A Tight Paper Market Demands a Disciplined Sourcing Strategy

In Article, Direct Marketing, Industry Issues, Inkjet User Story, Knowledge Base, Paper and Mediaby Karen WeilLeave a Comment

When Inkjet Insight contacted me about participating in their paper trends survey, I was reminded how lucky we are to be part of a community of competitors that works together to share information for the benefit of the industry. When the survey was published, I kept nodding in agreement as I read through the results. The feedback on paper types and supply trends for production inkjet was right on target.

It was also clear that print service providers are feeling the impact of the current market situation. Everyone agreed that costs are increasing; no one saw a decline in paper pricing for any grade in the last year. Delayed orders by mills are no longer the exception, but rather something that is impacting everyone at some point. Our solution to these challenges has been to do everything possible to maintain consistent products and processes to meet client needs. This approach builds a sourcing strategy that has enabled us to maintain the supply channel for a longer period than those who cannot build consistency or who describe their sourcing strategy as “ad hoc” or “whatever, whenever, however.”

Our Three-Step Approach for Securing Paper

One of the most interesting sections of the survey was titled, “Impact on Print Providers.” I was surprised to see that 42% of respondents said paper supply issues had no impact on their business. Since the survey said to “check all that apply,” I was not surprised to see almost half of the respondents (46%) reported having to reschedule jobs, one third (31%) lost jobs due to paper availability, and 23% lost jobs due to long lead times.

We have found the best way to keep these statistics from becoming even more ominous has been to help our clients implement a three-step approach to securing paper for their direct mail campaigns:

  1. Plan well in advance of need: The more lead time we have, the better opportunity we will have to obtain the preferred paper through our mill and merchant relationships.
  2. Be consistent in the volume and timing of marketing campaigns: Predictability is an advantage when tonnage is allocated and lead times are longer.
  3. Keep commitments: Ordering what is needed and needing what is ordered will smooth some of the market volatility and ensure we all have the paper we need available when we need it.

Communication is also key. Our sales executives continue to provide pricing updates as they occur in the market, timelines for individual projects, and constant reminders to order materials as early as possible.

If they haven’t already memorized it, print service providers should keep a copy of Elizabeth Gooding’s article, Mitigating Risk in the Paper Supply Chain, taped to their desks as a reminder of how to be successful in this very “dynamic” (that’s the polite word) market.

Standing by Production Inkjet

As dynamic as this market has been, we aren’t aware of work being moved from production inkjet to another platform because of the availability of paper. This may be a result of advances in inkjet equipment technologies that can produce quality results on a wider gamut of papers, including on some non-treated grades.

To weather the changing dynamics within the paper industry, production inkjet printers need to continue to share best practices, keep lines of communication open to paper suppliers and clients, and be engaged with the enhanced inkjet technologies that expand the types of papers available to us.


Karen Weil, Director of Procurement IWCO Direct

About Karen Weil: 

As Director of Procurement at IWCO Direct, Karen manages teams that oversee the company’s supply chain, identify cost-effective solutions, and source environmentally-friendly options for clients. She is also Chair of the IWCO Direct Environmental Council, a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Multi-Site Leader, and co-author of the company’s paper procurement policy, which addresses the entire paper lifecycle to minimize risks associated with biodiversity loss, climate change, and waste. She can be reached at karen.weil@iwco.com.

Join the Inkjet Insight Research Panel  

Inkjet Insight is setting up a print provider research panel to better understand the ongoing market dynamics including paper topics. Please send Andy Gordon an email if you are interested in joining the panel and sharing your experience (andy@inkjetinsight.com).


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