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4 Tips to Understanding and Navigating the Paper Shortage in a Pandemic


When COVID 19 struck in early 2020, none of us truly knew what to expect, and what was to come. Trips to the store only to find empty shelves: no toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning wipes, etc. We all knew it was bad, but no one knew how long the repercussions of a pandemic were going to last. Over a year and a half later, we still are seeing disruptions within the supply chain, and these are trickling down and affecting things as simple as printing.

When COVID hit, events were canceled and restaurants were forced to close, which reduced the need for many printed materials. Due to this change in demand, many paper mills shifted to the demands of our economy. According to this article recently written by Today, paper manufacturers began producing cardboard to fulfill the need with more online orders. In addition to mills shifting focus to other products, some plants closed their doors and cut staff. This, with a few other factors I am going to outline below, has resulted in a paper shortage.

We at The Brandon Agency are experiencing this firsthand with our in-house print shop and managing additional printing for our clients. This blog outlines four areas of focus to keep in mind for success amidst this nationwide paper shortage.

1. Prepare for Continued Cost Increases

Basic economics of supply and demand play a significant role in why the costs of paper is going up. With plants closing, fewer workers, and scaled back operations, supply is down. With places beginning to open up and resume as close to normal, print demand is rising. According to this article from Marketplace, paper cost is up to 50% more than it was this time last year, which is no surprise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that wood pulp, which is a material used to produce paper, has gone up 50.2% in the last year alone. With our current shipping and supply chain situation, we will continue to see increases. Paper being produced in other countries and shipped to the U.S. is currently sitting on cargo ships in the ports. So until that begins to level out, many are speculating that costs will continue to increase.

2. Plan, Plan, And Plan Some More

With the future of paper availability so unknown, planning ahead is always best. Work with your account manager to plan out deadlines, and allow room for delays, as they can be factors to consider. Your account team will work with the production team to put together a production schedule and timeline to ensure success. Also keep in mind turnaround time. With a shortage of workers, print facilities may not be able to turn jobs as fast as they have in the past. Thankfully, with our internal print shop, we are fully equipped and staffed. Shipping delays are another consideration to plan for. USPS has a newsroom where you can read about the latest delivery issues and service updates. Most of our standard letter and postcard mailings have not been impacted with delivery times, but packages are expected to take longer.

3. Be Flexible

With limited paper, we have limited stocks available. So we may not be able to print on the same brand of paper we normally print on, but will print on a comparable stock. In the environment we are in, you have to take what you can get. Selection of paper is very limited, and with the limited availability, it’s also important to see when it can be delivered. If a mill has the paper, but can’t get it to you when you need it, it isn’t relevant.

4. Be Prepared

Be prepared to be flexible with the timelines. As I mentioned above with planning, if a vendor’s print schedule is full, and they are short staffed, they may not be able to turn a job as quickly as they have in the past. Also, with the hard costs of paper going up, be prepared to pay more for the finished product.

If you need help managing print projects, or are interested in learning more about our print services, contact us, and our team of experts will help you every step of the way.

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