(Read the original press release about this initiative here.) 


The print industry has been going through a major evolution since the introduction of digital technologies. This evolution has not just evidenced itself in the development of new equipment, it has also altered the way that print is manufactured and used and the applications for which it is used. In the past, the vast majority of print was manufactured by dedicated printing companies, publishers, and packaging converters, yet today, it is also being performed as an integral part of manufacturing in many fields.

Trying to identify and quantify this shift has been almost impossible since many of the definitions of print and printing technologies are maintained by organizations like the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC/GS1) that haven’t been properly updated in decades—and really don’t understand print anyway. As a result, companies like D&B and governmental groups like the Bureau of Labor Statistics that use that information to identify and value the print market have either given up on getting accurate data or developed non-standardized workarounds. This is not just a U.S. problem; it is endemic around the globe, since there has been no printing specific group involved in identifying the breadth of the industry and the applications for which printing is being used, or tracking the new methods being used in a standardized way. 

Print Taxonomy Initiative

Under the guidance of Marco Boer, Vice-President of IT Strategies, and David Zwang, President of Zwang & Co., PRINTING United Alliance, the most comprehensive member-based printing and graphic arts association in North America, is drafting an “open” standard taxonomy for the global printing industry. This will bring together the various global printing taxonomies currently in use by the various organizations, printing trade associations, and private companies under one consistent and comprehensive taxonomy that will be available to all. 

Working with the various industry stakeholders, educators, including PRINTING United Alliance members who use proprietary and legacy terminology, we will create a real-world taxonomy that not only represents the industry today, but is structured to evolve as the print industry continues to expand. The structure will allow classifications to cross over into adjacent application spaces, an important issue as printing systems can be utilized for applications they were not originally intended to address.

Advisory Committee

Since print applications are expanding and changing, it is important to ensure that experts and stakeholders in the various print disciplines are involved in the creation and validation of the taxonomy. To formalize this, there is a charter that sets out the rules and member responsibilities along with a process to arbitrate what terms to include/exclude. The committee will be comprised of approximately 40% print providers, 40% OEMs, and 20% consultants and educators that are appointed for a specific term limit to keep it fresh and open. This advisory committee, along with focused sub-committees, will be an ongoing effort since it is also crucial that there is a way to maintain this taxonomy going forward, so the industry doesn’t find itself in the same position in a decade or more. This is an honorary position, but one of great contribution and influence on the printing industry.

Why Is This Initiative Important for You?

In general, it will identify how the printing industry’s inadequate representation is costing the printing industry billions of dollars in opportunity cost. The effort will address the inability for printing customers to easily and consistently search and discover ever-expanding print options; the inability of the Bureau of Labor Statistics or Census Bureau to comprehensively roll up print market data or drill down for more details; and the difficulty to calculate the full economic contribution of the printing industry to the economy, which has allowed the narrative of the value of print to become distorted.

In short, if you are an OEM, it helps give you a way to identify markets that might make a good development investment. If you are a service provider, it can help you decide where there are opportunities for growth and expansion.

Join the Advisory Committee

By the end of March we will be establishing the Standards Committee comprised of various printing industry stakeholders, including print providers, converters, and equipment and supplies manufacturers that will be tasked with helping to create and validate the taxonomy roadmap that can be adopted into global and US systems. Those interested in applying to participate in the Advisory Committee should contact [email protected] or [email protected].