EFI joins the exodus from drupa 2021

drupa 2021 – the brave face and the reality

The drupa cube at drupa 2016 Photo Messe Dusseldorf

1 October 2020, New Delhi – The news came at 345 am in New Delhi although the EFI withdrawal from drupa release is dated 30 September out of Fremont California. This makes September a cruel month for drupa 2021 as it has now become. As I write this the drupa clock says 200 days and 23 hours to the opening of the event on 28 April 2021.

The Lufthansa aviation bubble that connects New Delhi to Germany has also been suspended from today to at least 20 October 2020. Its website says, “The approvals for Lufthansa flights between Germany and India have not been extended for October 2020. Due to the same, Lufthansa has canceled all flights between Germany and India from 30 September until 20 October 2020.” The German aviation, hospitality, and exhibition industry, all held up by its engineering manufacturing industry, are feeling stress and pain.

My colleagues have used the word exodus from drupa. Unfortunately in the coming days and months, we will be counting the ways we can tell this story and rewrite the same headline. Those of us who are addicted to the big international trade shows for printing and packaging will have to come to terms with our own withdrawal symptoms and the alternate more fragmented and resort to the less herd-like methods of understanding trends and technology. It will not be easy.

EFI joins the exodus

EFI says that out of an abundance of caution for employees, customers, prospects, and partners, Electronics For Imaging, has canceled its planned exhibit at the drupa 2021 tradeshow taking place in Dusseldorf, Germany, next April.

“Our company has a long, positive history with drupa, as do I personally, having also run two companies that have been major drupa exhibitors in the past,” said Jeff Jacobson, chairman and CEO, EFI. “The show has always represented some of the best of what can be accomplished at an in-person event for the global print industry.

Limited knowledge – a prudent decision

“But, with the limited amount of knowledge anyone can have right now about what conditions will be for public gatherings early next year, withdrawing from drupa 2021 is an unfortunate albeit prudent decision,” Jacobson added. “All of us at EFI look forward to future drupa events beyond 2021 – and to other industry tradeshows – once the world has clearly moved past the current pandemic.”

In light of the significant disruptions Covid-19 has caused for in-person events and for EFI’s own sales operations, EFI has been hosting and will continue to host remote events and demonstrations for customers and prospects. The company is equipped to hold remote demos every day of the week from its facilities across the globe, covering the entire portfolio of EFI display graphics, industrial inkjet, Fiery digital front end and MIS/ERP workflow solutions.

While EFI is committed to participating in in-person events when the pandemic subsides, in the meantime, the company has also established activities such as EFI Engage – a virtual event for customers being held in place of the annual EFI Connect users conference. EFI Engage will feature training, education, new technology news and partner developments for EFI customers from 25 January to 5 February 2021. For EFI the extension of its annual user conference in Las Vegas is more likely to succeed than some of the other virtual events being planned.

The list and calendar clutter

To again recite the list of withdrawals, it was Bobst and Xerox who were the first to quit the event. Next came Heidelberg and Manroland Sheetfed, followed by Komori. Then it was Screen in the first week of September, Fujifilm on 14 September, Kodak in the third week of September, and HP, the Post Press Alliance at the end of September, and EFI on the last day of September.

The organizers have declared that drupa 2021 will be a hybrid physical and digital event, and the most recent withdrawals strengthen the digital and virtual outlook. Starting in October 2020, drupa will be making an online portal available to exhibitors and visitors.

However as EFI’s release makes even more clear now, virtual events will to the fore. And the problem with virtual events by individual companies although they are welcome as a next step is calendar clutter. It is already becoming impossible to keep up with the virtual events and conferences that are lined up and a number of webinars that are offered twice a day to keep up with the time zones. Notably, Heidelberg has announced its Innovation Week from 19 to 23 October

The plight of smaller exhibitors

As reported by Print Business in the UK (printbusiness.co.uk), the companies that comprise the Post Press Alliance – MBO, BaumannPerfecta, Wohlenberg, Bograma, H+H, and Hohner, are not convinced that the measures taken for the safety of exhibitors and visitors at drupa are sufficient. “Responsible thinking and a lack of planning security were at the heart of this difficult decision,” says a Post Press Alliance statement. The collaborative PPA will be organizing their virtual event, Alliance Days from 24 to 27 November 2020.

The other vital unknowns are safety measures beyond the exhibition site and government decisions and behaviors, including visas and quarantine protocols. Currently, travelers from most countries except the EU and the UK must spend two weeks in quarantine. This protocol may remain in place next April and be a severe discouragement to visitors from outside Europe. The experience of Indian visitors to drupa has never been pleasant as far as visas, and the pandemic and the slowness in postponements by European organizers of their shows in India, Mexico, and other countries have also revealed a bit of the cultural and other types of chauvinism in our industry.

Our friends at Print Business (printbusiness.co.uk) in the UK write in reference to the Post Press Alliance withdrawing from drupa in a way that we think is instructive. “The intention had been to launch the collaborative venture [Post Press Alliance] at Drupa this year. Instead, there will now be the inevitable online open house, Alliance Days, running from 24 to 27 November. This will showcase the rotary die cutting prowess of Bograma used for folding cartons, a 13,000 copies an hour HSB saddle stitcher from Hohner along with its HHS Futura capable of individualized brochure production, the MBO CoBo Stack used to enable a single operator to run two folding lines, Wohlenberg with a digital binder and the launch of the Baumannperfecta brand for guillotines, along with the latest generation of BASA handling equipment.

In their joint statement, the partners are quoted by Print Business, “We need and seek contact to our business partners and are happy to be able to launch something so new in such a short time. It is uncharted territory for everyone involved. Neither we nor our dealers and end customers have much experience in this encounter on a virtual level.

“This concept means a lot to our management. They are firmly convinced that, even after Covid, targeted marketing concepts will require this duality of virtual appearances in combination with analog physical events.”

Print Business goes on to say, “A host of other smaller companies would be giving serious consideration to withdrawing from the event if it did not mean losing a deposit of several thousands of Euros, which many cannot afford to do.”

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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