Papers that Deserve a Passing Grade
I had a ball last week, comparing press sheets printed on the new NewPage Sterling Premium stock to domestic #1 grade competitors. I won’t say it was superior across all aspects, but the paper definitely belongs in the consideration set.
My NewPage rep came by to share details of the rationalization of the Sterling, Productolith, and Centura sheet grades in favor of the new 94-bright Sterling Premium. The company’s reasoning was that the current delineation of grade lines is out of date and out of touch.
NewPage is about a decade late, but I’m glad it has hopped on the train.
My overall reaction was that of profound relief. At last, a major domestic mill has recognized the profound changes to the competitive landscape; changes prompted by the importation of high-brightness European and Asian sheets. Denial and litigation have finally given way to product line enhancements that will better compete in today’s market.
In this quadrennial season, the Olympic hendiatris comes to mind: “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” which, as everyone knows, means “Faster, Better, Stronger.” So goes the paper market.
“Faster, better, stronger” will also describe the supply chain if the overall paper market rationalizes SKUs in a similarly thoughtful, customer-focused way. For many categories of paper, the total days of inventory within the system can be mind-blowing. Coated freesheet, for example, often has 50 or so days of mill inventory, plus 30-45 days of merchant stock, and a couple of weeks worth of inventory on the printer’s floor. The total cost is massive.
Order variance drives the need for so much buffer stock. But what if the number of SKUs were reduced? With fewer options, demand would be more predictable (lower variance), and less buffer stock of fewer items would be required. Reduced inventory—and subsequent lower costs—across the supply chain would strengthen economic sustainability, something we can all appreciate.