OPS2024: “Our growth opportunities in digital printing are limitless”

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Henrik Müller-Hansen, founder and CEO of software manufacturer Gelato, is convinced that the digital printing industry is one of the most exciting and dynamic sectors in the world. At the Online Print Symposium 2024, he explained what makes him so certain. Warning, spoiler alert: There are four macro trends that play a central role: personalization and mass customization, sustainability, the increasing importance of local suppliers and the “creator economy”.

According to Jörg Schieb at last year’s Online Print Symposium, artificial intelligence is the greatest innovation since the invention of the printing press, and he was going out on a limb, as AI has yet to prove what it can actually achieve in the individual sectors. It was therefore only logical that the Online Print Symposium, as the leading international event in online print, should once again focus on artificial intelligence in 2024. However, not all possible programs and generative AIs were discussed and questioned as to how they can be operated or what they cost. Instead, the organizers had found a very good mix of topics that painted a clear picture of a printing industry in transformation.

Network for on-demand production

Henrik Müller-Hansen, founder and CEO of software manufacturer Gelato, underlined this emphatically in his keynote speech, in which he stated that the digital printing industry is one of the most exciting and dynamic industries in the world. After all, digitally printed products can be seen everywhere. And he illustrated the importance of print in general with a comparison: the music industry (which is constantly under discussion) is worth just $41 billion – the print industry, on the other hand, is worth $847 billion. Over the next few years, it will continue to grow by a further $90 billion. He was not concerned with the exact figure, but with the dimensional difference, which shows that print is massively underestimated by large sections of the population.  

Digital printing has now occupied market segments that were not even recognizable as a potential market until a few years ago. In addition to packaging, labels, stickers and books, which were the most foreseeable applications, Müller-Hansen includes textiles, wallpaper, interior design and personalized gifts and decorations, which are still rather exotic as “printed matter”. The common thread for all these products is on-demand production and personalization. “The mass customization trend is becoming a success,” says the Swedish entrepreneur.

His company Gelato, which is now 15 years old, provides the world’s largest network of on-demand production hubs with its workflow software, reaches local production in 32 countries and maintains partnerships with more than 130 production centers that reach over 5 billion consumers. Gelato is thus reshaping global supply chains and helping to channel the transition from centralized mass production to local production on demand. “This saves resources, radically reduces CO2 emissions and transportation, while increasing profitability for partners. It’s smarter, faster and more environmentally friendly than traditional mass production,” argues Henrik Müller-Hansen, citing three reasons why the digital printing industry has never been so well positioned for exponential growth. According to him, these are four macro trends, demographics and production.

AI is not a solution, but a tool

Although the macro trends do not sound particularly original, as they have been known for decades, they are nevertheless drivers of change in the industry. For Müller-Hansen, these are personalization and individualization, sustainability, which can only be achieved through local and digital on-demand production, local business in retail and the era of “creators” who stimulate production on demand.

“Demographic trends have a major influence on customers, what they buy, by whom and in what quantities,” Müller-Hansen quoted the US economist Peter Drucker, concluding that demographics are boosting growth in digital printing. Generation Z and the millennials are not uninvolved in this, as they are “smart shoppers, expect very fast delivery, have grown up with computers and the internet and love e-commerce,” said Müller-Hansen, adding that according to the United Nations, GenZ is now the largest group of potential consumers in the world.

The third point he mentioned was new production technologies, which will boost growth in digital printing and develop very quickly. Finally, he also counted 3D printing among the growth drivers, which is predicted to explode by a factor of 6 from $120 billion by 2030.

In conclusion, he gave visitors to OPS 2024 three last thoughts to take away with them. “Firstly: price increases do not lead to success. I have to position my company for future success! Secondly, our competitors are not the printers, but H&M, Zalando, Ikea and others. And thirdly, new production technologies plus software plus artificial intelligence represent our future.” Henrik Müller-Hansen added: “Artificial intelligence is not a solution, but a tool”.

Note: In the coming days and weeks, short articles about the presentations at the Online Print Symposium 2024 will be published in loose succession here on beyond-print.net.

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OPS2024: "Our growth opportunities in digital printing are limitless"
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OPS2024: "Our growth opportunities in digital printing are limitless"
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Henrik Müller-Hansen, founder and CEO of software manufacturer Gelato, is convinced that the digital printing industry is one of the most exciting and dynamic sectors in the world. At the Online Print Symposium 2024, he explained what makes him so certain. Warning, spoiler alert: There are four macro trends that play a central role: personalization and mass customization, sustainability, the increasing importance of local suppliers and the "creator economy".
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Beyond-print.net

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