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Bell Procurement Management Market Insights

Market Insights from Bell PM

In today’s challenging times, containing costs and minimising risk have become a top strategic priority for businesses.

This year, rising energy costs, climate change disasters and volatile geopolitical and economic conditions – including the continuing impact of the Russian-Ukraine conflict – have all served to push commodity prices to an all-time high and further disrupted supply chains already in disarray following the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Organisations are looking to procurement professions to help them navigate the key business issues resulting from the waves of disruption, material and product shortages, rapidly evolving sustainability regulations and ongoing cost volatility of services, products and supplies.

Recurring challenges are being felt across multiple industries, these include:

European paper shortages mean prices are up – and lead times extended

Following the online shift of consumer shopping behaviours in the wake of COVID-19, European production mills turned their attention to higher value products such as pressboard and packaging. Meanwhile, industrial action by workers in Finnish paper mills earlier this year added to the supply challenges that were already impacting the availability of high grade print quality paper.

These latest issues have compounded challenges resulting from a steady decline in paper production capacity in Europe. Thanks to the rise of digitisation, many mills closed their doors or shut down and repurposed machines as demand for magazines and catalogues fell away. All of which has significant ramifications for buyers now that demand is once again on the up.

Reduced production capacity together with material shortages are creating extremely difficult conditions for the European office papers market. Added to which, rising energy, raw pulp, chemical and freight costs together with the sanctions and supply chain constraints associated with the ongoing war in Ukraine are further fuelling today’s highly dynamic market.

Since paper is too costly to import from the US, Canada or Asia, paper prices in Europe look set to continue to rise. Indeed, industry pundits are predicting that the era of cheap paper prices is over – at least until the supply/demand dynamic in the market rebalances.

For the foreseeable future, organisations will need to mitigate against the extended lead times and price volatilities resulting from the current market challenges.

Supply chain disruptions rewrite the rules for the European printing ink industry

Paint and printing ink producers are battling on a number of fronts.

Alongside experiencing steep rises in key raw materials such as solvents and pigment costs, coupled with difficulties getting predictable supplies of these materials in the face of intense competition with other sectors for these resources, they’re facing a number of other supply chain issues.

These include difficulties sourcing packaging such as corrugated boxes as well as shortages in materials such as steel that is used for the production of drums and containers for ink.

Meanwhile, when it comes to fulfilling orders, ongoing disruptions to ocean freight lines means they’re facing unpredictable raw material deliveries as well as capacity issues at key inbound/outbound ports.

The recent surge in raw material prices and transportation costs thanks to rising oil prices has had a significant impact on the ink industry. With raw materials accounting for some 50% of all costs for the industry, ink producers and distributors are now concerned about the rising costs of providing services and are less confident about entering long term pricing deals with customers.

For the future, the outlook will continue to be challenging for buyers. While ink prices are high right now, expect them to go higher yet because many of the ingredients used in ink formulations involve several production steps from crude oil. As these chemical costs surface further down the value chain, prices in the ink and coatings markets are set to continue to rise.

As a result, economic forecasters are predicting that everything from the ink cartridges used in office printers through to packaging and labelling will be costing more in the coming months.

Cost of living crisis drives UK workers to reset retirement plans

With inflation in the UK reaching a 40-year high, more and more people are re-evaluating whether they will have enough funds to comfortably see them through retirement.

Amid rising concerns that their pension pots and savings won’t be enough to deliver a secure retirement, given the current cost of living crisis, around 93% of employees think they will need to work beyond the state pension age in order to make ends meet.

It’s not just current employees that are making big decisions about their working lives. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), many people who had already retired are now looking to return to work to bring in additional income and top up their pensions while they are still able to do so.

A survey of 12,000 people aged 50 to 70 years of age revealed that one-in-three of those aged 50-64 said they’re considering returning to work in the future, as did 1-in-10 of those aged 65 and over.

The size and scale of the current ‘unretirement’ trend highlights some pressing issues for today’s employers who will need to provide greater late stage career and pre-retirement support for employees. That includes providing earlier access to information and support on pensions and savings earlier on in their career.

Similarly, while the availability of experienced workers looking to return to the workplace gives employers access to much needed talent, key HR issues will need to be addressed. Alongside having to consider the rising occupational health risks and wellbeing concerns associated with an older workforce, questions around talent mobility and effective succession planning will also require a rethink.

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Paul Shilston

Procurement Services Director - EMEA

We are focused on delivering value beyond cost reduction, making tail spend management simpler, more transparent and better value.

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