We’ve all seen the headlines about the global supply chain being severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with everything from computer chips to coffee syrups in short supply due to various problems with production and shipping. Though less talked-about than some of the buzzier industries, publishing too has faced shortages, delays, and other issues. As a result, some publishers are rethinking their practices and considering a major shift: bringing printing production back to the US.
Traditionally, publishers have printed a lot of materials in China, typically for the same reasons that many industries outsource their production to China or other countries. Lower wages have created lower price points overall, allowing companies to turn a bigger profit. Of course, that assumes that those savings aren’t eaten up by other costs – and that’s the problem now facing much of the publishing world.
In the last year, the worldwide pandemic has exacerbated existing issues, creating a lot of massive supply chain headaches across the publishing industry. In a Book Industry Study Group webinar in July 2021, top industry pros discussed the ways in which the global supply chain issues were creating major problems for publishers. A trucking shortage of over 60,000 drivers has made it harder and more expensive to transport freight on the ground, while clogged ports are continually causing difficulties with getting product out of China in the first place, and the skyrocketing prices of shipping containers just keeps increasing. Add to that an increased demand for books (as of summer 2020, sales were up over 5% compared to the same time period in 2019 and kept growing), and publishers need to look for innovative solutions.
As a result, publishers are starting to think about how they might bring printing and production back to the United States. Shifting back to a US-centric production model helps to support our nation’s workforce, with new positions and better wages for skilled jobs. With production happening in the same country (and contiguous landmass), it also offers better speed from order to inventory, plus better control over receipt of materials. While the costs of the products and labor themselves must, of course, be evaluated, it’s important to consider the potential “costs” on the flip side of things:
- lost sales if you can’t fulfill order or get a reputation for unreliability
- unsold stock if you over-order to try to get around shipping issues
- poorer quality of product if they’re rushed due to high pressure
Lithographics is one of several companies working with more publishers to try to find a solution to these ongoing problems. While the initial instinct for some may simply be to try to wait it out, that’s not necessarily an effective or wise decision. After all, the pandemic has caused global disruptions on a massive scale, and it will certainly take a while to get back on track. Put together with the other benefits, domestic printing actually seems like an effective way to address several concerns at once.
Of course, switching to a domestic printer is not the solution for everyone, and it may not even be feasible in some cases! Still, it may be a solution for you to consider if you have concerns about delays in stock and reliability of shipments, or you’re just interested in bringing production back to the US! Having a US printing partner is on the radar of plenty of publishing companies, and it’s definitely worth considering for your company too.