Three years after COVID restrictions brought the global supply chain to a grinding halt, manufacturers still struggle to meet consumer demand for printers, ink, and toner.
A Global Chip Shortage Follows Global Pandemic
In 2021 and 2022, the shortage of printers and printing supplies was blamed on trucking delays and a backlog at shipping ports. But as shipping and transportation slowly recovered, printer manufacturers faced other problems.
This year, a shortage of computer chips, the printed circuit boards that power electronics, has slowed the production of printers, ink, and toner. Political tensions between the United States and China have resulted in economic restrictions against Chinese chip manufacturers, leaving electronics manufacturers to look elsewhere for supplies.
In addition, labor shortages and an absence of raw materials mean the global shortage of semiconductor computer chips will last at least until 2024.
Is Another Ink and Toner Shortage Coming?
Consumers may find printing supplies more plentiful as existing inventory reaches retailers. But print manufacturers still need help to meet the demand for future products. Another ink and toner shortage may be looming, so stock up while you can.
Printer Shortage Origins
Supply chain disruptions abound in the wake of the COVID pandemic, and the printing supply industry is no exception.
There’s a printer shortage happening, people, so let’s take a look at why are printers out of stock everywhere!
What You Need To Know:
- Supply chain delays and manpower shortages are affecting all areas of manufacturing and distribution, disrupting inkjet printer supply and printers delivery dates.
- 38% of small businesses report supply shortages in the US (US Census Bureau)
- Printing supplies — like paper, ink, and toner — are also in high demand.
- Disruptions have affected the HP, Canon, and Epson printer supply, and have prompted a Brother printer shortage.
- Many toner and ink cartridges are being held due to backlogs at US ports.
- The estimated value of out-of-stock items due to the COVID -19 pandemic was $1.14 trillion. (Why are all the printers sold out? Printer manufacturers are as unhappy as customers with current supply delays.)
- 12% of retailers worldwide currently report severe supply chain disruptions.
- 64% of e-commerce businesses faced supply chain disruptions.
- 28% of global retailers reported shortages and out-of-stock items.
- 42% of all containers arriving in the US come from China.
- China is home to 7 of the world’s ten largest container ports.
- These global delays are expected to affect this year’s holiday shipping season and last well into 2023.
Why Are Printers Out of Stock?
You’ve probably already seen some signs of the supply chain slowdown.
Grocery and retail stores lack certain products. Where are all the office supplies? Is there a printer shortage? Why is printer ink in short supply?
Online orders come with “expect delays” shipping caveats. The U.S. Post Office is advising everyone to ship holiday cards and packages early this year.
Supply chain delays ripple through the paper, ink, and toner industry as well. In some cases, products aren’t being made quickly enough.
Other times, shipping containers loaded with needed printing supplies are sitting on loading docks due to workforce shortages.
People looking to get their hands on an Epson Eco-Tank printer have been left scratching their heads — is the Epson ET-15000 discontinued or can you find the Epson ET-15000 in stock?
We live in confusing times and finding Epson printers in stock — as well as other major printer manufacturers — has been difficult.
The HP ink shortage is affecting inkjet owners across the globe … and HP Ink Shortage 2020 is likely to last deep into 2023!
What Is This Supply Chain Delay All About?
While the COVID pandemic appears to be loosening its global grip, it has left a turbulent economic wake.
Once upon a time, way back in 2019, there was a flow to global manufacturing.
Raw materials — from metallic ore to lumber — were harvested in remote parts of the earth and transported to processing plants (or a series of manufacturing plants, depending on the end product).
Ultimately, these raw materials were turned into usable commodities — microchips and spools of paper — before being shipped out to global manufacturers. Manufacturers turned these refined raw materials into products that were then sold to distributors or even directly to consumers.
There was a flow, a series of steps that took place in order to get products into the hands of consumers. This flow worked for nearly every industry, from clothing to oil, to replacement cartridges for your printer.
Then the 2020 COVID pandemic swept the globe. The suppliers of raw materials were forced to shut down or severely reduce production. When these businesses began to reopen, they did it slowly and with reduced staff.
But demand for raw materials was at an all-time high, and they simply couldn’t keep up the needed supply.
What Caused The Printer and Printing Supplies Shortage?
A lack of raw materials is only one factor of the supply chain shortage.
The New York Times examined the causes and effects of the current supply chain shortage and found a lack of manpower and sluggish transportation has hit every industry, including the paper, ink, and toner businesses.
Freight Costs Increase
While shipping delays are expected to decrease in 2023, shipping rates will remain high due to increased operating costs and supply chain instability, according to ING.
In 2020 CNBC reported the cost of moving freight had spiked dramatically.
Pre-COVID, it cost approximately $1,500 to ship a cargo container from Shanghai to Los Angeles. In 2021, that cost has increased 20x (!) to nearly $30,000.
Even with the massive cost increase, there still aren’t enough empty shipping containers to go around.
Why is there a printer shortage? Why is HP ink out of stock everywhere? When will Brother printers be back in stock? One factor in the supply chain slowdown is a backlog of cargo at ports around the world.
There are plenty of toner cartridges to go around… but they are stuck in cargo containers on a shipping dock someplace.
The Guardian reports all US ports are backlogged with cargo that needs to be distributed, months of deliveries delayed due to COVID-related employee shortages.
Even when cargo gets sorted out, there’s no one to take it where it ultimately needs to go.
There aren’t enough truck drivers to get supplies around the country the way they used to. The lack of qualified truck drivers isn’t only a US problem. Truck driver shortages are slowing deliveries in Germany and the UK as well.
Why are so many printers out of stock? Why is my printer no longer available?
The answers to these questions are sitting on a dock by the bay.
VIDEO: Toner Shortage
A down-to-earth professional printer discusses ways to deal with Toner Shortage 2021.
Why is there a shortage of printer ink?
Because the global supply of ink has been disrupted on a number of different fronts, resulting in Printer Ink Shortage 2023.
Printing inks use ethanol in their manufacture, but many ethanol shipments were diverted and used to make hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies, especially during the early days of the pandemic.
According to InkWorld, the Polymer Group, for example, began using its ink manufacturing equipment to produce batches of hand sanitizer.
Not only is there a shortage of printer ink, but the inks and dyes used in textiles, product packaging, and paint, causing manufacturing delays in all of these industries.
If you’re wondering, “why is printer ink out of stock?” and when the HP printer ink shortage will end, you are not alone! Because of high demand and limited supply, some ink makers are limiting the amount of ink that silk screeners and product manufacturers can buy.
Is there a paper shortage?
You bet there is.
Printing Paper Shortage 2023 or Global Paper Shortage 2023 is real and not likely to end soon. The paper production industry is also facing a supply chain shortage that began prior to the pandemic.
Paper Shortage 2023 has a variety of causes. A large percentage of paper comes from China. But in recent years, the Chinese government has enacted stricter environmental policies, forcing paper manufacturers to reduce production or close up shop. These policies are good for the environment, but are causing paper manufacturers in China to limit production.
Additionally, when the pandemic hit, many paper manufacturers turned their attention to the production of cardboard instead of printable paper.
After all, with everyone working from home, online sales were booming, and shippers needed cardboard boxes.
But now that the pandemic is winding down — or at least entering a more manageable phase — paper producers are having a hard time meeting the renewed demand for printable paper. The result is an office paper shortage that includes a copy paper shortage and a printer paper shortage.
In addition to a dearth of paper and printing supplies, printers are also in short supply.
Why are there no printers in stock? For many of the same reasons why ink and toner are in short supply.
There is a shortage of computer chips as well as pandemic-related slow-downs in Southeast Asia where most consumer printers are manufactured.
Because of this, retailers are having a hard time keeping printers in stock.
Look around at the empty shelves in Staples and Office Max. You’ll be stretching your head, asking, “Why are all the printers out of stock? And why is printer ink out of stock everywhere?”
Handwritten signs are taped to empty shelves — “This printer is not available right now.”
The Great Printer Shortage 2020 and Printer Shortage 2021 — which includes both an inkjet printer shortage (Ink Shortage 2021!) as well as a laser printer shortage — will likely continue well into 2023.
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VIDEO: Why Are Printers So Expensive Lately 2020-21
Brother printers out of stock … Canon backorder … Epson printer shortage … HP printer shortage … this YouTuber helps explain it all.
A lot of people lost their jobs during the pandemic and had to find other ways to make a living. Many didn’t return to work once COVID restrictions were lifted, leaving manpower shortages across the globe.
UKG reports severe labor shortages in manufacturing post-pandemic. There simply aren’t enough employees to get all systems back up to pre-COVID speed and efficiency.
This is especially problematic in the transport and logistics sector which experiences lack of qualified truck drivers at the moment.
A lack of qualified truck drivers is another factor in the supply chain slowdown.
Buying New Printers To Get Ink or Toner
Some people are finding workarounds to the ink cartridge shortage by simply purchasing new printers.
Do printers come with ink when you buy them?
Yes, they do!
Unfortunately, many printers come with “starter cartridges” that print fewer pages than new, full capacity OEM ink cartridges. Still, fewer printed pages beats no printed pages, so, in a pinch, you can pick up a new printer on the cheap to temporarily beat the ink cartridge shortage.
However, finding a new printer during a global printer shortage could be challenging — supplies of in stock printers are limited.
What About Printers That Don’t Use Ink?
Inkless printers are printers that don’t use ink cartridges. Instead they use special heat sensitive paper that reacts to electronic pulses from the printer to create the printed images. Finally, a printer that never runs out of ink!
While no ink printers are environmentally friendly, they’re still rather costly and supplies are not widely available. You cannot use standard printer paper in inkless printers — you must buy the specially designed heat-sensitive paper.
Like inkless printers themselves, “thermo paper” is hard to find during the best of times. The current supply chain delays have made locating inkless printers and the paper they require even more difficult.
For that reason, printers that don’t use ink are not a viable solution to the current ink cartridge shortage — by the time a printer that needs no ink and inkless printing paper become widely available, inkjet and laser printer supplies will be plentiful again.
When Will Supplies Be Readily Available Again?
According to media, supply chain disruptions are likely to get worse before they get better. As the global economy rebounds, supply delays will become more and more pronounced.
How Can I Avoid Printer and Printing Supplies Shortages?
Order early and early extra … and order from Toner Buzz to get the lowest prices on brand name ink and toner cartridges.
Depending on what supplies you’re looking for, this can help you get ahead of the game and stock you up for any delays that may occur in 2023.
According to BCI, 19.6% of retailers plan to have more inventory, while 26.9% plan on changing suppliers.
Finances Online recently surveyed business owners about how to handle supply chain disruptions.
- 60% felt businesses should improve effectiveness and efficiency
- 22% embraced supporting new business models or reimaging traditional business plans
- 18% believed business should be resilient while adapting to market disruptions
It's a good idea to order early and stock up on your supplies so you can avoid delays.
But, let’s be frank — articles like this that try to shed light on supply chain delays sometimes make the problem worse. If everyone followed the advice of “order early and order extra” it would lead to even higher demand and additional delays.
Better advice might be to get what your need, conserve what you have, and hunker down until the supply chain and shipping delays straighten out in the second half of 2023.
The best advice is to conserve the ink and toner you have on hand.
Looking for printers that don’t use a lot of ink?
Chances are you’ve already got one.
You can save a lot of ink and toner by selecting grayscale printing in your printer’s settings menu. Store your toner cartridges properly and try these fonts to lower ink and toner consumption. Treat your ink and toner like precious commodities — they are!