It's hard to ignore the headlines; the term "supply chain" has gotten more mileage in recent months, thanks in large part to the repercussions of a near-global economic shutdown in 2020 and the ramping back up in demand for... well, just about everything.
Remember the paper supply shortages of last year? You can seemingly apply it to just about everything, these days - even copier/printers, paper supply and toner; but are these shortages "real" or "perceived," and how do you manage your business needs without being gouged?
Let's go item-by-item to get to the cause of these shortages and discuss ways to deal with them without it disrupting your business.
Why is There a Copier/Printer Shortage?
Some of the world's leading copier/printer manufacturers have backlogs in orders for their newest machines, and if you've gone car shopping lately, you'll immediately understand why: computer chips.
Like the modern automobile, copiers and printers have become so reliant on semiconductors, or computer chips. Manufacturers of gaming consoles and medical devices are affected by this shortage, as well. It's hard not to find an industry impacted, really, and the ripple effects are endless.
Picture a modern manufacturing plant; did you envision all the robotic machines and computers buzzing? They, too, need semiconductors in them, even if they're just making toys, packaging food items or building that new copier or printer you've ordered.
Sadly, Intel believes this could last into the year 2023.
Most manufacturers seem to be affected in some way, and experiencing "out of stock" or "back order" status. To give you an idea of the impact, consider that - pre-pandemic - Xerox stock (NYSE: XRX) was around $39 a share in November of 2019 and bottomed out below $19 last month. It's still just hovering around $20.50 as of this writing (December, 2021), with the printing giant reporting flat data, year-over-year, despite the economic recovery from the COVID-fueled recession of 2020. Their stock has lost around 42% of its value in two years, and lost 12% alone on October 27th of this year.
Alright, this isn't a stock analysis blog; just wanted to give you an idea of the impact supply chain woes are affecting some of the big names in the copy/print industry.
So what are potential workarounds that can enable your business to overcome those shortcomings?
Overcoming the copier/printer shortage
+ Have you checked with local dealer(s)? - Walking into Staples or Office Depot, you'll likely see empty shelves, and ordering directly from the manufacturer can be problematic, too, right now; but have you checked with your local copier or printer dealer?
Here, at SOS, for example, we have a warehouse of copiers and printers from brands like Canon, HP, Sharp and Kyocera. A local dealer with similar warehousing capacity may also have exactly the kind of machine you'd be waiting months for from the manufacturer or some dealers.
+ What about other models instead? Your local dealer may also have machine leasing programs on other models that installs a similar product you sought to purchase for your business, circumventing some supply chain woes.
+ Used or refurbished copiers - A lot of us wouldn't think twice about getting a good deal on a vehicle with a short "past life" in the rental fleet, so this could be a fit in the copier or printer realm, too. First, let's differentiate between "used" and "refurbished."
A "used" machine may have been purchased and quickly returned by a business, perhaps realizing that machine didn't quite fit their needs. Very little risk in purchasing a machine like that.
A "refurbished" machine, is one that could have a lot of work history with an overhaul of parts getting it back to "like new" condition. If you think of it like you would an auto purchase, a "refurbished" car likely comes with pricier parts replacement costs, and if you're getting a better price for "refurbished" vs. "used," ask yourself if you're getting as good a copier or printer for your needs. Refurbished may be a great option here, but make sure to look at how your service contract is set-up to see if it is worth the money in the long run.
+ Nursing the machine you have for as long as possible - Hard to believe you're on an industry blog and reading that advice, eh? Sometimes, the truth is, you can get by with what you have for a little while longer, and with supply chain disruptions projected to go on as long as some are saying, maybe that's the only choice you have.
Still, as a copier or printer ages, its performance tends to degrade and repairs become more frequent. Perhaps, then, picking up a service or maintenance contract with nearby repair specialists is right choice. If your business uses Canon, HP, Kyocera or Sharp machines, that's a service we offer at Standard Office Systems and it may be advantageous to make a switch if a local dealer has machines in stock, even if you have up to 24 months left on your previous lease.
Toner, Ink, and Paper Shortages
No matter what route you take with the copier or printer situation, you're still going to need ink or toner, and - spoiler alert - supply chain woes have affected supply and cost, there, too. Even paper scarcity is a concern.
Freight availability, and in general, the global oceanic shipping glut - along with driver shortages in Europe and North America - have ink manufacturers doing a lot of "sitting and waiting" on supplies needed to get their product to you and your machines.
In short, there's plenty of toner and toner cartridges to go around; they're just sitting in cargo containers waiting to be offloaded (The Guardian: Backlog of cargo ships at California ports reaches an all-time high) and then hauled away to retailers and dealers.
The question then is, "who's going to do that hauling?" The American Truckers' Association asserts the U.S. will be short by about 80,000 drivers very soon. They base that figure as "the difference between the number of drivers currently in the market and the optimal number of drivers based on freight demand."
You just need printing supplies.
Are there solutions?
There are ways to stretch your resources, and means to adapting so that you meet your (and your clients') needs through this. Necessity is the other of invention, after all.
A few ideas to consider:
- Check your machine to see if you have toner or ink-saving features. You may not have been aware such features existed on the machine you use. Now is a great time to find out!
- Plan ahead; if you're comfortable with what you have, understand that all indications are that freight, logistics and shipping woes aren't going away anytime soon, according to most experts. Stock up anyway, and know that ordering now may not yield you delivery until many weeks, maybe a couple or more months from now.
- Limit machine use access. If Linda in accounting is notorious for printing pamphlets for her kids' school functions and you've never been bothered by it, now's a good time to be. No need to be upset about it; Linda might not even be aware of the shortage(s) to give it a passing thought. A conversation about conservation may go a long way. This also might be a good time to consider Managed Print Services; because an outside eye on what's arguably one of the most unchecked and unmonitored expenses in your office has found it's moment.
RELATED: What Are Managed Print Services?
Global woes, local answers
If you're a business, whether it is saving money with your existing fleet through managed printer services, or upgrading your existing machines with a local dealer having some foresight, solutions are available.
The stark truth is that the current supply chain crimp has created a unique "supply & demand" imbalance rarely seen in the print market. With so many copier brands being comparable today, it could just come down to a) who has supplies, and b) who has the capacity to offer the best quality service.
Even if you do have the latest top-of-the-line machine, it won't be of much use if you're struggling to acquire toner/ink for it, or if it is offline for days or weeks at a time due to poor or non-existent service. Our blog about finding a copier dealer near you has become a helpful resource worthy of review before starting your next conversation with a dealer.
Also, check out our list of "Top Copier Dealers in the United States" (yes, we omitted ourselves).
RELATED: Top Copier Dealer in the US
If you are in the Atlanta market and are in need of a copier dealer, start a conversation with Standard Office Systems, today.
Posted by Bryan Ammons
Bryan Ammons is the President and Owner of Standard Office Systems of Atlanta where he began his career as a part-time employee in 1973. SOS is a leading provider of office technology including managed IT services, copiers, printers, and business phone systems. Bryan has served on the board of the Copier Dealers Association for 11 years, including two as President. Additional, he served on the Dealer Advisory Councils of HP, Ricoh, Sharp, US Bank, and Great America Leasing.