Commercial and industrial print predictions for 2024 – insights from Konica Minolta

Langenhagen, Germany | 20 December 2023

Comment by Olaf Lorenz, Head of International Marketing, Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe

The march of digital printing is unstoppable. Everywhere you look, research shows that the technology is the engine of growth as the pendulum continues to swing away from analogue.

Heading into a drupa year with digital printing technology in the ascendancy compared to other printing methods, we remain extremely positive for the future – not least because experts Smithers¹ now say that sales of digital print equipment are expected to overtake analogue for the first time in less than three years. 

Whereas the digital print transformation accelerated dramatically with the pandemic, it continues to head towards being mainstream for the future. The value is the prize for companies adopting the technology. 

The advance of digital printing will be unstoppable 

We are convinced that even though experts predict a relatively small drop in overall print equipment sales in the next five years, the advance of digital printing will continue relentlessly. According to Smithers², the global market for print equipment - worth $16.8 billion last year - shows a very small decline to $16.4 billion by 2028.  

Whereas the installed base of analogue equipment is falling (flexo will be the only analogue print process to increase equipment sales over the next five years), the number of digital presses will grow overall, according to Smithers³. Its analysis of a 10-year period from 2018 shows that digital equipment sales are on track to move ahead of analogue by 2026. Inkjet and toner equipment sales will both increase, with inkjet accounting for the majority of the rise. Smithers points to the improvements in speed and quality, plus buyers demanding more customized and shorter run commissions, as factors that will see more jobs move away from analogue.

Own graph based on Smithers: The Future of Global Print Markets to 2028 


And the growth will happen despite uncertainty where a perceived global downturn in overall print production is part of the equation. It is heartening to see that commercial printing, label, packaging and finishing sectors are all benefiting from the continued advances in digital printing.  

Value of digital printing equipment will grow steadily 

Digital printing is expanding into most print-for-profit applications and in labels and packaging. According to analysts Smithers⁴, the value of digital printing equipment is forecast to grow steadily between 2023 and 2028.  
In 2022, digital presses accounted for almost a third of the total value of printing equipment, with a value of $5.5 billion. By 2028, digital press sales will rise to $5.9 billion. 

Printing presses are becoming increasingly sophisticated, with high levels of automation and enhanced productivity offered by virtually all manufacaturers, says Smithers⁵, adding: “Digital printing is very much favoured with inkjet doing very well comparatively. There are pressures with some end-use sectors seeing a decline irrespective of the decoration process. The two key digital processes can, however, unlock new opportunities due to their ability to print on demand, and this is creating some new markets.” 

End-end-ecosystems high on the the agenda 

We see a future where a need for greater automation and for innovative end-to-end ecosystems will continue to be high on the agenda and an essential driver forward for customers, as well as brands and suppliers.

Reducing manual processes and automating production steps on the one hand keeps away frustration and worries for organisations. On the other hand it helps reduce material and waste. With the background of Konica Minolta’s long-term plan towards a sustainable future – the EcoVision 2050 – we are also mindful of our responsibility to save the resources of our planet.  

One area that we are convinced will become a big talking point in 2024 will be the potential fallout from the Deforestation-free products regulation of the European Union. This is part of a broader plan of actions to tackle deforestation and forest degradation first outlined in the 2019 Commission Communication on Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests. You can find out more information from the European Community website here⁶. The new regulation on deforestation-free products is expected to bring down greenhouse gas emissions and bring down biodiversity loss. It is part of a broader plan of actions to tackle deforestation and forest degration, and also includes wood (timber) and paper made from it.  

New regulations will drive more digital equipment sales 

The regulation was introduced at the end of June 2023 and operators/traders have 18 months to comply. Surprisingly in view of the fact this will come into force at the end of 2024, this is not a topic that has been looked at extensively so far in all the research we have seen. Whereas we accept that it could further drive the increased adoption of digital publishing and digital signage, our firm belief is that it will also drive more sales of digital equipment and accelerate the digital transformation (DX). That’s because of the benefits of digital printing: print on demand, no wastage and no need for high stock levels. 

Analyst IDC points out that print vendors’ approach to the problem of deforestation is usually a commitment to planting replacement trees, according to the volume of paper used, or pages printed = reforestation. However, the new legislation looks more closely on the forestation situation on a country-by-country basis, for example, protecting old forests. One of its 2024 predictions⁷ is that, by 2026, 60% of all enterprises will have print-related carbon offsetting goals. 

Rethinking possibilities in a world of new opportunities 

Those changes, in our view, will also help commercial printers focus on complete eco-friendly production workflows as they rethink possibilities in a world of new opportunities. Workflow, software and process automation, together with cloud solutions, are also key efficiency drivers as part of the drive towards the ‘smart factory’. This all contributes towards helping operators maximise uptime on their presses, resolve faults quicker, and optimise on-press performance.  

One significant topic we see growing in importance is “programmatic printing”. This is a process that involves the integration of software, hardware and data to streamline and optimise printing processes. It has the potential to transform the printing industry by providing a measurable element of the marketing mix with a proven ROI. Programmatic printing is already graining traction as a concept that delivers the emotional impact of individualised print with the immediacy of digital marketing. 

Demonstrating new forms of creativity at drupa 

Our unflinching commitment to customers and innovation will be demonstrated with our major presence at drupa, the world’s leading trade fair for print technologies, in Hall 8B at Messe Düsseldorf in Germany from May 28 to June 7, 2024. At the show we will be taking advantage of the opportunities and demonstrating new forms of creativity to help customers ignite new possibilities. You can find out more about our drupa participation in this blog post.  

As European market leader in production printing A3 colour markets⁸ for more than a decade,  we are proud to have made huge strides in digital printing with both our toner and inkjet technologies, whilst at the same time we also acknowledge the significant challenges that will be faced in the year ahead for our customers, of which there are 15,000 commercial and industrial customers in Europe. We feel certain, however, that issues some face, such as the supply of raw materials, will ease.

A commitment to active training programmes 

In addition to supply-and-demand issues, all our customers – including printers, converters, CRDs and corporates - are not immune to other indirect effects of world events. The pandemic and enforced lockdown meant a significant number of experienced employees retired early, adding to skilled labour shortages, and there are increasing trends towards working from home. 

However, we believe that our customers will look to commit more funding for attractive training programmes, continuous staff development, as well as accommodating a work-life balance. The fact that our products are easy to use for our customers makes the jobs for the talents they are seeking more attractive. And why not look to hire more young talent – and train them yourselves! You can read more about our approach in this blog⁹.  

Ever-more important in the future will be Industry 5.0 – the emerging phase of industrialisation where humans work alongside advanced technology and artificial intelligence-powered robots to enhance workplace processes. All this will bring the human-centricity back into Industry 4.0, as well as increased resilience combined with the improved focus on sustainability. 

Whatever lies ahead, our commitment remains to deliver the best possible service to all our employees, clients and partners.  

¹ Smithers: The Future of Global Print Equipment Markets to 2028, Executive Summary, Page xxiii
² Smithers, The Future of Global Print Equipment Markets to 2028. Introduction, Market overview – printing equipment markets, 2018–28, page 9 
³ Smithers: The Future of Global Print Equipment Markets to 2028, Executive Summary, Page xxiii 
⁴ Smithers: The Future of Global Print Equipment Markets to 2028, Market Overview, Page 10 
⁵ Smithers: The Future of Global Print Equipment Markets to 2028, Market Overview, Page 23
⁶ European Commission website, Environment section, Deforestation-free products. 
⁷ IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Imaging, Printing, and Document Solutions 2024 Predictions
⁸ Infosource
⁹  Konica Minolta, See the Potential Blog: Hire young talent – and train them yourself!  


About Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe

Konica Minolta’s journey started 150 years ago, with a vision to see and do things differently. We innovate for the good of society and the world. The same purpose that kept us moving then, keeps us moving now.

Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe GmbH, based in Langenhagen, Germany, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Konica Minolta Inc., Tokyo, Japan. With its unique expertise in imaging, data processing and data-based decision making, Konica Minolta creates relevant solutions for its customers - small and medium-sized businesses, large enterprises and public sector - and solves issues faced by society.

As a digital workplace solution provider, Konica Minolta helps its clients to identify and unlock the potential digitalisation holds and reach the next level in the digital maturity of their organisation by rethinking the workplace. In support of an ‘Intelligent connected workplace’, Konica Minolta offers cloud, IT, managed print and video solution services for remote working, collaboration, workflow management and automation and security. The company’s success in driving transformation is also confirmed by IDC, since the ‘IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Print Transformation 2023 Vendor Assessment’ has named Konica Minolta a “Leader” in print transformation. Konica Minolta has been a Microsoft Global Managed Partner since 2021.

Konica Minolta's Igniting Print Possibilities offering helps printers, converters and brand owners maximise workflow automation to increase efficiency. The company delivers consultancy in all communication matters as well as top-of-the-line production, packaging as well as label printers. Its finishing devices create print products that stand out and create added value. Konica Minolta has established itself as the production printing market leader for more than a decade in Europe (InfoSource).

For an increasing number of organisations, success today is more than the narrow definition of financial prosperity – it also includes protecting the environment and having a positive impact on their workforce as well as the societies they are embedded in. With its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Konica Minolta has pledged to consistently pursue its sustainability and social responsibility goals.

The company has been repeatedly recognised for its rich history of social contribution as well as for working towards achieving the SDGs throughout its business and supply chain. Konica Minolta received a GOLD Level Recognition Medal in the EcoVadis sustainability ratings for 2023.

For its remote services, Konica Minolta was awarded the prestigious ‘Buyers Lab (BLI) 2023-2024 Pacesetter Award in Remote Service for the Western European market’ from Keypoint Intelligence.

Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe is represented by subsidiaries and distributors in more than 80 countries in Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. With more than 8,700 employees (as of April 2023), Konica Minolta Europe earned net sales of over EUR 2.26 billion in financial year 2022/2023.

Worldwide, the company has over 39,000 employees and is operating in over 150 countries.

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Silke Ehmann-Cotichini

Team Manager Brand Positioning & Architecture, Content Strategy & Development

Corporate Communications International Marketing Division

+49 (0) 511 7404-5604