Artificial intelligence is the nucleus of the greatest disruption of our society since the invention of the letterpress by Johannes Gutenberg,” says Bernd Zipper, Chairman of the Initiative Online Print e.V.. “We are in the midst of a dramatic change in the world of work – fields of work and processes will change at a speed never seen before and revolutionise our society in the long term,” Zipper continues.

As part of the Spring Conference 2023, the members of the Initiative Online Print dealt intensively with the topic of AI, supported by Prof. Dr. Peter Posch from TU Dortmund University, and took a clear stand: “It is a misconception that AI is just a hype or a passing trend. Like the internet, which is the basis for our communication today, AI has already arrived in our everyday lives. We need to actively engage with the topic and develop our own starting points. This concerns all areas of trade and industry and of course also the printing industry,” explains Roland Keppler, board member of the IOP and CEO of Onlineprinters.

AI is the logical evolution of the online world

But just like the realisation that AI is here to stay, entrepreneurs need to be aware that AI will dramatically revolutionise the world of work and change fields of work and processes. New job fields, industries and services will emerge. For some tasks and in certain professions, AI can support and take away work. It will sometimes even be a way to counter the shortage of skilled workers and the challenges of an ageing society.

Identify impacts on customer channels at an early stage

The members of the Initiative Online Print agree that AI will be used and deployed as a tool in the future, just as it has long been with Google and Co. For online printers in particular, it is also relevant how artificial intelligence could change the search on the internet – after all, it takes a lot of effort to keep an online shop constantly in view and thus on the results pages of Google, Bing and Co. through intelligent SEO measures (Search Engine Optimisation). Sooner or later, this SEO could be eliminated because chatbots like ChatGPT always provide a direct answer.

Exploiting the opportunities of artificial intelligence

AI is here to stay, but there is no need to be afraid of this – only perceived – new topic. Because those who deal with it in detail will recognise the advantages and learn to appreciate them. Printers and especially online printers must see the opportunities offered by this revolutionary technology and seize them early. The only question is whether you will lead the way as a first mover in your industry or be left behind because you cannot or do not want to recognise the opportunities,” Bernd Zipper concludes.

In order to deal with the rapidly developing topic in more detail, the members of the IOP have decided to hold a summer camp in which they will further exchange ideas and evaluate the topic. The results of this summer camp will be published later in the year.

Ulrich Schätzl, IOP Board Member and Director Mass Customisation at Elanders Print+Packaging Group, summarises: “We as IOP recommend that online print entrepreneurs engage with AI by forming small teams to look at how to use AI in their own business. This requires experimentation and learning. Then these new insights need to be shared across the team so that interdisciplinary different players within the company (management, production, marketing, etc.) can all use these functionalities in the future. Above all, we need to learn and understand what the opportunities and risks of AI are.”

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