"Compared to their counterparts here, European and Asian operations have invested in more efficient machines," asserts Arandell's director of purchasing. "Unless the return on capital can justify new expenditures, domestic mills will fall further behind. If the present trend continues, we can expect to see more paper imported."
Lane Press' customer base also stood to bear some brunt of any fallout from the recent paper market travails. The Burlington, VT, printer specializes in short- to medium-run magazines, but also produces catalogs. Its "Paper Prophet" briefings keep clients updated on the consumable.
According to Tracey Moran, marketing manager, the company's strategy for dealing with uncertainty in paper pricing and availability is to "keep customers informed with paper market analysis and trend data, work diligently to ensure supply and push back on price increases. Our customers benefit from our policy of full disclosure about paper pricing and availability, and our excellent relationships with the mills," she says.
The printer uses its position as a large paper purchaser to advocate on behalf of its clients with the mills, Moran adds. Like Arandell, she says Lane Press' advice to customers on managing paper has remained consistent:
"Plan your paper needs well in advance of the time you are going to print. The mills are requiring paper lead times in the six- to eight-week time frame. While we'll work to accommodate shorter time frames, finding paper at the last minute will often put publishers in the position of accepting a different paper than they may have specified."
The labor situations at Miramichi and in Finland have made the company's planning more challenging, Moran admits.
"We are in the enviable position of having very strong relationships with the major coated paper manufacturers," she says. "We believe these relationships provide the type of protection our customers require to ensure an uninterrupted paper supply. Mills affected by the strikes generally were able to find alternative supplies."