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Printing Industry Challenges and Strategies

Paper Shortages and Printing Industry Challenges and Strategies

The supply chain squeeze may have started with toilet paper, but it’s far from being over—and one area it’s continuing to affect is the print industry. Paper shortages are a major challenge, with the effects spilling over into businesses in all markets. In this article, we share what you need to know about current and projected paper shortages—and how to plan ahead. 


Current paper shortage problems

Let’s start by looking at the “paper trail” of the present supply chain challenges in the print industry. Supply chain disruption in paper production may have started during the pandemic—for paper as well as myriad other industries—but other factors have come into play. According to industry analysis, these include a spike in demand after recent years of steady decline; the 2021 Gulf Freeze that exacerbated raw material shortages, including paper; high oil and gas prices; and labor shortages. In effect, the paper shortage is the result of a material crunch as well as distribution delays.


It also stems from an emphasis on “just in time” delivery, which the industry had shifted to before the onset of the pandemic. Storing and managing paper inventory can be costly, so printers had decreased the amount of paper they had on hand in recent years. Instead, they relied on wholesale vendors to warehouse inventory and deliver paper within days (or even hours) of running a contracted print job. This model worked well, until the kind of events we’ve seen since 2020 put kinks in the supply chain.


So, where do we go from here? Even paper industry experts are not sure when shortages will end. Initially, 2021 disruption was expected to continue into mid-2022, and here we are at year-end with tentative projections that pressure will begin to ease by spring 2023. Across industries, savvy business leaders are monitoring shortages, coordinating closely with suppliers and vendors, and reconsidering global supply chains in favor of more regional models.


Paper sourcing is not the only industry challenge affecting the print industry—and, by extension, your marketing plans, especially with the holiday season upon us. In February, the consumer price index hit a 40-year high. Rising costs result from increased prices for raw material, packaging, transportation, and more—and they are straining budgets, including marketing and print production.


As mentioned earlier, labor shortages are also affecting production timelines. Along with many other industries, the direct mail and paper sectors are struggling with staffing, from transportation to skilled employees and pressroom operators. 


What your business can do about paper shortages

Now that we’ve gotten the tough news out of the way, what can your business do to be proactive about paper shortages and production delays? Here is our advice.


First and foremost, it’s essential to work with a reputable and experienced professional printer. When you do, you’ll have a partner who understands what is going on in the industry and can help you avoid or address challenges to keep your marketing on track. A reputable professional printer can help by:


  • Staying on top of emerging trends. Printing is our business, and it’s our business to know what’s going on in every corner of the industry. A professional printer will monitor trends to keep you informed on what’s possible—and what a reasonable production timeline is for your needs.


  • Making appropriate substitutions. As paper experts, we already know what alternatives we can use that are appropriate for type of printing, color saturation, delivery and use, and other considerations.  


  • Ensuring security of supply. A professional printer has already vetted suppliers and distribution networks to ensure material availability. 


  • Managing complex production timelines. We’re experts in coordinating the incoming supply chain and building a production schedule that includes job setup, proofs, running the job, and accommodating delivery as you need it, whether via direct mail drop or to your event, office, or warehouse. 


  • Minimizing labor shortage risks. With dedicated staff to support customers, professional printers can ensure your job is completed on time.


Need more help? We’re here for you. At AlphaGraphics Wood Dale, we provide great choices at great prices. Remember, a free quote is just a click away. Or give us a call at 630-595-6800. We are conveniently located at 165 Hansen Court, Suite 111 in Wood Dale.  

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