A walk through the show floor at the 17th annual EFI Connect users’ conference demonstrated that EFI is a company seeking to push print in several new directions. Digital textile printing and wide-format applications were on display in one part of the floor, next to a sleek black Tesla that was given a graphical transformation with a printed vehicle wrap. Attendees could get acquainted with the latest software automation tools and keynote presentations dove deep into how printers can be ready for the industry’s future.
Throughout the conference, held from Jan. 17-20 at the Wynn Las Vegas, one common thread was that out of all the exciting new markets for printers to explore, packaging is one with strong growth potential and an array of opportunity.
The event kicked off with a keynote address from EFI CEO Guy Gecht, which largely focused on the rise of artificial intelligence and the opportunities and growth it is bringing to the print industry. Following Gecht’s opening presentation, he was joined on stage for a "fireside chat" with another CEO — Jeff Jacobson of Xerox.
Jacobson is new to the CEO role at Xerox and will play a key role in the company's future following its split into two separate companies. At the beginning of the year, Conduent formed as a business process services company, allowing Xerox to focus on its digital printing and document outsourcing services, among others.
In a media Q&A following the fireside chat, Jacobson discussed some of Xerox’s plans for the packaging space. Specifically, he said the company is excited about the launch of the KBA Varijet 106 Powered by Xerox, the hybrid offset and inkjet folding carton press it announced at drupa. Additionally, Jacobson discussed the potential of printed electronics — a technology he said Xerox has been involved with for years — to add another communicative layer to printed packaging.
The following morning, another of the printing industry’s most prominent CEOs joined Gecht for a fireside chat. Though Quad/Graphics is a titan in the commercial printing space (clocking in at No. 2 on the Printing Impressions list of the 400 largest printing companies), Joel Quadracci explained how his enterprise has successfully entered the packaging space.
Quadracci said that one of Quad/Graphics’ goals is to help satisfy entire campaigns for its customers. As Quad has entered the packaging, direct mail and signage markets, Quadracci explained that all of these segments are part of a customer’s entire campaign.
“Today we’re not just doing the retail insert, the catalog or the direct mail,” Quadracci said. “We’re doing the in-store signage. … We built the packaging company over the last three years. We didn’t do that just to get into packaging because it has better growth characteristics. We got into it because I believe packaging is a part of that campaign.”
While these top-level CEOs' attention to packaging was indicative of its growth in the printing industry, EFI executives highlighted the many ways the company is continuing to increase its presence in the packaging space.
The corrugated segment was of particular interest, especially considering EFI’s launch of the Nozomi C18000, a single-pass, direct-to-board, inkjet press, during drupa. Connect clarified when the large-format corrugated solution would reach the market, with the announcement of the first Nozomi install, scheduled for this spring at Rafael Hinojosa S.A., in Spain.
Ken Hanulec, VP of marketing, EFI inkjet solutions, offered further insight into the company’s plans for Nozomi, including a projection that there will be multiple installations before the fall tradeshow season. Additionally, he explained that while the Nozomi is starting out in the corrugated segment, EFI sees the technology as a platform that could be used in other areas as well.
Hanulec also reiterated EFI’s commitment to the narrow-web packaging and label segments, stating that EFI’s Jetrion series of inkjet presses offer the lowest cost per label and have reached more than 250 installations worldwide.
In his “State of the Products” presentation, Gaby Matsliach, EFI’s Senior VP and GM of Productivity Software, offered an update on the advances in EFI’s six Productivity Suite software products.
He explained that the Packaging Suite has been updated with increased ERP capability, largely around flexible packaging, but also in folding cartons and labels. The Corrugated Packaging Suite, which was launched at last year’s Connect conference, has been released as “the first true end to end corrugated business and production workflow,” Matsliach said.
The conference ended with a “State of the Industry” address from Andy Paparozzi, chief economist at Idealliance. Paparozzi stated that the print industry is heading for an upturn and offered advice for how printers can ensure they are full participants in it.
One key piece of advice Paparozzi gave is for companies to fully evaluate whether a potential opportunity is a good fit for their business prior to pursuing it. But, he said packaging is clearly viewed as a strong growth opportunity by many printers. According to the 2016 Idealliance State of the Industry Survey, 37.7% of respondents indicated they believed packaging has strong growth potential over the next two to three years. Packaging received the second-highest ranking, trailing just direct mail.
EFI Connect will return to the Wynn Las Vegas from Jan. 23-26, 2018.