The Effect of Supply Chains on Book Printing and Distribution

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Henk Mylanus

By Henk Mylanus, Trustee Emeritus and European Sales Manager, Bretagne (Brittany), France

Editor’s Note: The term “supply chain” is familiar to many in the business world, though prior to the pandemic it did not mean much to the rest of us. It describes processes we tend to take for granted: the smooth, timely flow of materials and components and finished products, part of the unsung efforts and widespread cooperation that bring goods we need into our hands when we expect them. During the past year and a half, many of us have wondered about shortages of various items, which can be caused by disruption of a supply chain at a single point. And it turns out that even The Urantia Book has been affected by this type of problem. In this article, Henk Mylanus gives examples of supply chain breakdowns, and tells us about how he has dealt with those affecting book printing and distribution in Europe.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Europe, it quickly became apparent that large manufacturing companies depending on fast supplies from Asia would have difficulties satisfying their needs for components. On an international scale, the most obvious example was the breakdown of the supply chain for microprocessors being used in large quantities in the automobile industry. The various lockdowns in Asia, for example in Singapore and Taiwan, created a production shortfall of 22% to 30%. As a result, United States automotive plants like General Motors and Ford had to shut down production due to the lack of supplies. Europeans watched as Volkswagen and Peugeot did the same.

In the middle of 2020, I began noticing that the cost of shipping loaded containers from the Far East to the East Coast of the United States was rapidly increasing. In July 2020, the price to ship a 20-foot container from Singapore to the East Coast was $1,250. One year later, the price more than doubled to $2,800–2,900 per container!

Then the largest container ship in the world blocked the Suez Canal, which stopped all traffic. Once again came an abrupt breakdown in supply chains, affecting shipments to both Europe and the Americas.

Being responsible for the sales and distribution of The Urantia Book in Europe, I soon realized that if we needed to print books, we would have to do it in Europe because of the exponentially increasing costs of transatlantic shipping. I checked to see if the supply of Bible paper in Europe would be affected. Fortunately, that would not be the case. Practically all of the paper is manufactured in Finland, which is basically a forest country, so the supply would not be in danger for the paper mills. I also looked at the availability of printing inks, and that also didn’t present any problem.

But then, one day, I woke up to something I had never dreamed of. I received a call from the warehouse manager of our printer partner in the south of Germany. They had printed a large volume of books for a client in the United States and were unable to locate the standard block pallets required for transport. Alas, they couldn’t find a single wooden pallet in the whole of Germany!

He asked if I could find 100 heat-treated and properly branded pallets suitable for the United States. I called the manager of our warehouse in the Netherlands and asked him to look around in some little villages south of the huge port of Rotterdam. Much to our surprise, it was impossible to even buy one brand-new pallet because the supply of wood had completely dried up!

Luckily enough, they found 100 so-called rotation or return pallets immediately. After one night of heat treatment and branding, those pallets were delivered the very next day. A few hours later, the printer’s truck picked them up and delivered them to their printing plant. Sometimes it helps to know the right people.

In addition, I secured 100 more of the proper block pallets and tops from the same firm for Urantia Foundation, just in case, and had them stored in our local warehouse. It turned out that my instincts were spot on. We recently contracted for a very large print run in Europe, and those books will be shipped to the United States. Thankfully, we will have the necessary pallets to do so.

One big question remains: When will the supply of containers going east and west be once again in equilibrium? That will lead to a decrease in the prices per container, which in turn will reduce the cost of book distribution. I hope and pray that this will happen by the end of 2021.

When we consider the impact of these challenges on our mission of seeding The Urantia Book globally, we are reminded of the importance of global commerce. As a Melchizedek tells us in the paper on human government, “The peace of Urantia will be promoted far more by international trade organizations than by all the sentimental sophistry of visionary peace planning. Trade relations have been facilitated by development of language and by improved methods of communication as well as by better transportation.” 70:3.4 (787.4)

Now, as you read that passage and think about communication and transportation, I invite you to visualize relatively small things such as phone calls and pallets—then think about how the work each of us is doing may be helping bring world peace ever closer.

Foundation Info

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Urantia Foundation, 533 W. Diversey Parkway, Chicago, IL 60614, USA
Tel: +1-773-525-3319; Fax: +1-773-525-7739
© Urantia Foundation. All rights reserved