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Supply Chain Challenges Affecting the Print Industry

Supply chain challenges affecting the print industry.

Effects on the supply chain have resulted in increased costs on major materials used by the printing industry.

To get a glimpse into why these pressures are affecting the supply chain, we need to look at where they began.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a decrease in consumer demand which slowed production down and led to manufacturers laying off employees and reducing operations.

The world then began to open back up and the supply chain was not ready to meet the skyrocketing demand.

With limited supply and higher than usual demand, manufacturers have increased their prices. As a result, print companies are having to raise their prices and are facing interruptions in supply including major materials like ink, paper, printing supplies, and more.

Let’s discuss these current supply chain issues involving higher prices and limited materials along with what you can do about these changes.

Paper supply chain changes.


Paper prices are climbing for so many reasons. USPS changes, paper shortages, high demand for paper, and the increase in transportation costs are only a few of the many reasons paper is a leader in the supply chain challenges.

Looking at how things changed from the height of the pandemic to now, is a major key in understanding why there is a shortage in supply of paper.

While many businesses were forced to shut down or slow down, there was a decrease in the need for marketing materials like catalogs, brochures, or even newspapers. Everyone was at home and shopping online.

Now with many businesses back open, running, and eager to grow, print marketing materials are in high demand, and the materials to produce them are scarce.

For commercial printers, the biggest issue for paper has been the need to increase their prices and the difficulty in finding specialty papers for custom orders. And if they can find them, they are taking longer to arrive and are priced higher than ever before.

With that being said, while printers are being forced to raise their prices, it’s important to try and stay with your printer's standard paper options. This is because your printer regularly orders these paper stocks and stores them in-house, so they are always ready. Along with this, your printer’s standard or “preferred stocks” will always be cheaper than the specialty paper options.

Ink supply chain challenges.


Printing ink has been affected in the same way paper has been.

Increase in transportation costs, roller coaster in demand, and supply chain constraints have all played a role in the increased price of ink.

In general, base inks or the typical vegetable-based inks that printers use every day and on almost every order are beginning to experience some delays. Specialty inks and coatings are becoming very scarce and more difficult to find.

This means that when you order a custom product that involves specialty inks or coating like aqueous coatings, you will want to plan and place your order much earlier than you usually would to avoid any delays. Keep in mind that planning and ordering earlier is a good practice for standard projects as well.

Labor shortages affecting the supply chain.

Labor Shortages

We’ve all seen an increase in the number of “Now Hiring” signs posted on the outside of what seems to be every other building we pass by.

The difficulty in finding new employees isn’t just hitting small businesses, it’s hitting the mail carriers, paper mills, ink manufacturers, transportation services, and more. With a decrease in staffing and an increase in demand, delays are inevitable. In fact, just in North Carolina, there was an audit that found more than a billion pieces of mail were delayed in just a 3-month span because of staffing issues.

Supply chain challenges affecting turnaround times.


Orders have been coming in at a rapid speed due to trade shows and events being back up and running, more companies learning about the benefits of print and direct mail, and in general businesses just running their operations and marketing campaigns more normally compared to during the peak of the pandemic.

Because of the influx of projects coming in on top of the supply chain delays, many printers have included flex days to give their production team enough time to accommodate these changes.

Delivery delays.


Because of the current circumstances, orders are arriving later than expected. The USPS has increased their flex days, including all first-class letters, flats, and mailers like catalogs or magazines will go from 1–3-day delivery to 1-5 days. And with the increase in consumers and businesses ordering, and the shortage of drivers and trucks, orders aren’t guaranteed to arrive when expected. In fact, they expect to deliver less than 88% of First-Class Mail on time.

Because the USPS is a printer’s carrier and not part of the turnaround time, the only thing your printer can do is work hard to make sure the turnaround is what you need and help you track where your project is once it has left their facility. Because of this, it is even more important to plan and place orders earlier than needed to make sure your print project or direct mail materials arrive when you need them to and not later.

Supply chain shortage involving materials used in print production.

Production Supplies

Supplies used during production including cartons, banding materials, pallets, plastic wrap, etc. are all in short supply.

This is because the manufacturers who printers receive these materials from are having trouble acquiring the raw materials they need to produce these needed supplies.


Prices are climbing due to the supply chain challenges.

Inflation is all around us. Your favorite meal from your favorite fast-food restaurant is now more expensive than it was a few months ago. The same thing is happening to the materials printers use to produce your projects. Paper, ink, etc. Everything is now more expensive, and those prices are predicted to climb even more within the year.

Because of this, printers have to increase the prices of their products so they can keep running their business smoothly.

This may mean that a project you’ve ordered in the past with your printer may have a higher price now if you decide to reorder it. So, be sure to ask your printer about other options if the new prices don’t match your budget.

Challenges involving freight.


There is an increase in shipping needs across every industry and with this increase, there is also a shortage of transportation trucks and drivers inevitably causing the reliability of deliveries arriving on time to decrease significantly.

How to Avoid Delays and Higher Prices

Ask About Your Options

It all begins with what you need. If you have a certain budget and timeline and are wondering if your current idea or past orders will accommodate your budget and goal during these changes, then talk with your printer. They have the knowledge and are working hard to provide every option possible for their customers and can help you find a better solution.

Don’t forget to be very clear with your printer about your needs. The more details you provide, the more they will be able to help you find the best possible strategy to get the product, service, and arrival date that you need.

Free Resource: Paper Sample Book

Stick with The Standards

Standard or “preferred stocks,” will always be cheaper and available faster. This is because these paper options are regularly ordered by your printer which means they will always be on hand and ready to go when you are ready to place your print order.

Ask your printer about a free paper sample booklet as well. Keeping this booklet handy is always useful so you can see and feel the different stocks before placing your order. Keep in mind that these standard stocks featured in the booklet are going to be more cost-friendly. This goes for standard sizes as well—the sizes listed on each product page--because printers always have their machines ready to make those standard cuts.

Start Planning Now and Order Early

The next step is to get a quote. Even if you don’t need your order for another few months, get your quote now. Even better, place your order now. The prices are the cheapest they will be for some time, so placing your order earlier will not only save you money but will ensure that your order doesn’t arrive later than you need.

If you are planning a direct mail marketing campaign, still place your order earlier. Placing it at least a week before you otherwise would is a good rule to follow.

Don’t forget to let your printer know if you have a deadline you need to reach or a certain “deliver by” date so they can help you choose the best turnaround and shipping method.

Stay Up To Date

Although we remain hopeful as we wait for things to go back to normal, there currently isn’t an end in sight. Prices will continue to climb, shortages aren’t expected to change, and delays are inevitable for the time being. With that being said, it is important to stay up to date with your printer. They will inform you of any changes and will help you in any way that they can.

For more information click below. We at Conquest Graphics have created a page to help you stay informed on all the changes affecting the print industry along with some ways you can keep running your marketing efforts smoothly.

Learn More Today!

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