Frustrated that paper supply is still a mess?

Frustrated that paper supply is still a mess?

Veritiv Print and Paper | November 17, 2021

If you want to thrive in this current climate, you must make adjustments. These supply chain pressures and difficulties simply aren’t going to end themselves.

So, what can you do? Earlier this year, we spelled out nine tips to prevent interruptions. Those all still apply, but let’s deep dive into three of those.

Source standard
In general, you have a few options for where to source your paper: directly from a mill’s manufacturing site, from the mill’s RDC, or from your supplier’s local warehouse, like Veritiv. Looking for a custom size limits you almost exclusively to sourcing from a manufacturing site. In a different climate, this wasn’t a huge issue, because there was more availability. Now, this could cause serious delays if there is even any availability.  This introduces risk if the manufacturer has a hiccup in production, or if there’s a disruption to the supply chain, or any number of issues could occur between when you order and when the manufacturer produces it.

On the flip side, using a standard size lets you source from virtually every option out there, from the manufacturing site down to a local supplier warehouse. This flexibility means you are far more likely to get what you need when you need it.

Focus on what they do make
Since manufacturers want their machines to be working as much as possible, they have a flexibility in what grades they make. When times are tough, the mills will extend their machines’ capability so that they can make a broader range of grades, finishes, or basis weights for the machines to remain full and be running as much as possible.

However, there are target basis weights for each machine, so this flexibility is less than ideal for the mills. They’d rather have a narrower and more profit-rich range. In times like these, they don’t need to extend their machines’ capabilities.

What does this mean? There are fewer options for you. The solution? Again, this is another way that you can source standard—by buying what the mills are making. If you’re the only one sourcing a particular weight, size, or finish, you might soon find out it’s no longer an option.

Another way to think about it is to consider what’s good for the manufacturer or distributor. Does your need fit with what they’re already doing? If so, it’s more probable that you’ll be able to get it.

Buy what’s available
There's one really simple way to make sure you fill your paper sourcing needs: ask what’s out there. If you can tap into aged inventory, not only can you ensure availability, but you could also find some cost benefits. This is especially useful for small jobs where you don’t need an ongoing allocation, just a particular supply for a particular need.

Make sure you have some product flexibility. You’ll have to be open to options, whether that’s basis weights, sizes, or finishes.

Also, be aware that availability can come in waves. Replenishment cycles aren’t always a steady stream of paper. They move in batches. So, timing is everything. Don’t wait too long to decide. By being flexible, you can be sure not to miss out.

Optimize your existing allocation
Lastly, there are also some ways that you can get the most out of your existing allocation.

Buy from familiar brands that you already trust. It can be a tempting solution to make a quick fix by looking for a new source—especially when existing suppliers simply must raise costs.

Plus, when you’re under pressure to ensure continuity, you want to have options. That’s definitely a smart strategy but remember that relying on a new brand of paper brings more opportunities to have quality mishaps. It could work out well, just be sure to remember that reliable quality has a lot of value, too. It won’t be a cost savings if you wind up having to replace paper that doesn’t meet your needs.

Consolidate SKUs. Are there products that could share the same stock? Is there a way to put excess paper to work? If you can get multiple print jobs all using the same type of paper, having exact sheet counts becomes a lot less important, giving you the flexibility that can reduce frustrations or interruptions.

Maximize digital. When you maximize digital printing assets, you put yourself in a position that is less reliant on the additional paper required for traditional presses. When you have a finite amount of allocation you want to be able to sell all of it.  Maximizing your digital printing assets means you can reduce the quantity of paper needed for a specific job.  Using all your allocation now means you ultimately increase the amount of sellable product, thus increasing sales.

Buy unallocated grades. Expanding your allocation gives you more flexibility and could help you still find supply even when inventory is low or entirely out. Yes, these might be more expensive, but they do provide more options.

And that sets up the final tip: be creative on press. Yes, this could mean changing up some ways that have worked for a long time. But we’ve all seen some radical changes, and that simply means that we all need to adapt. Using varnishes and coatings gives you more options with paper while navigating your paper options.

To close on an optimistic note, it looks like help is on the way. New capacity is becoming available for both coated and uncoated freesheets. And even if that doesn’t directly meet your specific needs, you have plenty of options for paper sourcing decisions that can help you reduce your frustrations.

Veritiv Paper & Print
While there have been some recent changes in the paper industry, we’re here to help you through it. To read more about print's new normal and how to handle current supply chain issues, check out our content hub.