Where’s All The Paper At?
OCCC is beginning to run short on paper. Not only that, the prices for paper and economic resources across the nation are also rising.
Originating in July of 2021, O-trip became aware of the shortages in stock, but it wasn’t as pronounced as it is today. This issue roots from many factors, such as COVID, the war in Ukraine, even shortages of cargo.
Operations Specialist Justin Van Nest and Print Shop Technician Ian Wakefield work with the OCCC Print Shop, providing students and various organizations surrounding the school prints for any necessary projects. They’ve been able to scout the roots of this occasion and find different temporary solutions to hold the community over until everything else is solved.
“With paper, several of our mills have switched to producing corrugated cardboard for places like Amazon. And they’re supplying mostly the bigger print shops that do things like flyers for giant commercial companies that do lots and lots of big stuff. And then not focusing as much on the supply chain for the smaller print shops like us.”, stated Nest.
“Because it is rooted in import and export, it is a world issue. You know, when somebody says, you know, there’s a container shortage like containerization,…if you are low on the fundamental building block of how things get from point A to point B that causes slowdowns at every single level of transportation and that’s everything from you know, getting wood, doing all the additives, et cetera, et cetera, until you get like an actual sheet of paper,…Additionally, there are you know, other things that go into consideration here is that, we used to do a lot of production of materials here in the country, but those things have kind of gone to the wayside they’re more specialist materials that also aren’t produced quite as often…”, Wakefield explains.
A paper shortage calls for newer printing methods, which can affect the OCCC community. Materials could be used for many items such as signs, business cards, programs for VPAC, and even the Pioneer newspapers.
“The big thing for us is it’s going to take some creative substitutions to get our jobs done. We have preferred paper stocks for different products that we put out. Sometimes it’s just as simple as changing from one company that makes the paper to another company that makes the same paper…sometimes we use an entirely different paper than what we originally intended to use. We’re in a little bit better situation, because we have the ability to purchase in advance, if we know something good, we have available, we can order extra stock, and we have room for storage, we have the money to do that…So we have a little bit of means of weathering this that other places don’t.” Nest expresses.
Wakefield follows his response, “Even so, one of the things that you have to take into consideration is that by doing substitutions and alternatives to things that we’d normally would stock, or would rely on as standards means that we have to look around for something that’s actually going to work,…make sure it’s going to actually work for our purposes, make sure it works with the machines that we have…and we’re competing against other shops of a similar or even larger size. And so when things pop up, we have to jump on it immediately, or risk losing it…And so really, it’s just a question of whether or not it is going to suit the end user. But even so, we can’t rely necessarily like we could in the past and make up for lost time. On last minute things coming in, and being able to address them right then in there. Right, we have to plan things out sometimes months in advance, or even more to ensure that we have all the materials necessary on hand to address the college’s needs…But needless to say that took a lot of time and research and you know, back and forth with everybody to get all of that bolted down in a way that was going to be efficient and useful for everybody involved.”
Although the solution is still fresh and in the works, the Pioneer newspapers will switch to a new type of sheet.
“…we are going to be using a different sheet for the Pioneer. Now, it’s a little lighter stock, so it actually I think will be better because it isn’t gonna be as bulky and heavy as it is now. But we did find a source that we can get in quite a bit of it [paper], and take care of the Pioneer for the least for the foreseeable future.” Nest describes
“And this is an unknown issue that we’ve been trying to address and figure out solutions for some time. And that took a lot of, shall I say, intellectual investment and time investment, you know, speaking with, you know, both or, you know, folks over the Pioneer and trying to figure out what needs are going to be going forward. As well as our vendors and, you know, points of contact within, you know, the paper distribution industry to actually figure out workable solutions. Which took up a good bit of time and a lot of research.” expressed Wakefield
The U.S. and other parts of the world have experienced shortages before, and recent tolls on the economy haven’t been very supportive for the people. But what is truly causing this paper shortage? COVID? Russia? Perhaps both?
“There are a lot of factors both domestically and internationally that are causing these issues. The war in Ukraine has caused issues because paper mills in Russia are not producing paper. And so a lot of that paper went to Europe,…now they’re having to keep all their paper domestically in Europe to supply their needs. In addition, there are a couple of mills in Germany that are shut down due to labor issues. So that puts even further stress on the European market. Also, there are the shipping issues, with containers with the backlog still from the pandemic because ports had to shut down for a period of time,…And that’s still gonna take months to resolve… There’s so many small complex parts now around the world that are creating the issues” explained Nest.
Even though COVID had surfaced a little over two years ago, it still affects manufacturing processes. But viruses aren’t the main obstacle for the import of goods.
“It comes down to a lot of the supply chain issues that affect a lot of other things in America right now, from baby formula to lumber to just about anything, right now… there’s multiple different issues…we have a lack of means of getting product into the country. The ports that we have are backed up. So there are ships sitting out there with products in it that just aren’t going anywhere because it’s sitting out in the water…we can’t get paper from some of our foreign sources because we don’t have enough cargo containers to do it. The United States tends to import more than exports…we have the cargo containers coming here. But we have no way to get them back to the countries that export our product.” described Nest.
There isn’t a simple timeframe on how long this issue will last, but it is possible that it can be resolved in the upcoming years.
Nest states, “According to experts in our industry, …Best case scenario is the Fall of 2023…Worst case scenario, we simply don’t know.”
Regardless of how long this issue will last, OCCC maintains its ground by adapting to these situations. Even though the supplies won’t be coming from the same people anymore, hopefully, not too much will change.