The causes of the shortage stem from serious disruption in the transportation supply chain coupled with greatly reduced manufacturing capacity, both of which are results of the Covid pandemic.
When the pandemic became widespread, many paper companies either closed mills or greatly cut back operations. During this time the demand for brochures, catalogs, direct mail and marketing literature dropped off sharply.
At the same time folding cartons needed for food, beverages, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics increased almost overnight to a record volume in US sales. Paper mills switched to making less commercial print paper in favor of producing more packaging board stock but the lower capacity from mill closings couldn’t fully address the supply needed.
Following the widespread vaccination period the traditional commercial print business began to come back to near previous levels with no significant increase in mill capacity putting further strain on an already weak supply.
The supply chain is a month to month situation exacerbated by labor shortages which have slowed transportation and stalled the offloading of ships loaded with paper in major U.S. harbors. If you have seen the depleted shelves in Walmart lately, you know it’s not only affecting our industry.
We are not sure when this will return to the point of what used to be considered normal so we advise business decision makers to take all opportunities to forecast your print needs farther out until things improve. Also to expect the usual price increases that are typical when commodities like this are in short supply. Buying through a print management firm can also give you flexibility in locating which printer can meet your schedule needs and provide the best price.