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Christine Dunne

Supply Chain Challenges Are a Compelling Reason to Own a Production Printer

Xerox Business Solutions technical sales expert sees opportunities amid technology shortages

Jul 6, 2021 12:22:28 PM


Supply chain challenges are posing difficulties to the print industry while, at the same, providing a compelling reason why companies should consider an in-house production printer. That’s according to Paul Allen, a production printing technical sales expert at Xerox Business Solutions who is serving the southern tier of New York as well as northern Pennsylvania. One of his company’s clients, a busy paint manufacturer requiring fast turnaround of can labels (driven by COVID-spurred home improvement spending), is the perfect example.


“They’re now immediately flipping the switch and bringing online the capability to do those labels themselves and lessening their reliance on another cog of the process being outside the realm of their control,” Allen said.


Paul Allen of Xerox Business Solutions


The economy (as a whole) has experienced supply chain issues during the COVID-19 pandemic that were fueled by national lockdowns that slowed or stopped the flow of materials and goods, as well as staff shortages and losses. One growing issue is a shortage of microchips (often out of China) for use in print devices—including production printers—that is driven by a stronger economy and increased demand.


“In my 28 years of doing this, I’ve never seen the economy ramp-up at the flip the switch like it has but, unfortunately, we’re going to get hit [with a huge microchip shortage] sometime in late August,” Allen said.


Some businesses are already feeling the impact, with an order for 50 entry production monochrome systems now on backorder and potentially going unfilled until the microchip situation improves. While Allen doesn’t want to see disappointed customers, everyone has a sales quota to make.


“The reality is I’m out there trying to fill as much demand as possible,” he said.


Supply chain issues look to be exacerbated by delayed operations at the Port of Yantian in South China, which recently experienced a shutdown due to a COVID outbreaks. This port is the fourth-busiest container port in the world, exporting over 90% of the world’s electronics.


“Everybody has already experienced some sort of shortage in terms of supply chain issues,” he said. “I think these two things are going to be, for sure, many more times impactful.”


The good news is that currently installed technology won’t be affected by the microchip shortage, as microchips are designed to last the life of the device. And while new technology may arrive somewhat later than anticipated, at least having production print capability in-house limits the impact of other potential supply chain issues that could slow down job turnaround.


“There are more organizations now who want to lessen their reliance upon certain parts of the process,” Allen said.


On a related note, many manufacturers are looking to simplify their supply chain for making their core products; as such, they are considering 3D print technology to produce parts and other objects on-site. Allen lauded the launch of Xerox’s ElemX liquid metal printing technology, which can help organizations make objects in a fraction of the time they’re accustomed to.


“I think this has all the promise of being their grandest success ever,” Allen said of Xerox, noting, “We already have customers that are interested in learning more about the technology.”


Allen works with Xerox’s additive manufacturing specialists to help educate customers on the ElemX 3D printer while, for production printing questions, he is happy to put forth his extensive technical expertise—which includes proficiencies around Fiery, beyond CMYK, workflow software solutions, web to print, and variable data.


Customers value this kind of specialized knowledge, which can help them get a better handle on the function and process ramifications of acquiring new technology.


“They immediately recognize there’s a lot to consider, and they’re not necessarily likely to have this conversation with a sales rep” he said.


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