Editor David Pittman kicks off 2024 with a look back at drupa’s recent past and ponders its future

Whilst 2024 will mark eight years since the previous edition of drupa, it would have only been five had Messe Düsseldorf’s earlier plans for the show gone ahead.

Back in 2015, a meeting was held at which the decision was made to move drupa to a three-year cycle following the 2016 exhibition. This was proffered as a response to a changing industry and rapidly evolving process chain. Moreover, it meant the print-orientated drupa and interpack, a dedicated packaging show, would not have clashed in 2020.

This decision was met widely with condemnation by the supply chain and drupa’s exhibitors, resulting in the decision not to meddle with the show’s four-year cycle and return to a 2020 date. The rest, as they say, is history. Postponed editions of both interpack and drupa in 2020, an aborted attempt to have the show run in 2021, and that ‘virtual drupa’; the ‘Olympics of the print industry’ has had a chequered past over the last few years.

Whilst interpack staged a largely successful return last year, drupa will be the last of the big print and packaging exhibitions to make its post[1]Covid comeback. It will also likely be the one to feel the biggest impact of the pandemic, with the reformation of supply chains and overhauled R&D, NPD and NPI cycles changing the needs and wants of show exhibitors and attendees alike. No longer do suppliers need to wait for a prespecified date in the diary to launch a product, rather they can launch them as and when appropriate. Nor must attendees head to a specific stand at a set time and gather to see a shiny new piece of equipment for the first time. That’s not to say that won’t happen at drupa 2024, but it will inevitably be far less prevalent and is a challenge for a show of the size and scale of drupa.

What does this mean for drupa? I’ll refrain from speculating about exhibitor and attendee numbers but will state the need to drive participation beyond the mechanical. Process improvement, education and supplementary content will become the hallmark of all print and packaging exhibitions in the future, of that I’m sure. We’ve already seen this at Labelexpo shows. Printing United has its convergence play and uses the power of education and community to bring various print verticals together. Easyfairs already makes education and information a central part of its packaging show programmes. drupa is, and already was to some degree, following suit.

I’m excited to experience this change and see what the new-age of drupa has to offer. I look forward to meeting you in the Messe Düsseldorf halls.

This editorial leader was first published in the January-February 2024 issue of Digital Labels & Packaging; register here to receive future issues of the magazine