After 1,075 days between events, the S-OneLP team was thrilled to be back at Dscoop Edge Rockies.
We can't be the only ones who felt it: The energy among the HP Indigo users group was palpable. People were genuinely happy to reconnect face-to-face for the first time since the public health crisis shuttered two years of in-person events. Attendees were happy to reconnect with their peers and eager to learn from industry experts about how to manage the difficulties impacting the digital print industry today.
And, boy, was there a lot to talk about.
The sting of high inflation, the desperation of a labor shortage, and the frustration of a congested supply chain are testing the print industry like never before.
What's great about Dscoop is the forward-looking thought leadership that takes center stage. S-OneLP's own Tom Hauenstein spoke in a session about the future of the label and flexible packaging industry.
"Shrink sleeves and durable labels are the hottest trends for the label industry right now," Hauenstein said. "A lot of the label market is moving to shrink because it's a high value-added product. It's not something you do haphazardly, and there's certainly a learning curve in that, but the converters who have invested in shrink, the payoff is there."
He continued: "Durable labels is another huge market. Working with our partners at Michelman, we offer an additive for UV varnishes, so you can put HP Indigo inks into any type of environment now – whether it needs heat, water, or chemical resistance."
A visit to any of the standing-room-only sessions on automation was clear; this is top of mind for the label, packaging, and commercial printers at the event. Everyone is looking for ways to do more with less: less waste, lower headcount, and more productivity.
HP addressed this in the label market with its behemoth V12 digital label press. The V12 will be beta tested this summer and likely will be on display at Labelexpo Americas in the fall. The machine boasts six times the productivity of current digital label presses on the market. HP is preparing for the V12 to be a "total disruptor."
In the background of all this manufacturing pressure, brand owners are still looking for their converter partners to take the lead on sustainability.
Dustin Steerman, founder at cmyk, and former managing partner at ePac Flexible Packaging believes digital is the answer.
"The (packaging) market is going in that direction, and we need to have a strategy for sustainability," he said. "We're seeing that demand from all different sides, too. Large CPGs are doing that and we're seeing that with the supply chain. Digital has been proven to be a more sustainable process. The market is going to measure it, and you need to start building for where the market is going."
Will a stretched supply chain, runaway inflation, and an aging workforce inhibit innovation in sustainable packaging or growth in the broader industry? Today's label and packaging markets are at a watershed moment, and how the industry – both converters and suppliers – responds in the next 12 to 24 months will be a crucial test.