Continuous Forms Refuse to Die
“Quite a number of the direct selling entities are losing their sales people to distributorships that we do business with, so I would probably speculate that there is a higher erosion of continuous from the major directs than the independent sector,” observed Adams. He pointed out, historically, the major directs tended to concentrate on larger corporations, which have eliminated continuous products more readily than smaller companies. In particular, many major directs converted much of what constituted long-run work to electronic type media faster than short run work, which can to be more segmented or more differentiated.
At present, continuous form products account for approximately 10 percent of Quick Tab II’s orders. Daughenbaugh reported 75 percent of those orders are for checks; the remaining 25 percent are for statements, invoices and purchase orders. “The demand is primarily for short-runs, meaning 5,000 pieces or less,” he added. “We keep four pack-to-pack presses busy on short-run orders, and use Stevens web presses for the longer runs.”
Evidence of the strong trend toward short-runs can also be seen at Central States Business Forms, which produces continuous form products including invoices, statements, bills of lading and medical forms. Said Adams, “Rather than tying up money in ever-increasing storage costs, end-users are trying to figure out just-in-time inventories. They’re willing to pay more per form and have it delivered more often, rather than buy a one- or two-year supply and store it.”
Laser cut-sheets have certainly eroded much of Central States’ single-part continuous work, although a few orders still come in. Adams reported carbon and carbon interleaf multi-part forms make up the bulk of today’s continuous orders, although they might have been reduced from a four-part to a three- or two-part form.
While pricing for continuous is more competitive than ever, manufacturers are grappling with increasing raw material costs, including paper, ink, oil-based shrink wrap film, chip board and cardboard, as well as delivery and freight charges. “Today, everyone is trying to figure out how to use less or do things differently,” acknowledged Adams.