When your organization discusses supply chain management, what’s involved in those conversations? For many companies, the focus is typically on factors like sourcing materials and managing inventory.
But there’s another equally important component in a holistic supply chain strategy: printed materials. Even primarily paperless companies still rely on printed materials, such as statements, invoices, marketing and collateral, letterhead, labels, business cards, certificates, calendars, signage packages, architectural prints and envelopes.
Like every other industry, the print industry is experiencing material scarcities, rising costs, labor shortage and unpredictable delays. Companies are also moving away from centralized production distribution in the face of remote and hybrid work and considering concepts like transactional, on-demand printing through local or regional distribution models that involve smaller, shorter and more customized runs.
For these reasons, it’s become more important than ever to implement a supply-chain strategy to manage print projects from start to finish.
The impacts of poor print supply-chain management
Although print supply chains are often overlooked, neglecting yours can have a bigger impact than you might think. Consequences of a neglected print supply chain can include:
Poor campaign visibility and ROI tracking
Without print supply-chain management, it’s difficult to fully understand total campaign or project costs. One team may be responsible for content and design while another works with the printer to place an order. From there, employees may pull what they need from the inventory and ask yet another group to handle shipping. If you don’t have a supply-chain strategy in place, the result is disjointed workflows with no single place to track all project costs.
Missed revenue opportunities
The sooner and more cost effectively you can get materials into the hands of the people who need them, the faster you can grow your business. This applies to any industry, but it’s especially true in retail. For example, if a signage package you’re waiting on takes five days to move from a centralized location to a retail store, the delay cuts into promotion time. In such cases as short-term promotions, unanticipated delays can make printed materials irrelevant by the time they arrive.
Negative impact on cash flow
Some documents in your daily processes are vital to business operations. For instance, if accounts receivable and accounts payable can’t send statements and invoices to customers, suppliers and partners, then your business won’t receive payments. Problems like this can affect your cash flow, lead to miscommunication with third parties about late fees and complicate accounting practices.
When the print supply chain isn’t well managed, staff members may create, print, assemble and mail their own pieces in-house at the last minute. In many cases, this is not only more expensive, but also distracts them from important work on strategic initiatives, creates unnecessary frustration and may lead to mistakes when they rush the process.
Tips to strengthen your print supply chain
To make sure you get the print materials you need, it’s vital to establish strong print supply-chain processes and workflows. Here are a few tips to get started:
Collaborate with your supply-chain group
Whether you’re in marketing or administration or you’re involved in printing projects in some capacity, reach out to your internal supply-chain group to learn how they can bring their expertise to the process. They may also have technology to monitor print material inventory, track pricing and manage delivery records for print projects.
If you’re a member of the supply-chain team and don’t have eyes on how your organization handles print materials, find the right people to start a conversation about what these projects involve and when, where, why and how they’re completed.
Leave your comfort zone behind
It’s easy to rely on old habits, but there are many viable options to consider beyond what you’ve done in the past. To start, as an alternative to central production distribution, explore regional and local production opportunities that may improve the print process without degrading your brand.
This goes for other aspects of print projects, too. Be open to new ideas and strategies from your print provider and maintain communication. From ink and paper to packaging and shipping, your print provider may have cost-effective suggestions that will create the outcomes you want while sidestepping potential challenges that could stand in the way of timely project completion.
Don’t rely only on just-in-time printing
While supply-chain issues exist, plan for alternatives to just-in-time ordering of print materials. While this approach can be beneficial in many ways, the instability of today’s business environment sometimes makes it difficult to get what you need in time. It’s important to have backup plans in place.
Keep tabs on print orders
Finally, take steps to rein in the ordering of print materials to keep costs and timelines in check, such as designating one person or team to manage print projects, watching inventory of print materials closely so nothing comes as a surprise and creating an internal reorder policy to make sure everyone gets what they need without creating a surplus.
FedEx Office works with organizations to develop, print and ship materials and documents that keep businesses running. Learn more at fedex.com/en-us/printing/business-solutions.html.