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The Paper Chase: Navigating Today’s Paper Shortages

Due to the supply chain disruptions since the beginning of the pandemic, costs have increased for all of the materials we use in the manufacture of our products, but none more so than paper. The percentage of paper cost increases vary based on several factors - coated or uncoated, offset or digital, basic copy paper or high-end writing, text or cover grade – but all have gone up.

We’re estimating we’ve seen an overall average cost increase of at least 25% for paper over the past 12 months. To add insult to injury, we’re being advised to expect another increase of between 8%-12% on many sheets mid-February. And the reality is that we’ll probably see additional increases later this year. Fortunately, this does not mean the price of your print orders have increased by these same percentages as paper is just a portion of what makes up the cost of an order. In some cases, paper can be a small piece of the overall price, while in others it can be significant. In all cases, however, the increases we’re experiencing are affecting the prices of our final products.

In addition to the unprecedented frequency of price increases, pricing has also become very fluid and can change on a daily basis. Traditionally, price increases were announced by paper mills weeks or even months ahead of time to give printers time to prepare. In the current environment, however, we might be quoted a price on a Monday only to have it increase on Tuesday without any prior notice. This unpredictable fluctuation means that a quote we prepare today may not be accurate tomorrow, and that possibility is very frustrating for us as we take pride in honoring our quotes.

While the price increases present one set of challenges, availability presents another. In the past, our process for ordering paper was very much like placing an order with Amazon. We would log into our paper vendor’s website, select what we want, and 90% of the time it was in our building the next day. We also had ready access to inventory levels and could easily verify that the item we were ordering was available. It was not uncommon to see quantities of 50,000 to sometimes over 1,000,000 sheets of any given paper. Today, however, many quantities are 0. Or, if we do see some level of inventory, the vendor may not be able to sell to us as the sheets are being allocated to be sold in another market. The relatively simple everyday task of ordering paper now requires much more time, creativity and interaction with our vendors as we search for our most viable solutions. We’re also having many more conversations with you, our clients, about paper availability and possible substitutions when specific sheets are out of stock.

We tend to stock a large inventory of paper on our floor and many of the print orders we produce are run on these “house” sheets. This is especially true for projects produced on our digital presses. Because we use large amounts of these “house” papers, we’ve been able to leverage that volume and negotiate special reduced pricing with our suppliers. We can then pass those savings on to you. To the extent it’s been possible, we began aggressively trying to purchase more of our commonly used papers back in the fall. We were hearing the rumblings of impending availability issues and wanted to get it front of the situation as much as possible. We are continuing this approach when we can, but with inventory levels so low at the supplier level, we’re finding less opportunities available to us. We will, however, continue to seek out those opportunities and move on them whenever it makes sense.

We’ve been in this business for 37 years and we’ve never seen the paper industry as out of sorts as it is right now. The stress we used to feel when we were unable to purchase the exact sheet that had been specified for a single order pales in comparison to the stress we’re feeling today. Now, almost every order comes with some level of concern regarding paper availability. So far, through the flexibility and patience of our clients, we’ve been very successful in finding solutions to work through the paper shortage challenges. The unfortunate reality is that this situation will not be over anytime soon so we anticipate having many more paper conversations for the foreseeable future. It goes without saying that we truly appreciate your understanding as we embark on these new adventures.

COVID-19 Response

At Print-Tech, the health and well-being of our clients and community are incredibly important to us. Just like you, we are closely monitoring the current COVID-19 situation and evolving our processes to help maintain the healthy integrity of our staff, families, clients and everyone they may come in contact with.

At this time, our facility is fully operational and will continue offering normal levels of service to our customers. In the spirit of practicing social distancing, we have closed our lobby and will be assisting customer pick-ups through our front door vestibule. We have installed hand sanitizing units throughout the shop and have implemented a regular cleaning schedule for frequently used areas. These are just a few of the many precautions we are taking during this period of uncertainty.

We are here to help, as we have for the last 35 years.

Be well,

Your friends at Print-Tech

Three new Canon imagePRESS Printers

ANN ARBOR, MI — February 17, 2017 – Print-Tech, Inc., a premier, full-service print provider based in Ann Arbor, has expanded its production printing capabilities significantly with the recent installation of three new Canon color printers: two imagePRESS C10000VPs and an imagePRESS C750. Along with their Canon imagePRESS C7010VP, this brings their total of production presses to four. The three new imagePRESS machines were installed in mid-December.

The imagePRESS C750 runs 75 sheets per minute. It offers multiple new capabilities for the company, including digital color envelopes. It can print variable color envelopes at production printer speed. It accommodates #10 business envelopes as well as Monarch, 6” x 9”, 9” x 12”, and 10” x 13”. Like the C10000 imagePRESS printers, the C750 is G7 qualified, and it delivers an outstanding level of print quality.

Another enhanced capability of the C750 is that it prints what Canon calls “long sheets;” that is, a sheet that’s 30” long x 13” wide. It’s ideal for short-run, digital 6-panel brochures, which traditionally run offset. These brochures are now affordable for more Print-Tech customers.

The C10000 VP’s are among the newest in Canon’s line of production printers, having been launched in 2014. This press has won numerous industry awards for its outstanding print quality, including the European Digital Press Association (EDP) 2016 Award for “Best cut sheet colour A3+ Printer.” It also received the Printing News Readers’ Choice Top Products Award in the “Digital Devices” non-inkjet category.

“The efficiency and productivity of the C10000 is phenomenal,” noted Print-Tech owner Jim Ceely. “We’ve noticed a jump in print quality from the very beginning. Our color calibrations continue to be spot-on, and the consistency of our color has brought near offset quality to our digital imaging.

“The added ability to print on textured stocks and cover stock up to 130# is another advantage of this new equipment,” noted Ceely. “Our clients can now choose from a larger range of paper and synthetic stocks.”

Print-Tech continues to close the quality gap between traditional offset printing and full-color, toner-based digital imaging, giving their customers the best of both worlds. The company uses the C10000 to print a full range of projects, including business cards, marketing brochures, newsletters, postcards, and saddle-stitched books.

All three new imagePRESS printers use Canon’s PRISMAsync controller platform. Print-Tech chose this platform because the color calibration process is built into the system, and G7 is built into the RIP. There are no add-ons needed, or any third-party software.

Exciting News from Print-Tech!

As of September 1, 2016, Print-Tech, Inc., acquired another local commercial printer, First Impression Printing. We're very excited to share this news with you today.

First Impression Printing, right down the road from us here in Ann Arbor, was founded in 1972. When two of the company's owners decided to retire, they made the tough decision to close their doors. But they were determined to make sure their customers were in good hands with a local, highly respected and full-service printing firm. They selected Print-Tech as the best fit for their customers, and we are truly honored.

What Does This Acquisition Mean for Our Customers?

For our new customers from First Impression Printing, the transition will be seamless. Emails and phone numbers associated with First Impression have been redirected to our system. All of your digital files, old job orders, and full job histories have also been sent to us. We have five sales people eager to support you, and we have brought on two new employees from First Impression as part of this acquisition - a customer service rep and a prepress specialist.

As a full-service commercial printer, Print-Tech has been in business for 31 years. Our capabilities match up very well with what First Impression offered. In addition, we have comprehensive in-house mailing services, wide-format printing, and enhanced digital printing services.

Delivering great service has always been important to us. You'll find our employees eager to help you shape your projects and willing to answer any questions you have. We work two shifts here at Print-Tech and offer pickup and delivery services.

Existing Print-Tech customers will not experience any disruption to their customer service or job production. In addition, they'll benefit from the addition of two employees from First Impression. These new team members are highly experienced and committed to making sure all of Print-Tech's customers are served.

2016 Continuous Improvement Conference

Co-owner Jim Ceely and our Production Manager will attend the 2016 Continuous Improvement Conference in Milwaukee from April 10th -13th. put on by Printing Industries of America.

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