What shortages should I expect when ordering paper directly from a manufacturer?
Answered by Suzanne Morgan, founder, Print Buyers Online.com

For the printing of a 300,000 piece direct mail print job, we ordered the paper directly from a paper manufacturer because the job required such a large volume of specialty paper. However, upon delivery to our printer, the paper order was short by 60,000 pieces. We’re about to miss our deadline because the balance won’t be available for another two weeks. My boss is fuming and demanding some reparations. For future orders, what type of shortages should I expect when I order directly from a manufacturer?

When ordering special papers from a mill -- whether we are talking about a special size, color, finish, or unique paper – the print buyer must understand the trade tolerances of that specific mill. Each mill is different and the amount of tolerance is based on the quantity ordered. Special orders are just that: items manufactured to your specifications that will not be suitable for purchase by anyone else. The print buyer must specify on the purchase order whether he/she will accept an overrun or underrun.

If you are willing to accept an overrun in order to meet your mail count, be prepared to pay for the additional paper manufactured to fulfill your quantity requirement. The mill can advise you on the expected percentage of overrun. If you will not accept an overrun, then you’re at risk for receiving an underrun and may not meet your mail count’s requirements. Again, the specific mill can advise you on what to expect.

Simply stating on your purchase order to "hold count as close as possible" is not specific enough; the mill may call for your tolerance expectation or decide not to bid on the order. Special paper purchases are just like any other manufacturing tolerance practice, eg, diecutting, envelope conversion, etc. The buyer needs to be aware of the possible problems, communicate expectations on a legal document such as a purchase order, and understand the mill’s trade tolerances on special orders.
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