Checking Back In on Printing Paper Supply Shortage

Christina Esparza, InfoIMAGE

Back in February, I had the pleasure of speaking with three commercial printing providers to see how they were experiencing, and what the were doing to mitigate the effect of, the ongoing paper shortage. That piece, “Printing Companies Share Their Experiences with Paper Shortages and What They’re Doing in Response”, was featured in Printing.

As the paper crisis is much more a moving target than a moment in time, I reached back out to one of the printers, Christina Esparza, VP of operations for InfoIMAGE, a transactional printer (locations in Coppell, Texas, and Brisbane, California) , to see how that company’s experience and approach has changed over the last three months.

In the Printing feature, you mentioned the cost for the standard uncoated stock you use had more than doubled. Have prices continued to increase since then, and by how much? What have you done in response to this?

“We are expecting another increase in paper costs for Q3. Our standard response is to plan for order volumes ahead of the increase to extend the window of best available rates. However, with paper allowances in place, this is no longer a viable option. Our next best tactical strategy is to reduce overages on any production runs and reduce run-off waste by consolidating batch runs to the greatest extent possible. These are strategies we intend to continue to deploy coming out of this event.”

You said in February that a bigger challenge than price was delayed deliveries. Have you seen any stabilization in that area? Has the situation gotten better or worse, and what have you done in response?

“We have continued to experience delayed deliveries and anticipate this to continue as supply chain issues and labor shortages are not abating. While we employ a just-in-time strategy for the most part, we have always retained a buffer for business continuity. We’ve had to dip into that buffer to off-set delays. We are now taking advantage of any additional inventory opportunities that present themselves. We are also creating space to accept any one-off shipments of inventory when they are available, so we have the buffer to carry us through an anticipated, extended delay.”

One of the things you mentioned before was that communicating with customers for more accurate paper-use projections and using strategies to minimize paper use, had been helpful. Have you had to tighten this strategy further? Are you getting a push-back from customers?

“Our clients have been very receptive to recommendations of shifting to “on-sert” message managing. They have also been open to switching from coated stock for marketing messages to uncoated. However, there is little anyone can do to address the regulatory communication inserts we print. These are mailed quarterly. In this space, we’ve continued to get the message out as best as we can for early planning and we rely on our vendor partners to assist us in producing some of this additional work.”

Between labor and supplies, a pandemic, and all that the world has delivered in the past few years, printers have had to dig deep, devising strategies to get them through, and perhaps, as Esparza mentioned, lead to permanent production improvement.

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