2023 Predictions for the Labelling Industry
With nearly thirty years of working in the labelling and barcoding industry – we’ve put together our predictions for what you’ll see happening this year.
More progress with digital printing
Digital printing is like printing with a desktop inkjet or laser printer – but on a larger scale. Digital printing means no need for traditional printing plates (plates are like the potatoes you would have used at primary school making potato print artwork). With digital there’s no mixing inks and no setup and cleaning the machinery between printing jobs. The result is a faster printing process and reduced setup costs. Digital printing also enables manufacturers to produce unique labels – for example with sequential serial numbers or unique competition codes on each label.
In 2023 more label makers are going to invest in digital label printing presses. Small presses are becoming more affordable and even the smallest of label printing operations will take the risk and buy a digital press. Continuing on the theme of digital printing, label makers who have already invested in a digital press will buy more powerful equipment – printing presses that are faster and and wider – competing better with traditional plate-based printing presses.
We’ll still see a rise in label material prices and the energy costs of running a factory will continue to go up – leading to rises in the price of labels. Our prediction is that prices won’t stabilise for another six months. Another factor affecting label pricing are the after-effects of the Finnish paper mill strike that lasted four months and ended in April 2022. Finland is Europe’s largest paper producer and it’s taken months for paper stocks to start to come back to normal – that is still having an influence on pricing today.
In April 2022 the UK’s plastic tax put more upward pressure on plastic labels – which will continue to influence label prices upwards for a few more months.
Supply Chain Disruptions
The supply chain disruption to electronics and thermal printers is still evident. One order for a thermal printer we placed in September 2021 is still awaiting delivery. Thermal printing hardware is still not plentiful and there have been price rises every few months from the major manufacturers. We’re hopeful that hardware stocks will return to normal by the middle of 2023, but we don’t think we will see any major price discounting.
The last part of our 2023 predictions includes the influence of the ongoing shortage of labour, not only here in the UK but around the industrialised world. We’ve seen this play out with recruiting staff for ourselves. We’ve been fortunate to find some great new recruits – the process just takes longer to find them. Much production work was performed by European migrants, but with access to low cost and willing migrants now blocked by Brexit there will be a push to raise productivity and automate.
We don’t see any evidence of the UK government inviting unskilled workers into the country and so we don’t see the workforce challenges changing significantly unless there is a recession that leads to lay offs and skilled workers being released into the workforce. Will we see a recession – our guess is probably yes. For how long? We’re planning for the majority of 2023, but some analysts think it may be shorter.
In summary, we do think the end of 2023 will be better than the end of 2022. Upward price influences that have been particularly acute in labelling (paper shortages and plastic taxes) will have worked through and prices will stay stable. The supply chain for electronics will become more free flowing but labour shortages will carry on through to the end of 2023.