7 predictions for the printing and converting industries in 2023

5 min read
19/01/23 11:13

The print industry has seen significant changes in recent years, like rising costs, increased sustainability and traceability requirements, and advancements in technology.

But what about the year ahead? What changes and trends can we expect to see in 2023?

I spoke to some of our industry experts here at Tharstern about their predictions for the future and what challenges or opportunities they see for the printing and converting industries in 2023. Here’s what they told me...


Automation will dramatically increase in the converting sectors as label and packaging companies struggle with administrative bottlenecks

“The converting sectors are clearly about to encounter the same evolution as the commercial sector did many years ago, when digital print technology was introduced and consumers grew to expect shorter and cheaper runs. The commercial printer’s world changed at this point and they faced a new challenge in that as production times shortened, the proportion of set-up time of the overall job increased, particularly with regards to non-chargeable activities such as the job admin i.e. quotation production, billing, shipping etc.

Commercial printers then had to either review how they priced for jobs (which in some cases resulted in the commoditization of products, and the commercial impact associated with this) or solve the problem with automation by using software to digitalize these administrative processes. I think we’re going to see the same thing happening in the converting sectors very soon. As the adoption of digital converting technology is growing, we will see market expectations change. So the lengthy processes that come before production, like project review, prototyping and planning, will all be impacted. To solve this, we will see converters invest in more software technology to help them digitalize these processes, streamline their workflow and automate everything they can.”

Keith McMurtrie, CEO of Tharstern


Print buyers will be called on to take responsibility for the carbon footprint they help create

“Throughout 2022, we saw a huge focus on the printing and converting industries finding ways to become more sustainable, and even carbon neutral.

It’s almost guaranteed that this push for sustainability will continue to grow, as businesses look for more print solutions that will help them take action and make conscious changes.

The next challenge for 2023 and beyond is to educate customers on the importance of sustainable printing and why they need to be contributing, in some way, to offsetting emissions.”

Mark Jameson, Solution Specialist at Tharstern


More people will put technology at the center of their business and use it to diversify

“We’ve seen in recent years that those companies who have invested in top tier technology partners and intuitive software are the ones with the best chance of survival, and the ones with the biggest opportunity to grow.

I think we’ll see even more printers and converters prioritizing this in 2023 and putting technology at the forefront of their business. Companies are really starting to realize that having an MIS is about much more than the software, it’s also about having a technology partner who understands your whole workflow and wants to work with you to help improve it.

I also think we’ll see more companies adding diversification onto their 2023 bingo card and using their MIS software to help them achieve this.”

Laura Woodward, Implementation Specialist at Tharstern


AI technology has entered the chat, and plans to stay

“It's clear that AI is going to boom in 2023 – in many sectors, including the printing and converting industries. At Tharstern, we've all been playing with the Chat GPT tool, which has caused quite a stir globally, and seeing how it can help us be more efficient with our own jobs and even how we could use it to benefit our customers. We're already seeing our customers do cool things with Business Intelligence, and AI would be the next evolution of that.

Amy Durham, Implementation Specialist at Tharstern


The number of Bionic Businesses will rise in an effort to do more with the same, or even less

“It’s maybe a bit of an overused cliché, but the ability to do more with the same (or less) resources is going to be a main priority for many businesses in 2023. With rising energy costs and the cost-of-living crisis sitting at the forefront of this new year, companies are going to be exploring how to maximize not just production but administration too, and stretch their resources and protect their income.

To do this effectively, they’ll not just be focusing on Technology or Processes in isolation but instead focusing on Technology, Processes and People combined, the 3 areas that contribute towards being a Bionic Business. I imagine they’ll be reviewing hierarchies, responsibilities, strategies and processes. And they’ll be pushing forward with new software implementations, connections, and integrations. This holistic approach to their business will really put them in a great position to thrive and grow.”

Ross Edwards, Customer Partnership Manager at Tharstern


Material availability will level out

“Last year, we saw paper stock hit an all-time low and many companies put on allocation or turned away by suppliers for the products they needed. As a result, businesses started to order more material than they actually needed so they could forward plan, which obviously impacted the shortage further. In 2023 I think we’ll see the availability of stock levelling out as paper mills manage and allocate their stock more strategically.

But to futureproof themselves from being impacted to the same extent in the future, companies will also start to make more of an effort to build a base of reliable suppliers who they know will give them accurate and honest information.”

Bali Nagra, Project Coordinator at Tharstern


More regular reviews of cost rates will take place

“We’ve seen prices for energy, paper and other manufacturing material prices increasing throughout 2022, with paper almost 50% higher than the previous year. Thankfully, that’s supposed to level off for 2023, and become more stable.

But I think that companies will now be very wary of the effects of this, and start to carry out more internal reviews of their cost rates to make sure they’re reflected accurately in their MIS. Costs could be 30% higher than last year, so companies will really want to understand the true costs of the jobs they’re producing. Those companies with a print MIS that has a Cost Rate Calculator will find this much easier to do.”  

Mark Jameson, Solution Specialist at Tharstern

We can’t guarantee that all these predictions will come true, but we can promise that the future of the print industry is bright and we can’t wait to be part of it!

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