When outlining the bookmaking outlook for the coming year, John Galligan, president of Bradford & Bigelow in Newburyport, Massachusetts, uses an apt analogy given the subject matter: “It’s a story of two cities,” he said. Galligan refers to the stark difference between the outlook at the start of this year and the current outlook, when it comes to current supply chain challenges.
In Print impressions’ Book Manufacturing Outlook for 2021, demand exceeding supply was already becoming a major concern, and as the Book Manufacturers Institute (BMI) released its “State of the Book Industry 2021”, Executive Director Matt Baehr said: “As we move forward, the economy and workforce trends, as well as supply chain issues, will greatly affect our industry.
There is no escaping it, these challenges will remain in mind until 2022 and the headache they cause to the bookmaking segment is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. “To manage this supply chain crisis, we are informing our customers of three key elements,” says Galligan. “No. 1, communicate. No. 2, prioritize. And No. 3, consider dates will need to be extended.
Paper and labor shortages are taking their toll
Adi Chinai, president of King Printing in Lowell, Massachusetts, agrees that we haven’t seen a resolution on the horizon yet and paints a picture of a vicious circle that is making the problem worse: “We see a lot of people worrying shortages increase their purchasing habits, which only exacerbates some of these constraints. As things gradually normalize over the next year, hopefully some of the labor and raw material shortages will stabilize. Unfortunately, I think it will go on for a bit longer.
Perhaps the biggest problem is the inability to obtain sufficient quantities of paper. There are apparently a number of contributing factors, the main one being the impact of the pandemic on supply chains, as well as extreme weather events affecting raw material production and fluctuations in demand since the start of 2020. .face skyrocketing prices and long delivery times, forcing them to absorb costs, pass them on to customers, or find ways to increase productivity and efficiency.
“Getting paper is the current challenge,” points out Todd Roth, vice president of manufacturing and distribution, Core Publishing Solutions, in Eagan, Minnesota. “We’ve been fortunate to have many long-term relationships with merchants and directly with paper mills, but even with that we’ve had to work hand-in-hand to make projects work for our customers. .”
Despite the turmoil, Roth is taking a “glass half full” approach to paper shortages: “I appreciate our partners in this space; it has not been easy for them to increase their capacity to match what is happening in the market. But I will say that people in the book market, whether it’s on the publishing side or the supplier side, are a good bunch of people trying to get the products out there to serve the readers, which is exciting.
Galligan offers additional insight into the paper problem: “The paper market is expanded because paper mills are being converted to packaging mills, so paper lead times are much longer than before and capacity is a problem. I don’t see a resolution in the foreseeable future. In addition to this, Galligan also cites the lack of new paper mills being built and publishers “relocating” large print volumes to North America from Asia and thereby extending delivery times for North American paper mills. as factors in the paper shortage.
Bill Clockel, vice president of sales at Integrated Books International in Sterling, Virginia, echoes the observation that mills are shifting their efforts to other products, noting: their perspective, more types of paper products profitable. So even if some mills have closed, it is more likely that they no longer manufacture book paper. This is the biggest problem we see. Obtaining consumables poses other problems, but paper is clearly the most important. »
Another shortage that is taking its toll is the scarcity of labour. “The challenge we have at the moment is recruiting enough people,” says Roth, adding that they currently offer incentives, including hiring and referral bonuses, to attract new employees. Galligan agrees that the job “is a national problem” and is focused on demonstrating the value of employees at Bradford & Bigelow. As labor shortages loom and digital production in the book manufacturing industry intensifies, automation becomes all the more crucial. Roth says, “Due to the constraints of finding labor and the cost of labor, automation is imperative. For those who cannot invest in automation, it will be increasingly difficult.
The market remains dynamic despite the challenges
Of course, all is not bleak in the bookmaking business. During the pandemic, the market has remained buoyant as pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions have led to something of a renaissance in reading, and there are plenty of reasons to remain optimistic about the market heading into 2022. finds that 29.4% of commercial printers expect the book market to grow over the next two years, while only 19.1% expect a decline and just over half (51.5 %) expect it to continue. A confident Chinai says, “We remain optimistic that the segment will continue to remain strong for the remainder of the year, into 2022, and even into 2023.”
Respondents speak from experience when predicting bookmaking positivity for the coming year. Integrated Books International upgraded to two Canon varioPRINT iX series sheet-fed inkjet presses before the onset of COVID and continues to invest more. “We had the good fortune before the pandemic to buy new equipment and increase our capacity,” explains Clockel, “and we have new binding lines and new slipcase lines coming this month and the next month. We are in a good position in terms of capabilities.
In the 2021 outlook article, Roth cited a potential output of four billion digital pages for the year, but was surprised to see significant growth in Core Publishing’s web compensation work over the year. elapsed. “Looking at the numbers, we’re going to hit 16 billion pages this year, which is a lot more than I expected,” he notes. Elaborating on the market in general, Roth adds: “It’s been a fairly stable market for the past five to seven years, and now it’s growing again and the focus remains strong. This is encouraging for all of us in the publishing or bookmaking space.
Inkjet book manufacturing continues to swell
The 2021 outlook detailed the growing influence of digital inkjet, and it’s still on the agenda as we look to 2022. Digital isn’t new to the manufacturing market. books, but advances in inkjet are shaking things up, allowing publishers to capitalize on shifting demand, increase productivity and add value with additional services.
According to IT Strategies, as cited in the Memjet and NAPCO Research report “Improving Book Publishers’ Ability to Meet Changing Market Demands,” more than 10% of all book pages are now printed on jet presses. of inkjet production, a figure that is expected to grow at double-digit rates in the future, and the report “The Role of Inkjet Printing and Automation in Powering Industry 4.0 in Book Publishing” by BMI and NAPCO Research, indicates that about half (48%) of book printers indicated that they currently use a production inkjet press to print books. Galligan expects inkjet to continue to grow, adding that Bradford & Bigelow is expanding its inkjet capabilities.
Chinai sees inkjet as the future of bookmaking. “We are very optimistic about making inkjet books. It changed the way publishers stay in print; it has evolved into a platform that allows you to print short, medium and you can even push it to print long. So publishers really started to take advantage of that, and it kept backlists alive and frontlists showing up faster and more dynamically.
As production inkjet in bookmaking matures, the technology both influences new trends and enables new trends to be fully realized, and unsurprising appeal from the user’s perspective final is the ability to be more creative with color. Chinai adds, “Publishers are also beginning to recognize that certain book designs will lend themselves to more success with inkjet.”
Roth and Core Publishing Solutions are also enthusiastic about inkjet: “We have invested in inkjet technology and corresponding finishing solutions, which has brought us a number of new relationships with publishers in the color space that we didn’t have in the past. This trend is likely to continue as we move forward, as it creates great flexibility for publishers. »
According to the BMI’s State of the Book Industry 2021, the industry continues to shift towards self-publishers, independent publishers and print-on-demand, so it will be interesting to watch how these trends continue to unfold. impact and restructure manufacturing in the sector.
Clockel notes how publishers are rethinking their inventory management. “With market uncertainty, publishers are primarily trying to reduce their initial print volumes,” he explains. “Publishers say they will reprint more frequently in smaller quantities, so instead of doing one print run of 1,000, they could do three print runs of 300 over the course of the year, moving to an inventory replenishment model. “
Overall, there is a clear message of optimism in a segment that has done quite well during the pandemic, but ongoing challenges and supply shortages continue to cast a long shadow. Investment in state-of-the-art digital inkjet equipment (either for the future of factory production or to complement offset capabilities) and workflow automation; maintain strong relationships with partners, whether directly with stationers or merchants, publishers, fellow bookmakers or others; and keeping a close eye on turbulent supply chains will put bookmakers in a strong position to weather the storm and enjoy a prosperous 2022.