SA printing industry still looks good on paper

The printing industry is examining ways to reinvent itself following the rise of online platforms and direct advertising services that have put pressure on the sector over the past few years.

Several leading newspapers and magazines worldwide have closed over the past decade as people turn to the Internet for news and information. Digital printing hardware such as 3D printing is gaining traction and replacing traditional printers as costs are lowered, allowing organisations and individuals to produce professional-standard work themselves.

The printing industry is traditionally associated with newspapers, books and magazines but it includes a range of other products such as voting material, advertising brochures and pamphlets, and packaging labels.

Industry body Printing SA says SA is still “very much home” to traditional printing processes, despite the uptake in digital printers. The industry remains a “significant contributor” to the economy, with an annual turnover of more than R60-billion.

The printing and packaging industries employ more than 45 000 people in 1 228 printing and 268 packaging enterprises.

On its Web site, Printing SA makes a case for the industry, saying that print is a once-off cost while digital documents consume energy each time they are read.

Bright, attractive packaging not only ensures legal compliance for products, but acts as an effective marketing tool, it says.

Research shows that printed material still produces the highest return on investment.

Printing SA CEO Steve Thobela says there is a negative perception that print has become irrelevant and is environmentally unfriendly. On both counts, international research points to the contrary.

“Print has a one-off carbon footprint and is recyclable,” Thobela says.
“Contrary to popular belief, the industry grows the trees that are harvested for the production of paper and, as such, the forest has grown by about 30%.”

However, he concedes the printing industry needs to accelerate its embrace of the latest developments such as digital, narrow and wide-format – especially 3D – printing.

Retail inserts and catalogues depend on the health of the retail sector. Stephen van der Walt, CEO of print company Novus, says he expects retail to be resurgent next year and to gain momentum as demand in Africa picks up.

He says the company foresees an increase in the demand for paper and tissue products.

However, the group’s concentration is on security printing – such as ballot papers and examination papers – literacy and education products.

To mitigate the decline in the demand for printed materials, Printing SA will educate the public about the role of print. It is planning the launch of a campaign dubbed “Moments of Print”.

Source: Adapted from Thabiso Mochiko’s article for Business Day Live

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