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How to Handle a Paper Shortage

April 5, 2022 In Industry News

For years, consumers have dealt with what seems like an endless series of product shortages – and unfortunately, that series isn’t over yet. Across the US, the printing industry is experiencing a paper shortage, which has the potential to become one of the most consequential shortages of the pandemic.

This recent shortage is the result of a perfect storm of sharp decreases and increases in demand. In 2020, paper sales stalled while our world closed businesses, canceled conferences, and encouraged employees to work from home. In return, paper manufacturers, many of which are located in Asia, reduced or even stopped production. The following year, demand for paper rose suddenly as the economy recovered, and the industry has struggled to keep up due to increased pulp prices, international shipping delays, and other issues.

Recently, several paper manufacturers have announced that they are experiencing extended lead times, while others are actually turning new business away until the supply chain steadies and they have the bandwidth to accommodate new projects.

The shortage is affecting businesses across the globe, from local printers here in the US to Finnish paper mills, which are currently dealing with a workers strike. It may be months before the industry returns to normal production and inventory levels, so it’s important for your organization to develop plans to work around a short supply of paper now.

Affected Materials

While the shortage has reached businesses far and ride, not all paper products have been affected. So far, certain specialty products have encountered the most delays, particularly semi-gloss and glassine paper, according to Printing Impressions. In addition, label grade products, such as coated paper, thermal transfer paper, and adhesive, have also been in short supply.

These items are used frequently by retailers to create product labels that stores need to track inventory and complete purchases. Without them, everything from package deliveries to prescription medications could be affected. Thankfully, with quick actions and resourceful strategies, businesses can avoid these worst-case scenarios.

Proactively Identify Alternatives

As your business navigates the paper shortage, prepare to be flexible with the specific materials used for your upcoming projects. If the paper you typically select isn’t available when you need it, consider trying a different brightness, weight, or finish. Small variations in these details shouldn’t significantly impact your finished product and may allow your order to be completed on time. To further conserve resources, your organization could also reduce the physical size of each print in order to use fewer sheets of paper overall.

During this shortage, it’s critical to give your print partner as much time as possible to fulfill your order. Tight timelines combined with minimal resources will often lead to extended delays. Instead, start planning print campaigns farther ahead, and try to finish any internal reviews sooner than you normally would. Even a few extra days will help your printer find time in their schedule to complete your project before your deadline.

On that note, when your campaign is ready to head to the printer, be sure to act quickly. These days, the quote you receive for a print project may only be good for a day or two. If you wait any longer to submit the order, their paper inventory may be gone, or the price of materials may have changed again. To lock in the quoted price, your project must be ready to be submitted the same day.

Above all, remember that when in doubt, consult a print industry expert. Your local printer will be able to guide you through the paper shortage, helping you identify alternative paper choices or other small changes that can ensure your project is completed on time. If you’re looking for more advice on how to navigate the shortage, shoot us a message or reach out to a local printer in your area.