 2013, attesting to the fact that she was instrumental in the development, execution and programming of drupa 2016 and now is immersed in the staging of the 2020 event. Her earlier trade show experience includes assignments with noted package printing exhibition firms, namely: Reed Exhibitions, Miller Freeman and Blenheim International.

drupa, conceived in 1949 and first held in 1951, is just five months out from its 17th edition, set for June 16-26 at its home, the Messe Düsseldorf Fairgrounds. Its theme: “Embrace the Future.”

In the following interview, Geldermann tells FLEXO Magazine drupa is continuing to broaden its reach into packaging production, honing in on megatrends that include Industry 4.0, AI (artificial intelligence), supply chain integration and the circular economy. Packaging, like print in general, she maintains, is conquering new dimensions, a credit to innovative materials and finishing techniques that engage people’s senses, giving rise to completely new experiences.

drupa 2020, she promises, will promote the effective exchange of knowledge and experience in a setting that reflects competence and creativity.

FLEXO: drupa 2020 is encouraging attendees to “Embrace the Future.” That said, would you begin by assessing exactly how continuous change and transformation, side-by-side with rapid-fire innovation, have advanced the print industry in the last four years?

GELDERMANN: drupa always stood as a global meeting platform and iconic event for the industry. Its quadrennial orientation is new trends and new technologies. Both will be highlighted by exhibitors who will engage in open dialogue on innovation.

Print, specifically packaging, is looking at brilliant growth potential. drupa 2020 has a clear goal: understand the future, then provide a realistic and reliable picture, as well as a vision of our industry and what it will look like. Press conferences, staged primarily in drupa’s first three-to-four days, can only be billed as “must attend.” Presentations will examine the status of the sector and what will drive the industry. drupa will underscore its unique selling position as the most relevant and important platform for the global print technology industry.

Industry 4.0 will be a prominent feature at drupa 2020. Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) represent a continuous journey for all modern-day manufacturing. It will certainly shape print and packaging’s future significantly. drupa 2020 will explore those possibilities.

FLEXO: What do you and drupa analysts identify as the major impact points?

GELDERMANN: Packaging’s major impact points are as follows: Print 4.0, customization, automation, digitalization in every sense we can imagine—finishing, embellishment—smart factories and artificial intelligence, as well as multi-sensory, intelligent and cross-media applications.

Admittedly, consolidation and restructuring are continual forces to be reckoned with. It’s part of the demographic landscape, as is the ongoing climate discussion that resulted in widespread adoption of circular economy principles and practices.

Another major impact point is today’s connected consumer. Everybody is always on a smartphone and able to observe what’s happening, plus, compare prices and services. Print providers have to be aware of such behavior. Loyalty is shrinking. Customers jump from one supplier to another.

Such trends have given rise to a platform economy. That’s why at drupa 2020, we will look into how other industries manage sales and establish partnerships. Print and packaging will definitely have significant synergy effects, and prosper and grow due to the potential of packaging production on a global scale.

We’ll address competitive thinking and speak about how printing processes will be impacted due to ongoing growth potential in packaging production in all vertical markets such as food, non-food pharma and cosmetics on a global scale. Let’s take the online print community—as its members are sharing orders, fulfilling requests and exploring new partnering options—as an example. Our examination of a platform economy will illustrate how printing processes might be driven in acquiring new business and expanding offerings in the near and far future.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is clearly a major driver in the print and packaging world. No longer fiction, today’s machines talk to each other, prescribe/order predictive maintenance and make certain decisions without human intervention. Processes and presses have become smarter, taking self-learning to levels never experienced before. Ongoing developments in this arena have given rise to both the smart factory and artificial intelligence.

E-commerce impacts print and every other industry—retail, furniture, pharma, cosmetics. Package print must learn from other industry segments engaged in the ongoing digital transformation process and intersectional approach. Adaptability is critical.

drupa will have dedicated forums—drupa Cube and Touchpoint Packaging with speakers and successful programs from industry experts, as well as brand owners.

drupa 2020 is accelerating success in package printing, functional printing, textile printing and more. It’s a reflection of exhibitors who are diversifying their portfolio. Diversification is the focus and heart of drupa. Clearly the US, while a mature graphic arts market, is the most important worldwide. Publishing volumes might be going down, but packaging production lines are getting busier and busier. Other mature markets, like Europe and Australia, are stable or in slight decline.

Double-digit growth can be cited in certain sections of China—with a clear focus on children’s books—as well as in other Southeast Asian regions, such as Thailand and Vietnam.

Sixty-five percent of the world population resides in Asia, so the market is continuously growing and will be for the foreseeable future.

“drupa always stood as a global meeting platform and iconic event for the industry. Its quadrennial orientation is new trends and new technologies.”

As I mentioned, one side of the story is we are addressing global trends via drupa Cube, drupa DNA (drupa next age), Touchpoint Packaging, Touchpoint Textile and Touchpoint 3D Fab + Print. Touchpoint Packaging will highlight visionary packaging solutions yet to be on the market—I call them unique, new prototypes demonstrating what is possible via integration of Circular Economy principles, sustainability questions, and smart and intelligent solutions into visionary packaging applications.

Sustainability has become a lifestyle. Messe Düsseldorf monitors processes in the field of energy consumption to observe and make sure our trade fairs optimize and handle everything related to zero waste. drupa exhibitors do likewise. Collectively, they are coming up with solutions to go much deeper into those topics.

Industry, as a whole, is already discussing plastics, oceans, upcycling and recycling on a global scale. Print and packaging providers have to think “in circles.” A PET bottle has to become a PET bottle again. Taking all steps necessary to make it happen has to be on the agenda. We have to connect with other industry segments to carry the process through the next 10 or 20 years.

Cycles will become much more dynamic. That’s expected. If we don’t move proactively, governments will react. Brand owners will force our hand in the very near future. From materials to overall production, the packaging supply and development chain will embrace sustainability as a way of life.