Industry Report

more sustainable products with a focus on green substrates and printing technology.”

Ronald has worked for Mimaki for the past 13 years and during that time has helped hundreds of businesses grow and develop using Mimaki technology. From his position as general sales manager, he said he has seen a lot of businesses adapt to the restrictions that governments across Europe have put in place to protect the general public. He explained that as a manufacturer, Mimaki takes a slightly different approach to the market. The impact to business for printers was an almost instantaneous loss, for a manufacturer the effects are likely to be seen further down the line as and when spending resumes. He said: “Consumable sales and printed materials are all hugely affected during this period and we expect this to continue for the upcoming period too. For printer investment and hardware sales however, this is slightly more difficult to predict. There are many differing opinions on how the market will recover, the one thing the experts all have in common is that no-one knows for sure and they all disagree with each other. It comes to using common sense and finding a strategic model that fits.

“I can share the first quick analysis comparing Q1 from 2019 to 2020. 2020 is roughly 15% down in sales. It’s a minor impact for us, but as a machine manufacturer, the bigger impact will be from April onwards. We expect Q2 and Q3 to be affected.”

Four-phase plan

After sharing this sales information, Ronald then shared the four-phase plan that Mimaki is using to ride this wave of uncertainty, which hopefully could be applicable and useful to other businesses. The first phase is major impact, to assess the current situation i.e. the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. During this phase Ronald said Mimaki were identifying where they had been hit the hardest and what their customers’ priorities are.

Preparing for withstanding the impact takes place during the second phase. Ronald said this entails exploring how reliable the supply chain is and supporting the wider distribution network. During the third phase, Ronald said Mimaki needs to understand if there will be any changes in the sales cycle. For example, assessing if it is any easier or more difficult for printers to obtain funding for new machinery.

The final phase is where Mimaki plans to return to normal. This includes working out how Mimaki can help other businesses to recover, whether there will be any government support for businesses and analysing how aggressive the industry will be. Ronald said: “As a last phase this is a really interesting one. After we return to normal, we have to

Hybrid volunteer Richard Williams helped print patterns for scrubs

sort out new industry dynamics and how the buying habits of our customers have changed. For us at Mimaki communication is essential.” After Ronald outlined how Mimaki had been affected by COVID-19 and the recovery plan that has been put in place, Christian then shared further details of the changing industry dynamics that printers were currently experiencing. He said: “From my own business perspective, we are getting requests for orders on a Thursday night for delivery on a Friday, this is due to some shops opening in some countries. This highlights that if we look to the future, some customers are being served extremely fast during this COVID-19 period and I think that this will continue. This means that this will create for sure opportunities for digital printing. You can see it as a threat, if you are not organised to serve your customers in a very fast way, the only way to do it technology wise is digital printing.

“I know many colleagues that have used this time to look at the automisation of their business. Everyone is looking at how they can improve this side of the business, from production to invoicing.” This led the conversation to turn towards the specifics of digital printing and what we can expect the future to look like.

Ronald said: “We are getting questions from customers that normally would not contact us that are used to producing items using conventional printing technologies that suddenly have deadlines approaching and have to act fast.

“I’m 100% sure that a lot of these customers will stick in the future to digital technology if we explain to them what the other benefits are. There are more benefits to digital technology than being able to print an order quickly, for that we need to go a little more in depth which is something that I think we can do when we talk about applications.” Both men agreed that with digital technology the opportunities are limitless. Christian drew on personal experience and said that although they mainly print for retail, they are seeing increased requests for interior decorations and other printed applications. This is possible by the growing spectrum of printable materials available.

Speed to market

It has already been mentioned, but Christian emphasised that for retailers speed to market is essential and this is where digital printers can capitalise. He used Japanese-brand Uniqlo as a case in point. He said that Uniqlo chooses to change its in-store wall coverings and signage every time it changes its seasonable campaign. “They are increasingly looking for flexibility and to reflect their seasonable campaigns in response to their competitors. I think as digital printers we are best placed to respond to these requests because our technologies are ultra-responsive. Which is a benefit to our industry as it becomes more service driven. You need to adapt yourself and be ready for that.” Christian added that after we exit the coronavirus pandemic, he expects that

There are many differing opinions on how the market will recover, the one thing the experts all have in common is that no-one knows for sure and they all disagree with each other. It comes to using common sense and finding a strategic model that fits.

— Ronald van den Broek, general manager sales EMEA, Mimaki Europe

June 2020 |19 |

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