In-plant Supply Chain Shortages 

Anyone who has recently shopped for durable goods such as an appliance, car, or laptop has probably run into problems accessing these products due to supply chain shortages. 

The global COVID 19 pandemic has upset the supply chain of raw materials, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, and basically anything made in China. Material and labor shortages have crippled portions of major U.S. supply chain operations such as meat packaging, auto assembly, and paper/pulp production. 

The root causes of global supply chain shortages can be directly attributed to COVID 19 and the impact it has had on production during the onset of the pandemic. Over a year later, we are experiencing a resulting “hangover” effect as manufacturers are reluctant to restart production due to uncertainty and employees are skeptical and hesitant to re-enter production environments. Coupled with the manufacturing mantra of producing products “just in time” or producing just what is needed to meet current demand, “inventory” has almost become an economic dirty word; we have dug ourselves into a product shortage problem that experts say may take up to two years to resolve. 

If you have not already experienced supply chain problems, it will likely affect your in-plant in some way soon. Most of the printers, bindery, and POS hardware that we in-plants use are made in China and are made of semiconductors, plastic, and other impacted materials.  We must be prepared for delays in availability or sticker shock when we need to replace or order new equipment. We should also be prepared for paper shortages. According to Matt Ebert from Kelly Paper, issues with ports are causing massive delays on imported paper grades and uncoated free sheet (20# bond, etc.). Mills such as International Paper and Domtar are putting some paper merchants on allocation (restrictive ordering access) while domestic mills are downsizing, reducing production, or closing altogether.  Should we expect uncoated free sheet hoarding like we experienced with toilet paper during the early days of the pandemic? It’s not a scenario that’s difficult to imagine as domestic and imported paper grades will be more difficult to procure over the upcoming months. 
Utilize the Stock Warning Level in PSP Stock Inventory 

Our Campus Graphics staff utilizes the stock warning feature in PSP to stay on top of paper inventory. Stocks that have recently been hard to come by like 12 pt. C1S matte are set at a 25% stock warning level compared to more accessible stocks which can be set at 10% or 5% warning levels. The shop also utilizes color coding and other Lean techniques to visually indicate inventory stock levels and pre-empt any inventory delays. Another thing we can do is to reallocate “house papers” that are defaulted to equipment resources in PSP (for both toner and wide format resources) to the most readily accessible stocks, or to stocks that are over-inventoried. We can also reduce the cost of these over-inventoried stocks in the stock detail section which can be the determining factor for the customer in giving the go ahead for print projects. In order to address paper shortages and assuage future frustrations, consider setting up a robust paper inventory plan in PSP utilizing the stock warning feature to manage those hard-to-get stocks. Free details on how to set up stocks for inventory management using PSP, See Article #3391 “How to Add/Modify Paper Inventory” in the PSP Online Knowledge Base.

Gordon Rivera

Gordon Rivera

Gordon Rivera has over 20 years of experience working in an in-plant print shop. He is currently Supervisor of Campus Graphics at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California. He received his degree in Graphic Communications from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt as well as a G7 certified print professional. He is a contributing writer for In-Plant Graphics Magazine. Gordon has been teaching evening classes in Graphic Communication at Cal Poly for 10+ years. Gordon has been a Print Shop Pro® User since 2008.