SGI hosts first Knowledge Series event in Dubai


Well ahead of its next expo - Sign and Graphics Imaging show 2017, the organizers hosted a round- table at Shangrila Hotel on 8th September.


Round table discussions are a useful way of direct interaction with experts from different segments within the same industry.  Even though panelists may not have the same opinion on all issues, this healthy exchange of viewpoints has manifold advantages.
On the 8th September, organizers of the Sign and Graphics Imaging Show hosted a round table discussion for industry experts at the Shangrila Hotel. Participants inclluded:  Ayman Ali- professional products marketing manager, Canon ME; Jihad Abdeljalil -MD ME, Flex Europa; Panos Bartziokas -general manager GS/DE Agfa Graphics Middle East - Inkjet;  Elias Bekhaazi -manager - digital graphic systems division, Giffin Graphics;  Dilawar Dalwai, MD, Al Mahir Printing Equipment Trading;  Philippe Husni - GM, Heliozid Océ, Karthik Murugesan -sales manager, Emirates Computers, Giselle Olavario- sales & marketing, Jacky’s Business Solutions, and Drashty Saggar - marketing, Al Shabak General Trading.
Among the topics discussed were large format printing in the Middle East region, digital signage, textile printing and potential and  growth of 3D Printing.


Participants Included:
Abdeljalil from Flex-Europa ME; Ayman Ali from Canon; Bartziokas from Agfa; Bekhaazi from Giffin Graphics; Dalwai from Al Mahir; Husni from Heliozid Océ; Murugesan from Emirates Computers; Olavario from Jacky’s; Saggar from Al Shabak.

Large format printing in ME region
Ayman Ali said: “The signage industry is changing due to new trends in marketing and advertising campaigns  which have now meandered in the direction of social media, online and web shops, interactive digital signage among others. This is the full portfolio of signage in the current times, coming with the question of how effectively to mix print and digital signage. The main driver of signage is the retail segment and in the UAE there are new openings from the entertainment, tourism, exhibition industries. And therefore we need to fit technologies to requirements.”
    Agreeing with him, Panos Bartziokas added that the message needs to be conveyed effectively. The whole economy was mutating and suppliers need to identify the best ways to adjust and supply according to the requirements.
    Giving his opinion Karthik Murugesan  said that fused campaigns  was the current trend where there was no dependency or budget allocation for one particular medium of communication, but a mix of print and digital. 
   Elias Bekhaazi added perspective, saying: “The advertising market using static and digital large format signage has been slowing for a while  and most the (end - end users) customers of our end users (the printers) are facing reduced demand and orders only increase during mega events like Expo 2020.  Having said that, growth is expected but in certain technologies like LED screens and LED printers, recovery is expected but printed ad (static) will have higher demand.
     On the question, whether geographies determine trends, Aly said: “There are two main drivers - economy trend and population trend. As a rule, if the economy is growing, usually signage is also growing.”
    When exploring the answers to the question that many companies have started their own printng operations and this is eating into the market share of existing printers, Murugesan said that contrarily this trend is helping to expand the market.
    Giving the distributor perspective  on growth markets Jihad Abdeljalil  replied UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Digital Signage
Dilawar Dalwai said that new technologies call for additional investments. “When we discuss conventional and traditional printing, screen printing is often overlooked.  For small runs and quick output, we require digital printing which also requires higher investment.  While screen printing is an economical solution for larger volumes.” Giving his opinion, Abdeljalil  said that the next trend he foresaw was focused advertising through ipads and smartphones, and Aly added that every kind of advertising was required - static, digital or interactive, social media channels, emails.  “I believe static and printed signage is still growing.” 
    Murugesan explained: “Digital signage is a technological evolution which cannot be stopped. It has expanded the number of applications. These days it is time that is sold, and multiple products can  be sold in the same area.”

Impact of events like Expo, World Cup
On the topic of impact of events like Expo 2020 or the World Cup, participants were unanimous that there would be a spurt of activity, but a more sustained demand was required for the industry to grow.  Bartziokas said: “It does attract investment, but occasional events are more supportive to good psychology - we have seen it in the past with the World Cup South Africa, Olympics in Athens in 2004 and so on.  The big question is how do you address it afterwards?”  Aly added: “The UAE government is handling the Expo 2020 as a milestone event.  The spending on other projects boosts the economy, which in turn is good for many industries including signage.”  Most panelists also agreed that projects like Dubai Metro and expos like Cityscape and Gulfood served to boost the industry. Drashty Saggar added that the rulers had a vision not for the next couple of years, but for longer number of years, and this vision encourages the signage and other industries.


Panelists suggest that a dedicated area showing live demonstrations or a viewing gallery giving information and updates about new technology during the show would be helpful.

Textile Printing
Discussing the challenges facing textile printing, Bekhaazi said: “The challenge is not the printing process, but sourcing the materials.  The resources are limited to certain countries like India, Egypt or Pakistan. In our regions it is more expensive to produce the raw materials.”  On the textile printing front, Husni added: “In the fashion and garment industry we have a chance to do printing here, since local groups need immediate delivery. Its not a secret that Marks & Spencer was printing in Turkey earlier but is now printing in Sharjah Free Zone.”

Environment Friendly Practices
On the issue of encouraging environment friendly practices, both manufacturers and distributors felt that though much was spoken on and about the subject, essentially consumers were more interested in the price of the product.  Also, one point which everyone was agreeable with was, government regulation would go a long way in encouraging environment friendly practices in the choosing of materials or recycling. Husni said: “We have pushed a lot on ecological practices like use of water based inks and so on, but find strangely enough that at the end of the day, customers do not care much about all this, though they are the main beneficiaries.”
    Explaining the reason  Murugesan said: “According to me the main reason for this is that this industry in our region is an expatriate-driven industry.  So for him the environment takes a back stage and  costs or bottom line is more important. Only with regulation will decisions change in favour of  the environment.”
   Abdeljalil explained: “The recycling facilities are not adequate.  To sell in this region, 4 pre-requsiites are required - quality, service, credit and price. This is what the customer wants.”
      Giving a manufacturer perspective Aly added: “Yes, I agree we still have much to do on the environment front, but at the same time, I would like to say that a lot is already being done. The importance of reducing use of harmful chemicals is being felt and undertaken. The new generation is more conscious of the decisions they are taking.”
3D printing
Discussing the potential and reach of 3D printing, Murugesan explained: “3D printing has been around for years now, but there were few players then.  What has made 3D printing become more visible is the low cost, desktop products that have come into the market now, rekindling the interest of all industries about how this technology can be used more effectively.”   Abdeljalil said: “Fifteen years ago I saw a 3D printer that was making spare parts for Samsung. Now 3D printers are in labs and schools. The small printers are more consumer products for schools and there are 3D printers making spare parts for cars, dental industry and body parts.”
     Aly added: “This is the most disruptive technology in current times because it will change the manufacturing process in a major way, since it can produce on demand. One day, we might shift from mass production to individual pieces and manufacturing will move from different parts of the world like Tokyo, Netherlands or USA to local manufacturing. Non-availibility of spare parts is a challenge. Aerospace and car making companies are also using this technology to produce spare parts. Having said that the technology is evolving, and because of this we may not need warehousing any more. So now,  instead of stocking, we can produce as and when we require.”
      Olavario added: “At Jacky’s we are selling  a variety of 3D printers from Maker Bot, Stratasys for medical purposes, Concept Laser for jewellery, printers for aerospace, 3D illusions among others  working on different substrates.  We started with selling to the education and government sectors. The machine that we will be promoting at SGI next year is the screen machine for 3D effects for digital signage.”
      At the conclusion of the session, some participants suggested to the organisers of SGI to keep a dedicated area or even a gallery during the show to demonstrate new applications and techniques as a way of informing and updating visitors about potential uses of technology.