The days after a trade show are always about the three Rs – rest, relaxation and, most importantly, reflection. I have just returned from a great week at Hunkeler Innovationdays 2023 in Lucerne, Switzerland and before I’ve even unpacked, I can’t help but think about everything I’ve seen, the people we met and the response of our customers, partners and visitors to everything we had to show them.
For anyone unfamiliar, it’s probably a good idea to explain what this important event is all about. Hunkeler AG specialises in high performance machines for printing, finishing and paper processing, and every couple of years they host an event for the commercial print industry. Some 6000+ high-end digital print specialists converge at the Lucerne Exhibition Centre to talk tech, share expertise and network, making Hunkeler a rather big deal for the printing world.
This year was even more important, as it was our first major production print show since the pandemic. And as we took residence in our booth (the second largest, next to that of Hunkeler themselves), we quickly realised just how incredible it was to be face-to-face with our customers, partners and colleagues again. Even on day one, everyone seemed certain that this event was shaping up to be huge and this was soon confirmed by Hunkeler, who estimated there were even more visitors in 2023 than at the last event in 2019.
There was another equally important and valuable shift in the conversation at Hunkeler this year. When you attend these kinds of events with any kind of regularity, you tend to quickly spot the trends and shifts in priorities. One season it might be ‘efficiency’, the next ‘productivity’ and so on. This time, however, visitors to our booth were carefully considering how several business priorities fed into their bigger picture. They came to us to see our technology, of course, but were also interested in business innovation, opportunities for growth and crucially, how to achieve it in a sustainable way.
It's understandable. Right now, it’s a period of significant challenge and change for businesses everywhere – not just in print. Keeping up with shifts in consumer behaviour can be overwhelming and the near-constant need to look at the big picture, while still keeping on top of the detail, is almost an art form. It’s a story we heard a lot and had plenty of conversations around the pressures of changing demands, supply chain problems and the ever-increasing expectations of customers. They reported feeling pressured to deliver high levels of flexibility and faster turnarounds, but for a lower cost. It feels obvious to us that these businesses want and need change but are at a loss as to what this looks like and how to begin.
You might have heard the expression ‘no one is an island’ – it’s true. Going it alone, especially in business, is not only stressful, but really limiting. You can only know what you know, after all. So, I certainly felt honoured that people were reaching out to us to have these important discussions. As a result, one of my biggest takeaways from Hunkeler was not just the critical need for partnership and collaboration in the industry, but how it must be built right into the heart of business models. It seems to me that when you team up with others who have knowledge where you might not – and vice versa – that the big picture I mentioned earlier quickly becomes clearer, you can start to confidently reimagine how your business operates. Before you know it, you can see what technology is needed for investment, where you can scale and how you might meet your customers’ needs without compromising your own.
I also found myself talking about other beneficial knock-on effects of this kind of collaboration. And it was something our visitors mentioned frequently – sustainability. It had become clear to many of them that you can’t put the cart ahead of the horse when it comes to sustainable operating practices. You need to rethink how you operate and find new ways of doing things to see where there are better ways of using resources more efficiently or reducing waste. Overall, it’s a bit like painting a picture – nothing can begin if you don’t have a canvas or paint. But equally, you need tools and skills to make them sing, and these all come from different places and are learnt from different people (and like painting, there’s often a bit of trial and error!) But when everything is in place – wow! It’s a work of art.
After such a hectic and productive week at Hunkeler, I think the whole team definitely deserve to put their feet up. But if I’m honest, I’m also buzzing about the future. Not only from the discovering such an appetite for positive change in our beloved industry, but for the getting back into the rhythm of spending time with our customers, partners and industry friends. FESPA is coming in May, and next year is drupa, which is the one of the world’s biggest print events and always a source of great excitement for everyone at Canon. When there’s so much to look forward to, it’s hard to relax – but I’m sure a nice cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit will do the trick.
Learn even more about how we helped our customers to ‘Make It Future-proof’ at Hunkeler Innovationdays 2023.