The Ongoing Supply Chain Issues

Nothing new here, just an article reinforcing what everybody, including we as printers are going through. The supply chain bottleneck has affected everything from ink to paper to even new equipment.

A Look at the Wide-Format Supply Chain

By Toni McQuilken

It’s not news that supply chain challenges have impacted every part of the printing industry, from difficulties getting substrates, to ink shortages, to long waits for new equipment deliveries. As we close out another year marked with pandemics, politics, and business challenges, what will 2023 have to offer on the supply chain front?

Roland DGA president and CEO Andrew Oransky notes that, “Given the uncertainty around the root causes behind the current supply chain issues and how or when they will be resolved, predicting when things will return to ‘business as usual’ is difficult. The degree and quickness to which we can identify the various problems, develop a plan for solving those issues, and then implement those solutions will determine exactly when things return to normalcy. The optimist in me likes to believe this will occur within a year, but even the top economists in the nation don’t really know for sure. We can only hope that we continue to see gradual improvement over the remainder of this year and throughout 2023.”

That uncertainty was echoed by Bob Honn, director, Marketing Support, Canon USA (Booth N1009), who notes, “It is difficult to say, but I think it is likely to be quarters — not months — before things normalize. The situation largely depends on continued demand growth for wide-format products as influenced by the health of the economy. Inflation is troubling of course, but not necessarily problematic to our market unless it gets out of hand. But sometimes the obvious cure of simply tightening the money supply can inadvertently tip the economy into recession and impact demand for wide-format significantly. Should that happen, the logistics situation will right itself more quickly, but for all the wrong reasons.”

The trends driving all this uncertainty aren’t going to be solved quickly. In particular, semi-conductor and microchip shortages were highlighted as problems that directly affect the production of almost everything in our modern world — up to and including wide-format printers. While everyone would like to see a return to pre-pandemic normal sooner rather than later, shortages will likely persist well into next year, pushing the entire supply chain back as it waits for needed parts. 

So, what can you be doing in your own business to help counter some of these challenges? Gregory Pas, the marketing director, North America at FUJIFILM North America Corp., Graphic Systems Division, has this advice: “We would suggest working closely with your supplier, and to plan ahead as much as possible. We know that it is easier said than done when jobs come up and there are rushes, but having a steady flow of inventory — where possible — and open communication with your supplier can help. As time goes on, we feel there will continue to be improvement, but it is hard to say anything definitive. A lot of the ‘business as usual’ has started to resume, but there are still challenges we will continue to face.”

Honn notes that printers should “speak to your printer manufacturer or their partners to learn what they can offer. Leveraging the larger brand and volume of the printer manufacturer or partner can be useful in times of scarcity, assuming they have a developed media business and established supply lines.”

Oransky sums it all up, noting that “wide-format print operations can improve their chances of obtaining the substrates, inks, and other supplies they need by being flexible when it comes to these materials. Remember, you may not be able to obtain your preferred substrate within the required time period, so it’s important to have a second, third, and even fourth choice for every job. After all, you’ll need to make sure that you’ll have something to print on. It’s also crucial to forecast your needs in advance as much as possible. With lead times much longer than usual, it is important to work with suppliers and get in line early for any supplies needed. Finally, keep in mind that interest rates are on the rise, so financing will be more expensive over the next year or two.”