Printing business waste reduction

Planning, buying and stocking substrate for your printing business


Substrate waste at printing businesses can be unnecessarily built into a job at the planning and estimating stage through incorrect choice of paper size, layout and overs allowance. You can reduce this waste in a number of ways:

  • Review your policy on overs - look at how much waste is planned into the job and whether office copies are really necessary. Decide what your policy is on good overs - are they scrapped, stocked or given away? Try to find the best balance between the cost of building-in overs and the risk of a reprint if the job is short.
  • Choose the right paper size - this minimises trim and area loss. Different sizes are optimum for digital only, litho/digital and bleed/no bleed.
  • Fix design issues - high quantities of waste can occur when a customer has a catalogue or flyer that has a bleed on one or more edges, as this will need a larger sheet of paper for printing and then trimming. Some manufacturers offer sheet sizes to reduce trim, while you could encourage clients to avoid designs that require a bleed.
  • Shape nesting - when planning die cutting or laser cutting, take care to nest shapes to minimise the area loss. Automatic nesting software is available as an option on many design packages and is worth investigating.

Purchasing and stocking

Good stock management and control are key to reducing substrate losses. Losses due to out-of-date and damaged substrate can be significant, so take sensible steps to control them:

  • Keep a stock list and do a regular stock-take - this is invaluable for avoiding over-ordering and highlighting slow-moving stock.
  • Avoid over-ordering - many paper merchants will deliver the next day, so there is no need to keep large stocks. Make sure the quantity you order takes current stocks into account. Ordering special sizes or paper types for a one-off job can be a problem when there is a minimum order quantity. Think about what to do with any leftovers. Can you use them on future jobs?
  • Goods-in inspection procedure - you should have a clear procedure for inspecting incoming goods and a policy on what to do if staff notice damage or shortages. This can be part of your quality system.
  • Stocking area - this needs to be dry and clean, but in the UK climate it does not generally need to be heated or air-conditioned. You can keep paper at a wide range of temperatures and humidity, providing you avoid extremes and sudden changes.
  • Rotate stock - mark incoming stock with the date of delivery. Ensure you rotate stock so that the oldest stock gets used first.
  • Damage - record write-offs due to damage and ensure a reporting and corrective action procedure is in place as part of your quality system.
  • Slow-moving stock - review what to do with slow-moving stock on the stock list. You could use it on jobs, offer it to selected customers at a discount or make it into notepads.