A watch with the word 'future' on it

Print and Industry Predictions 2022 from Sharp Europe

Offices across Europe are changing, evolving as they respond to the challenges of a post-pandemic world. Jason Cort, Director of Product Planning and Marketing at Sharp Europe, predicts the trends and behaviours of the print industry in the 12 months ahead. 

Print remains a staple part of the office landscape but as with any technology, needs and demands change. Therefore, we are constantly looking at how we can best serve our customers and partners, giving Sharp a keen insight into the trends of the industry. 

COVID-19 has had a serious impact on business strategies since 2020, forcing most with a digital transformation strategy in place to accelerate plans, while forcing those who had been previously reticent to change to adopt new ways of working. 

As we expected, while many of the solutions in 2020 were short-term focussed ‘quick fixes’, 2021 has seen many businesses continue to develop and refine upon these digital plans, and we certainly expect this trend to continue well into 2022 and beyond.

Looking Beyond Print in 2022 

The print industry is a mature market, and as such there are few major disruptions to the technology or the industry.  Rather, the knock-on effect of COVID-19 has been to accelerate trends which for the print industry could arguably be considered disruptive. As a result, the printer OEMs and resellers will have to bring forward their own business transformation plans necessary for long term prosperity.

That is not to say the industry isn’t changing. For example, across the board we are seeing that SMBs are increasingly looking to use fewer suppliers. At one time, multiple vendors would supply different parts of the equipment chain to a business.

We are seeing the continuing swing to the IT department managing an ever-increasing number of devices, with the add-on impact that they are now the purchasing power within an organisation. MFPs are a classic example of this. Once bought from an office supplier, now that the MFP is connected to the network, it falls into the realm of the IT department.  

Accelerating this move is the need for centralised security as SMBs are increasingly being targeted by cyber criminals. Hackers and bad actors are continually looking for opportunities and SMBs, as research shows, tend to lack the education or experience of larger organisations, and as a result, haven’t taken security as seriously as maybe they should have done. 

Therefore, many SMBs are looking to their IT provider to help fill that security gap. We see this as an ongoing trend.

Printing in The Cloud 

Another trend we acknowledged back in 2020 was the continued move away from the traditional IT infrastructure in favour of a reliance on the cloud. This is most typified by fewer customers now having print servers on site, preferring to rely upon a service provider to host and manage resources. 

In 2022 and beyond we fully expect to see the processing side of running a business, of any size, increasingly being orientated around the cloud. SMBs still have a responsibility to protect the data that is in those cloud systems, but if you look at large service providers, such as Microsoft and AWS, they are providing extremely secure cloud environments at scale and arguably, certainly more secure than many SMBs can afford to take on themselves. Although it must be remembered in the eyes of the regulators that security remains the obligation and responsibility of the SMB.

Another main driver for cloud is the financial aspect. The strength of cloud is that it’s a pay-as-you-go service, giving SMBs access to technology, both hardware and applications, that they otherwise wouldn’t necessarily get access too. 

Cloud is also helping the print industry evolve. New services around AI and Big Data are enabling vendors to optimise the support of MFPs in the field. By capturing the usage data of individual devices, predictive analytics can schedule preventative maintenance, or if there is an immediate issue, engineers can be sent out without the customer often being aware there is an issue. These services are increasingly available in the cloud, funnelling the customer base into the cloud environment, if they want to make the most of the latest technology. 

In the backend too data is proving a rich source of insight for manufacturers and device developers. Data can spot any potential weaknesses in product design or any anomalies in service performance - helping improve product design as well as the efficiency of the service deliver organisation. As a result, technology is enabling businesses on both sides to achieve more. This is a trend that shows no sign of slowing.  

The Green Print Revolution 

Social and Corporate responsibility is a huge trend we’re seeing gather pace, it’s something that is certainly making an impact on print strategies. 

In the public sector across the whole of Europe, questions are being asked of vendors around the programs they are putting in place to support the environment. Furthermore, our plans are to comply with future EU guidelines and potential directives around recycling and the circular economy. 

This is being mirrored by our customers. As millennials and Generation Z move more into organisations, they are more environmentally aware and responsible than possibly previous generations ever were. Therefore, as they gain greater influence in the workplace, the businesses we work with have greater demands and expectations around not just the circular economy but how we are acting around climate and environmental issues. 

For the print industry, how we produce, consume, share, lease, repair, refurbish and recycle existing materials and products for as long as possible is essential. For Sharp, this is a vitally important area that we continue to explore, working with our engineering teams in Japan to make sure that we are ahead of the curve in terms of corporate responsibility in printing.

If you would like to know more about how Sharp is helping businesses of all sizes make their digital transformation, or advance their green responsibilities, please Get in Touch.