Your printing projects also need supply chain management

What is your company about when it comes to supply chain management? For many companies, the focus is typically on factors such as sourcing materials and managing inventory.

But there is another equally important component in a holistic supply chain strategy: printed materials. Even largely paperless businesses still rely on printed materials such as bank statements, invoices, marketing and promotional materials, letterhead, labels, business cards, certificates, calendars, signage packs, architectural prints and envelopes.

Like any other industry, the printing industry suffers from material shortages, rising costs, labor shortages and unpredictable delays. Businesses are also moving away from centralized distribution of production in the face of remote and hybrid work, and are considering concepts such as transactional and on-demand printing through local or regional distribution models that include smaller, shorter, and more customized runs.

For these reasons, it’s more important than ever to implement a supply chain strategy to manage print projects from start to finish.

The impact of poor print supply chain management

Although print supply chains are often overlooked, neglecting your supply chains can have a bigger impact than you might think. The consequences of a neglected print supply chain can be:

Poor campaign visibility and ROI tracking

Without print supply chain management, it’s difficult to fully understand the total cost of a campaign or project. One team can be responsible for content and design while another works with the printer to place an order. From there, employees can pull what they need from inventory and ask another group to handle the shipping. Not having a supply chain strategy results in disjointed workflows without a single place to track all project costs.

Missed Income Opportunities

The sooner and more cheaply you can get materials into the hands of the people who need them, the faster you can grow your business. This is true for any industry, but especially for retail. For example, if a signage package you’re waiting for takes five days to get from a central location to a retail store, the delay reduces to advertising time. In cases such as short-term promotions, unforeseen delays can result in printed materials becoming irrelevant by the time they arrive.

Negative impact on cash flow

Some Documents in your daily processes are vital to business operations. For example, if accounts receivable and accounts payable can’t send bank statements and invoices to customers, suppliers, and partners, your business won’t get paid. Issues like this can hurt your cash flow, create misunderstandings with third parties about late fees, and complicate accounting practices.

Wasted time

If the print supply chain is not well managed, staff can create, print, assemble and ship their own parts in-house at the last minute. In many cases, not only is this more expensive, but it also distracts them from important work on strategic initiatives, creates unnecessary frustration, and can lead to errors if they rush the process.

Tips to strengthen your print supply chain

To ensure you get the print materials you need, it is crucial to establish strong processes and workflows in the print supply chain. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Collaborate with your supply chain group

Whether you’re in marketing, administrative, or involved in any capacity with print projects, reach out to your internal supply chain group to see how they can bring their expertise to the process. They may also have technology to monitor print material inventory, track prices, and maintain delivery records for print projects.

If you’re a member of the supply chain team and don’t know exactly how your organization handles print materials, find the right people to start a conversation about what those projects entail and when, where, why, and how they’re completed .

Get out of your comfort zone

It’s easy to fall back on old habits, but there are many viable options that go beyond what you’ve done in the past. As an alternative to centralized production distribution, first explore regional and local production opportunities that can improve the printing process without impacting your brand.

This also applies to other aspects of print projects. Be open to new ideas and strategies from your print service provider and maintain communication. From ink and paper to packaging and shipping, your print service provider may have cost-effective suggestions that achieve the results you want while bypassing potential challenges that could stand in the way of on-time project completion.

Don’t just rely on just-in-time printing

Even if supply chain issues exist, plan 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 a timely manner. It is important to have backup plans.

Keep track of print jobs

Finally, take steps to limit print supplies ordering to keep costs and schedules under control, such as making sure everyone gets what they need without creating excess.

FedEx Office works with organizations to develop, print and ship the materials and documents that keep businesses running. Learn more at

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