The Initiative Online Print (IOP), an association of the leading small and large online printers in Europe, welcomed three new members to its ranks at its autumn meeting at the end of September at Kalfany Süße Werbung GmbH & Co. KG in Herbolzheim and afterward in Freiburg. The focus was on robotics and automation in the online print industry.
Briefodruck Fülle KG, based in Wünschendorf/Elster in Thuringia, was presented by managing director Frank Fülle. The “mailing factory” produces unique postal mailings that attract a lot of attention in the recipients’ letterboxes. With more than 50 mailing variants, customers can drive their business forward in a creative and responsive way.
Apoidea Handels GmbH, represented by managing director Robert Czyzowski, operates the online shops www.honigetiketten.de, www.glasetiketten.de and www.honigstaub.de. The core business is the production of individual and personalized labels, especially honey labels for beekeepers. These are produced digitally in the sister company Digitaldruckerei Schleppers GmbH in Bautzen.
The brothers Nicolas and Armin Kuhse from Kuhse Media GmbH in Hamburg stand for innovative and individual print and communication solutions as well as for sustainability and demand-oriented printing from print run 1. For some years now, they have not only specialized in classic printed matter such as mailings, documentation or learning materials for educational institutions but are also passionate producers of board games.
Robotics, automation and artificial intelligence
Thematically, everything at the IOP autumn conference revolved around the topics of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence.
After an introduction by Stefan Hasenzahl, mechanical engineer at Heidelberg, the IOP members exchanged views on the current status of these trends in the online print industry. The reasons why these technologies are urgently needed were obvious: a shortage of skilled workers, demographic development in general, and the new generation of workers’ ever-greater striving for a work-life balance.
When it comes to automation and technical support in the production process, the printing industry is already ahead of the game: the digital transformation is well advanced in many areas, for example in digital roll printing, where almost all processes can already be automated today. (Collaborating) robotic arms have long been used for cutting, folding, stitching, gluing or binding — or for loading or stacking printed sheets. And even in production planning and control as well as in logistics, robotics and automation are already being used.
Personnel shortages can only be solved to a limited extent by immigration and temporary workers. The use of robots, be they humanoids or automated machines, can support employees and create free space so that they can concentrate on their actual tasks and control of overall production. While industrial and collaborative robots mostly take over tasks that would be physically demanding for humans, autonomous printing systems enable them to operate and monitor several machines simultaneously.
Artificial intelligence has the potential to take the already advanced automation and optimization process in online print shops to a new level. The next few months and years will show at which points AI can take hold and establish itself. For the members of the Initiative Online Print, however, it is clear that the future will not be possible without people. AI will support, remedy and optimize processes and certainly also revolutionize them, but that is precisely the progress that not only the online print industry needs.
The Initiative Online Print is a globally unique association of the leading small and large online printers in Europe to form an independent communication and networking platform. The member companies represent a total online print-driven market turnover of over 12 billion euros. Together, the members actively promote fair competition in online printing services and the perception of the online print industry as an independent sector in the global printing industry. The IOP sees itself as the mouthpiece of the online print industry and stands for the future viability of the entire print industry.