The Global Print Event of 2020: The PRINTING United Digital Experience

In June, PRINTING United announced the decision to transition from an in-person event in Atlanta to a comprehensive digital platform. The PRINTING United Digital Experience will encompass three power-packed weeks of hosted global programming and new product unveilings, beginning Oct. 26, and running through Nov. 12.

“The PRINTING United Digital Experience provides a unique opportunity to bring those highly anticipated product launches and engagements to the printing community at large, both from an exhibitor and attendee standpoint,” says Mark J. Subers, president of PRINTING United. “Our expert team has worked diligently to build a unique digital model to ensure that all market segments have a front row seat to this powerful, guided event, to further enhance opportunities for engagement and interaction.”

This series of community-based, content-rich Insight Days will deliver a program like no other. Addressing all print market segments — apparel, commercial, digital textile, software/workflow, graphics/wide-format, in-plant, industrial, mailing/fulfillment, and packaging — the programs will be delivered in a professionally hosted industry news format. In this program, the printing industry will together experience a variety of highly focused hosted tracks and exclusive ways in which vendors and customers can interact.

“While we are disappointed not to be able to convene in person this year, we are committed to delivering on our promise in bringing the latest in technology, education, and innovation to our industry in 2020,” says Ford Bowers, president and CEO, PRINTING United Alliance. “While the event will take shape differently than originally planned, it will undoubtedly serve as intended to our vast audiences nevertheless.”

PRINTING United Alliance Chief Economist Andy Paparozzi says that, according to the consensus of 60 economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal, the American economy is expected to grow robustly in 2021 — by its fastest pace in nearly 40 years.  That will give the printing industry a big boost, flipping the mindset from cost reduction and survival, to capital investment and growth.

“The printing industry greatly needed this event to go on this year, both from a sales perspective and for peer engagement in general,” says Marco Boer, VP, IT Strategies. “PRINTING United’s convergent roots allows for a seamless transition to this exceptional online platform, one of which we are proud to support. Our team appreciates the opportunity to share in experiencing the newest technology that companies in our industry have worked so hard to bring to market and waited all year to debut.”

What to Expect

Each of the 14 Insight Days will provide a dive into a specific industry segment. Starting with an opening keynote, each day will include speaker-hosted sessions and moderated panels covering current industry topics, and will showcase new products through a series of demonstrations direct from customer experience and demo centers around the world.

Industry experts from all print segments will be on hand, presenting engaging content each day. In the special opening session on Oct. 26, Paparozzi, along with Lisa Cross and Nathan Safran from NAPCO Research, will set the stage for Insight Days. This not-to-miss, fast-moving session will provide a statistical view of the printing industry today, both within and across segments. Using data gleaned from several recent research reports, it will address key areas for growth, measurements of production and profitability, and hiring practices. Further, this session will tie industry-specific research findings into broader economic trends.

For Sign and Graphics Producers

The opening day’s focus then turns to sign and graphics, with a keynote focusing on wide-format growth markets. COVID-19 has changed the face of the wide-format graphics sector, but there are some applications and markets that are growing. This keynote will dive into what one needs to know in order to be part of the industry’s growth and the next normal.

Also, a special panel discussion will highlight how businesses are making capital equipment investments in the shadow of COVID-19. During this panel, Denise M. Gustavson, editor-in-chief of Wide-Format Impressions, will moderate a discussion with leading graphics business owners. They will delve into the reasons why they made these equipment purchases in the middle of a global pandemic — and how it has impacted their recovery and future growth prospects.

On Oct. 30, the second day focused on the sign and graphics markets, the attention turns to wide-format finishing and workflow. This day’s keynote will focus on how to build a manufacturing mindset. With the rise of digital finishing equipment and intelligent workflow software, building an automated wide-format graphics factory is within reach. But how has digital finishing equipment and workflow software changed to reflect the move from an “arts-and-crafts” to a “manufacturing” mindset? This session will focus on why this change is critical to future success.

Later that day, a panel discussion will tackle graphics installation. Often a final, essential step in many graphics jobs, installation ranges from mural and sign application for retail, to wrapping fleet vehicles. In recent years, changes in materials and opportunities have expanded how graphics installers’ skills can be utilized. This moderated panel will discuss the materials, tools, and current business conditions, as well as dive into why certification and certified installers are essential in ensuring success. 

For Apparel Decorators

On the first day dedicated to apparel decoration, Oct. 27, attendees will have the opportunity to learn how to grow their businesses. In the first panel discussion, apparel professionals will focus on how to grow an apparel-focused business model to seven-figure revenue. This moderated panel discussion will address the business ideas, technologies, products, and people that help make it happen.

Continuing on the topic of profitability, the next session will discuss how to increase it. For apparel decorators, there are two choices for increasing profitability: One is to do more business, the other is to minimize costs. The speaker will cover essential steps every company must take to keep costs low and production on-point.

Nov. 9, the second day dedicated to the apparel sector, will focus on direct-to-garment and direct-to-substrate applications. First up is how sustainability is driving the next generation of fashion. The fashion industry — a global business of $1.3 trillion, employing more than 300 million people worldwide, and representing a significant economic force and a substantial driver of global GDP — has seen sustainability becoming an important new driver in consumers’ purchasing decisions. Many cross-industry initiatives have helped companies to identify more sustainable work practices across the product life cycle, and several brands have publicly fixed sustainability goals. But what else can be expected in the near-term?

Later that day, attention turns to the promotional products market. Promotional products are everywhere in today’s society and are produced by printing companies across many segments. While some promotional product producers print, many others are brokers or specifiers. In this panel discussion, Sean Norris, editor-in-chief of Promo Marketing, will dive into the synergy between those who produce, those who sell, and those who buy from them.

For Commercial Printers

During Insight Days, the commercial print segment will be featured across three dedicated days. Oct. 28 will be dedicated to the high-speed production inkjet market. Boer, also the chair of NAPCO’s Inkjet Summit, will provide an overview of the current production inkjet market landscape. He’ll also explore where and how he sees this market evolving into 2021.

In two panel discussions later that day, Mark Michelson, editor-in-chief of Printing Impressions, will discuss the present — and future — of the segment. In the first panel, Michelson will moderate a session discussing how high-speed digital production inkjet printing is redefining commercial printing. The ongoing rise of digital inkjet technology, and new approaches for differentiation that it enables, creates new business opportunities and greater workflow efficiencies. The user panel will feature two leading book and direct mail printing companies.

The second panel’s topic will be the cut-sheet market. While production inkjet printing initially took off in the direct mail and book printing spaces, cut-sheet color inkjet printing is rapidly gaining ground among commercial printers. Three end users will discuss their experiences with sheetfed inkjet press higher uptimes/productivity, new product applications, and more streamlined workflows.

The following week, on Nov. 3, Insight Days will turn its attention to the offset and analog commercial print markets. The first moderated panel will focus on meeting shrinking production deadlines. Jim Workman, PRINTING United Alliance’s VP of technology & research, will lead the discussion with business leaders, examining how digital has changed their businesses, and what they’ve done to address more jobs of shorter runs within shorter timeframes.

A second moderated panel that day will be led by Patrick Henry, senior editor for Printing Impressions. During this session, Henry and three commercial printers will explore how current technologies can aid offset printers in competing with digital runs and maintain profitability. 

Week three’s dedicated commercial print day, Nov. 10, will cover dry and liquid toner. Michelson will lead two panel discussions with commercial print owners — the first focusing on how they are driving their businesses forward with toner-based digital printing. The second panel will focus on finding success with digital toner — versus the inkjet printing processes.

For Package Printers

Two Insight Days will focus on the package printing market. The first day, Oct. 29, will take a deep dive into the world of label and flexible printing. The keynote will start the day looking at the trends and opportunities within this market segment. Speakers will provide a snapshot of these industries, the latest technologies driving innovation, and how printing companies of all kinds can access the expanding opportunities in these two segments.

Cory Francer, editor-in-chief of Packaging Impressions, will lead two panel discussions focused on these dynamic markets. In the first, Francer and business owners will discuss how to maximize growth in these segments, how customer and public perceptions toward packaging are changing, and how package printers plan to incorporate new technologies into their businesses. 

In the second moderated panel, Francer will focus on this segment’s digital future. While labels and flexible packaging are at drastically different adoption stages of digital printing, they each present opportunity for those already in the segment and those looking to expand. Label and flexible packaging printers will share their experiences with digital printing, and how it led them to new opportunities with new and existing customers.

During the following week, on Nov. 4, the packaging conversation turns its focus to the folding carton and corrugated markets, with an opening keynote on these segments’ trends and opportunities. Opportunities in paperboard-based packaging segments are on the rise as consumers seek out sustainable options, continue to embrace e-commerce, and show support for boutique brands. This keynote will include insights into these two packaging segments, demonstrate how they compare and contrast, and explain how digital printing is accelerating growth. In the first of two moderated panels,

Francer and several folding carton and corrugated printers will discuss how digital printing technology is changing the playing field for many package printers. Business owners will examine the current state of the segment, how they plan to incorporate new technologies within their business, and how they have been able to differentiate  themselves with digital. 

A variety of consumer trends are opening up new opportunities in both the folding carton and corrugated segments of the packaging industries. With a desire for recyclability, online shopping, and high-quality products, paperboard packaging has shown to address these consumer trends and brand demands. In this second panel session, Francer and a panel of printers will discuss why these segments are on the rise.

For In-plant Printers

On Nov. 2, Bob Neubauer, editor-inchief of In-plant Impressions, will host a special Insight Day of sessions and panel discussions touching on important topics for the in-plant market.

Kicking off the day is a keynote presentation highlighting the changes, challenges, and trends impacting in-plants during the pandemic. Other topics for the day include the benefits of workflow efficiencies inside the plant, how to develop a five-year strategic plan, innovative wide-format applications, and how high-speed production inkjet has impacted in-plants.

For Mailing and Fulfilment Centers

For many commercial printers, mailing and fulfillment are profitable value-adds that transform printers into a full-service operation, and the Nov. 5 Insight Day will dive into this segment. One session of note will highlight changes in the mailing and fulfillment area, and will discuss how companies can boost bottom lines by offering a line of services that fit in with the needs of today’s marketers and direct mail companies.

As the pandemic has taken hold, brands are finding different ways to engage with their loyal customers through direct mail. Another session this day will focus on how direct mail has changed with COVID-19 and what can be expected moving into 2021. 

For Industrial Printers

Industrial print is a hard segment to nail down since it encompasses so many different and diverse areas. On Nov. 11, Insight Days will be focused on this dynamic market.

During the day, three moderated panels will focus on this segment’s opportunities and challenges. In the first panel, Steve Duccilli, brand director for Wide-Format Impressions, will dive into the breadth and depth of the industrial print market, highlighting the specialized technologies this segment is built on. Following this panel, Duccilli will take a look ahead at where the industrial print market is going. In this panel, three industrial printing business owners will discuss this segment and how their businesses have changed and evolved.

Closing out the day, the focus will shift to the interior decoration market. There’s so much more to the home décor market beyond wallpaper, but what applications are best suited to one’s business? In this session, Gustavson will talk with leading business owners about their view of the home décor segment and their outlook for the near term.

For Digital Textile Printers

With interest in the digital textile printing market on the rise, Insight Days has one full day, Nov. 12, dedicated to this segment. Leading off the day will be a session on how to build a successful digital textile business from the ground up. Running this business isn’t just a matter of installing a new press and running fabrics through it. Beyond having the right equipment in place, printers need to know what types of products they are going to produce.

When it comes to digital textile printing, what is “good enough” color? As more brands begin to venture into digital textile printing and experiment with what the technology can provide — from fashion, to home décor, and beyond — how can print service providers ensure jobs are the right color every time? This session will focus on the considerations when printing on textiles, and how color can be matched across not only different fabrics, but to other substrates as well.

For All Print Providers

Workflow and software needs are two things that span every market segment. In a day dedicated to the topic on Nov. 6, attendees will get a deep dive into the current workflow and software landscape, and will have the opportunity to explore Web-to-print workflows and color management.

Today’s newly different business conditions make the use of online sales and ordering a necessity for many printing businesses. In the first panel session of the day, attendees will learn essential strategies and lessons from a cross-segment panel of printing business owners.

For many businesses, managing color within just one platform can be a challenge, but how can one manage color — and client expectations — when dealing with multiple analog and digital platforms? Ray Weiss, director of digital print programs for PRINTING United Alliance, will lead a panel of industry experts to discuss how to effectively manage client color expectations.

And in addition to the daily educational program, there will be more than 30 on-demand sessions available throughout the Insight Days event. Topics include:
• Building Your Workforce: Promoting from Within
• Industry Outlook: Voice of the Printer
• Innovative Approaches for Employee Health Care
• Top Trends in Print Technologies and Products
• Best Practices in Business Recovery
• Building Your Company Culture
• By the Numbers: KPIs, Metrics, and Ratios
• How to Research New Markets
• Key Strategies for Getting Paid
• Prospecting for Great Customers
• Staying Ahead of the Competition
• Taking Your Business to the Next Level

Nine on-demand sessions will also be dedicated to business growth and industry convergence. In each of these “101” sessions, Boer and David Zwang, principal consultant, Zwang & Company, will discuss the factors print providers need to consider when looking to start a new business unit or expand into a new market.

Anticipating better times ahead, PRINTING United Alliance invites exhibitors and attendees to mark their calendars for PRINTING United’s return to a physical venue at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., where the show will take place Oct. 6-8, 2021. Updates and FAQs about all PRINTING United events are available at

While 2020 has seen a number of challenges no one could have anticipated, there are still many bright spots to celebrate in the printing industry, with more to come as it moves into 2021. No matter how large or small an operation, the segment served, or types of customers, there is one thing that unites this industry: print is and will remain essential, and those who find new and innovative ways to turn unexpected challenges into new opportunities will be best positioned to lead the way as the economy and business starts to recover. And the PRINTING United Digital Experience is the perfect way to stack a proverbial toolkit with everything needed to make sure one’s business is among those coming out ahead. 

Sessions and speakers may be subject to change.

Denise M. GustavsonWith 20 years of experience in the visual communication markets, Gustavson has in-depth knowledge of the industry’s issues, challenges, and technologies. During her career, she has steered and implemented major brand updates for several industry publications, launched new publications into niche markets, coordinated successful multiyear award programs, managed a high-profile industry show daily featuring a complete multichannel approach, and successfully launched the first multichannel SGIA Expo Daily in 2017.
Also Tagged: ES Articles, FP Articles, GP Articles, Industrial Applications & Printed Electronics, Installation PDAA, IPDAA Articles, Journal Articles, SM Articles