Why We Use Two Ink Suppliers

I've faced this scenario many times in our press room.  The ink is not working like it should.  We call the ink supplier in and the blame game begins.  He takes a look at the problem and says it must be our fountain solution (or something else).  We then call the fountain solution supplier and he says it must be the ink - and so round and round we go.  It's a frustrating scenario that can drive any pressman batty.  This is what drove us in the first place to choose two suppliers for our offset printing presses.  Here are two main reasons I recommend every press should have at least two sources for printing ink.

1.  Ability To Troubleshoot
The above scenario can be put to bed by doing one thing: putting their competitors ink in the press.  It's the ink that you have handy in a safe place for just such a scenario.  It's the ink you make sure your main supplier sees from time to time just to send the message that you are ready at any time to jump ship if he doesn't do his job right.  

Put the competitors ink on your press and bingo!  If the ink runs great, you have a indisputable proof that it is not the fountain solution, or any other product for that matter.  Reject the ink and use your backup until your main supplier gets his ducks in a row.  Nothing will turn up the heat better than in this scenario.  This is an excellent method for troubleshooting printing ink that has worked many times for us.

2.  To Keep Quality High
Troubleshooting should not be the only reason to have two suppliers.  Ink suppliers change raw materials all the time and the only way to really know how it will react on your offset press is to run it.  Hence we become the guinea pigs.  When quality goes south, and it will, at least there is a backup.  With a second supplier, not only can you verify whether it is the ink or not causing the problem, but you have an alternative that will give you the quality you need.

3. To Get Rid Of Bad Ink
Ink suppliers change raw materials all the time.
With an alternative to using poor quality ink, there is no need to continue running it for the sake of continuing production.  In almost every case, shutting down the press is not an option when it comes to bad ink - you have to run.  This can force the press room into an awkward position where it has to use bad ink.  With an alternative, you can reject it.  

Yes, you can reject bad ink.  We have rejected several tons at a time.  But you can only do this if you have the proof that it is the ink.  A second supplier can confirm this. 

How We Set Ourselves Up For This
We have one main supplier.  I will not mention the name of the supplier, but it is one of the biggest in the world.  Being a large company, they can supply good technical support and high volume.  They are our number one supplier and they supply about 80% of our ink.  Then we have our back up supplier - a local company.  They have more difficulty in supplying high volume, but they can get us through in a pinch.  

Lastly, it keeps our ink suppliers from complacency.  They both know that we have options and they are continually checking up with us that quality is up to expectations - I like that!  I'm not saying they like it this way, but it certainly works for us!


  1. Anonymous1:56 PM

    This is great unless you work for a company that also manufactures it's own ink and have no choice but to use it.

  2. We are a printing ink distributor called MixMasters Inc in the New England area and I agree 100 % to have 2 different ink manufactures on hand for troubleshooting. We buy from a few different manufacturers and I did the same thing. I would send a sample of ink that I knew was made by a different manufacturer and see if the customer got the same results or had the same problem. If they did they should look at what else maybe causing the problem if they didn't have a problem I would keep them running the other ink and keep the customer.

  3. It has been a known fact that a printer should never remain at the mercy of a single supplier. Suppliers become complacent when they know they have your account sewed up. We use three suppliers purchasing the best of each.

  4. This sounds good in theory but in practice, each ink has its own press curve to combat dot gain so changing inks will make the printed image too light or dark unless printing plates are remade specifically for that second type of ink.