Drop in 2012 Production Placements offers insight into the differences between U.S. and Europe

Ralf Schlozer
Apr 26, 2013

InfoTrends recently published the United States and Western European digital production placements numbers and market shares. As every observer of the world economy would have guessed the latest numbers are less than stellar. 2012 was not as bad as when the financial crisis of 2008/2009 hit the markets, but most segments declined with only a few product segments showing growth.

Overall installation numbers for digital production printing devices in the U.S. and Western Europe declined by 6.6% to 114,792 units in 2012. This is less of a reason for concern however, as we expected a decline in entry level devices which have a large share of the overall installations – in line with the declining number of small print establishments like copy shops, quick printers and CRDs (More details can be found in our establishment sizing reports for U.S. and Western Europe). After all, low-end devices produce little print volume anyway. We had already observed that with the production digital copy/print market maturing there is a shift towards higher volume devices, competing more and more for higher run lengths. To some extent that shift continued in 2012, although some high-end segments declined as well. For example the heavy production colour segment (1M to 10M duty cycle range) declined by 20%. A drop in this segment was not unexpected due to the drupa impact and for reasons within the product portfolio, but it was amplified by the difficult economic situation as well.

The surprise is that there were noticeable differences between the U.S. and WE placement trends. While light production colour (101-300k duty cycle) and especially mid volume colour (301-999k duty cycle) did well in Europe, U.S. placements plummeted. The high-end colour segments in the U.S. did better and showed strong growth in colour continuous feed inkjet (>10M duty cycle), while Europe disappointed. There is a similar picture in black & white. European placements for lower performance multi-function peripherals (MFPs) increased in an unexpectedly strong fashion while there was a sharp decline in the U.S. market. On the other hand single-function (SF) cut-sheet production printers, typically more pricey devices used for higher volumes, did much better in the U.S. than in Europe.

We know there are differences in vendors and models active in both geographies. We also recognise that there are differences in the sales channels as well but this can only explain a small part of the differences in the 2012 performance. The main factor seems to be how both markets try to cope with the economic challenges. European end-users tightened their budgets and invested in lower priced light to mid-production devices. The on-going debt crisis not only limited investment budgets, but also directly hit financial institutions, a main user group for colour continuous feed inkjet devices. In the U.S., light and mid-production devices suffered as small businesses stopped investing, with the number of printing sites declining by 12% in the last 6 years. Larger companies however are more apt to streamline production, lower costs, and improve the break-even point relative to other print processes by investing in highly productive production printing hardware.

Many more details on production copying/printing trends and vendor market share can be found in our two recently published reports:
U.S. Production Printing and Copying Market Placements: 2009-2012
Western Europe Production Printing and Copying Market Placements: 2009-2012

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