The challenges we face in printing during the Covid -19 Pandemic
It is becoming important, maybe now more than ever, to consult with your printer before starting a print project. The old phrase “times have changed”, could not be truer this year! As we step back into “normal,” there are new things to consider when planning a print project. Most notably, time and cost.
The pandemic has created special challenges for businesses: decreased revenue, money management, work/homelife balance, staffing, supply chain disruptions. The list is long- much more than what was shown- and slightly different for each individual business.
Two of the biggest contributors impacting your print job are supply chain disruptions and rising paper costs.
Manufactures have faced severe issues with reduced staffing during Covid-19. Many required social distancing on production lines or interruptions to manufacturing due to Covid outbreaks. Some continue to struggle to rebuild their workforce. As the country eases back restrictions, we still feel those delays in supply. Especially if any supply or component to supply comes from overseas! National shipping has faced massive challenges, but international/overseas shipping has created its own sea of challenges (pun intended!)
We have been extremely fortunate at Julin to manage the last 15 months with little disruption to manufacturing and our schedules. That is not the case for everyone and not the case for some of our suppliers. If you are planning a project that has critical timelines and is more complex than the average print project, it would be good to consult your printer before submitting files. They can make sure they are prepared for your quick turn.
Cost is another obvious factor to consider. If you have purchased lumber, gas, or anything really in the last few months, you know how prices have increased.
Paper is currently our largest component creating pricing increases. As Covid-19 began, paper demand dropped significantly – up to 75% in some segments. As much of the workforce and school-age children stayed at home, demand for education printing went to near zero, and office printing was close behind. As a result, many mills reduced or completely curtailed production causing mill inventories to drop to levels that had not been seen for years.
Furthermore, as Covid-19 was on the rise, consumers opted for home deliveries of even the most basic products, driving the need for corrugate boxes up. Mills converted operation to those in demand stocks, thus laying the groundwork for a decreased supply of printing papers. Mills are yet to recover from this supply challenge.
While paper mills have been hit by fluctuating demand for their products, the demand and price for pulp are at near-record highs. As the primary component for paper, it is a significant factor in rising costs.
One of the largest factors in the price escalation of paper and all other products (who hasn’t noticed the gas pump, food prices, and notably lumber) is the cost of transportation. Severe driver and truck and trailer shortages are major contributing factors.
Couple demand challenges with the rising cost of transportation, and mills simply cannot absorb these increases without increasing prices.
In short, if budget is a concern, proactively work with your printer to determine ways cost could be reduced. “How can I reduce my cost” is a question that has been asked since…well, always! Your printer is sure to have ideas to assist you on how to remain within your budget while maintaining a quality printed job.
*A special thank you to my friend, Scott Gasway at J.P.Gasway for contributing information on the current demands on the paper supply chain.