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Connect with the fourth industrial revolution

Wednesday, 24 January 2018
By Jake Nelson

‘Move with the window of opportunity’: Guy Gecht, CEO EFI, kicks off the 2018 Connect conference.

EFI Connect 2018 has kicked off at Wynn Las Vegas with the keynote address from Guy Gecht, CEO. Gecht urged printers to get on board with the “fourth industrial revolution” or be left behind.

Speaking to a packed conference hall at the Wynn, Gecht took the audience through EFI’s 30-year history and demonstrated how much the ‘third industrial revolution’ – the advent of digital technology – had changed the world during that time.

He warned that the companies which had survived the digital transition were largely the ones that had changed and adapted to new business models. “Today, we’re about to face the storm of the fourth industrial revolution,” he said. “In the past, people who moved with the window of opportunity benefited a lot more. People who stayed where the industry was disappeared over time.”

The fourth industrial revolution will revolve around artificial intelligence (a theme of Gecht’s keynote address at last year’s Connect conference), robotics, and big data. “Print is going to get a lot stronger because of the fourth industrial revolution,” said Gecht, pointing to mass personalisation, adaptive design and targeted marketing as areas where this new technology could help print excel.

Along with this new industrial revolution came EFI’s new definition of print. “Print is no longer just a document, no longer just publishing – it encompasses every material in the world that needs to have images placed on it,” said Gecht. “If we as an industry embrace that, there are bigger opportunities and much bigger markets in it than we’ve ever had before.”

Gecht mentioned packaging as an example of this, comparing today’s shipping boxes to old-fashioned black-and-white TVs and suggesting that in future, boxes could be printed digitally in full colour with advertising or other material to appeal to the customer. “10 years from now, when we celebrate EFI turning 40, whoever’s going to be on stage is going to ask how many people remember when boxes were in black-and-white,” he said.

The two enabling platforms for print to enter Industry 4.0 will be inkjet and smart automation, Gecht said, calling inkjet the only print technology where operators don’t need to touch the material while smart automation reduces touchpoints even further. “Those two platforms are key, those are what EFI is focusing on – not by accident,” he said.

Summing up, Gecht offered some words of wisdom from print guru Frank Romano, advising printers to embrace digital print beyond paper, define and excel in new markets, and cut costs without cutting quality. “The new areas of printing that come with this fourth industrial revolution are substantially larger than we’ve ever seen before, and we’re pretty sure that print is far from over.

“The virtual world is meeting the physical world,” he said.

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