A new dawn for drupa? 

After 8 long years, drupa is officially back.

Senior account manager David Pittman shares his impressions of drupa 2024

Having concluded its first show in over eight years, drupa is officially back. Was it worth the wait? Was it a success? Can the time and costs be justified? Has print moved on beyond a trade show the size and scale of a drupa? Where does drupa go from here? 

‘Yes’, ‘no’, ‘maybe’, ‘not sure’. All are legitimate answers.  

To be honest, all of those questions and answers – and the many more floating around on social media and being written about by countless commentators and attendees – are highly subjective. I have of course seen and read the (literal) microscopic analysis of print samples collected from the show floor, listened to different quarters providing their considered viewpoints, seen and engaged with exhibitors celebrating a slog of a show’s work, and responded to numerous post-show snap polls on LinkedIn. 

Having had time to collect and consider my own thoughts, in my opinion, drupa stuck the landing.  

Having faced numerus obstacles since the last edition – the aborted move to a temporary three-year cycle, the impact and residual effects of a global health crisis, ‘that’ digital drupa, widespread consolidation and retraction in numerous print verticals, etc – the show was about what I was expecting it to be, perhaps even ever-so-slightly more than I could have justifiably hoped for. 

Was it as gaudy and gratuitous as previous editions? Not at all. Was it subdued? I didn’t think so. Did it set the industry alight as a hotbed of innovation, NPD and NPI? Not really. Were there new things to see and experience? Plenty (even with the cynical eye of an ex-editor). Were there examples of exaggerated claims made by exhibitors? Inevitably. Was there less machinery on show than previously? No doubt. Did digital dominate proceedings? It’s hard to say it didn’t. Did digital have the show to itself? Absolutely not. Did analogue print processes show themselves to be fighting fit for 21st Century manufacturing environments? With aplomb. Was packaging the market to gain most ground at drupa 2024? For sure. What about labels? That’s a market unto itself and somewhat tertiary to the drupa experience. Were process improvement and automation at the heart of much of what was interesting to see? For me, yes. Were AI and sustainability thrust in the face of attendees? No. Were they covered extensively across the halls as part of overall modern manufacturing techniques? Of course. Were attendees elbow-to-elbow, struggling to get around? In places and at times, but by and large no. Was the trade visitor attendance figure below expectations? I’d say so. Was there a noticeably large audience in attendance from across Asia? Yes. Is that representative of larger shifts in the market? Perhaps. Was the Altstadt heaving? Not that I experienced. Did exhibitors have a good show? From the feedback I’ve received, almost universally so. Was everyone happy? When are they ever!  

I could keep going, but you get the point. Rather than try and deconstruct drupa 2024 and pick apart its successes and failings, there’s a couple of top-level observations that I think could, would and should serve the show, exhibitors and attendees well in the future: 

Segment the show

Zones focused on key print markets, in commercial, packaging and other areas, would make drupa 2028 far easier to navigate (there’s ways to use certain vendors to bridge zones and draw attendees around the show).

Consolidate the floor plan

18 halls are too much and largely unnecessary in today’s operating environment. Would 15, 14 or even 12 halls be enough? I’d say so

Consolidate the schedule

11 days is also too much, having already come down from 14+. With fewer halls and visitor numbers in the 150,000-200,000 ballpark, seven days would do just fine by me.

Bring back carpet

Get that carpet back down the aisles, as all that walking on bare exhibition hall floors does nobody’s feet any favours.

I reiterate too the value of intangibility and those accidental meetings and anecdotal conversations we have all had at trade shows over the years. Many might just make you feel good but more than some will inevitably pave the way to business success. Afterall, business-to-business is people-to-people at its heart, and without that lifeblood we’re all just investing in big, expensive paperweights. Is that the drupa paradox in a nutshell? Without the show there’s no people but without the people there’s no show?

Overall though, I’m happy with how drupa 2024 went. There’s room for improvement, of course, but as a litmus test to see if drupa can still exist in 2024 and beyond, the response would appear to be yes.

One last question: will I be there in 2028? Absolutely.

See you then.

Posted by: Admin