Many industry publications and websites, including Actionable Intelligence, have been following news of toner cartridge shortages for months now. Word of a shortage of the HP CE285A, or 85A, black toner cartridge emerged early this year, and in March we learned that HP and its manufacturing partner, Canon, also had difficulty meeting demand for the HP CE278A, or 78A (see “HP Toner Cartridge Shortage: It’s Not Over”). HP publicly confirmed the shortage of the 85A, attributing it to a stronger-than-anticipated spike in demand for the HP LaserJet P1102W and the HP LaserJet M1212 MFP printers, but neither HP nor Canon have provided much in the way of specifics on why Canon’s manufacturing facilities were having trouble meeting demand for this SKU. But then the situation for Canon and indeed many Japanese printer OEMs grew much more dire roughly three months ago, when northeastern Japan was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that shuttered some production facilities, including not only OEM facilities but those of crucial components suppliers, limited power supply, and disrupted transportation systems. Our premise has been that this natural disaster would exacerbate manufacturing difficulties for Canon and lead to further shortages of HP/Canon SKUs as well as lead to potential hardware and supplies shortages for other vendors. This thesis seemed to gain some credence in April, when HP announced that it would be restricting distribution of some toner cartridges (see “HP Warns Distributors That Japanese Earthquake Will Impact Toner Cartridge Availability”).
In recent weeks, we have been interviewing various industry participants to see what they have actually been experiencing in terms of OEM product shortages and have published some insight from ILG and MSE (see “MSE Says Reman Cartridge Industry Is Healthy, Currently Unaffected by Japan Quake” and “ILG Ups Reman Cartridge Production, Expands Empties Collection”). Interestingly, these two competitors have divergent ideas about what the industry is already experiencing in terms of shortages, although both remanufacturers have made preparation to cope with any shortages that may materialize. Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with research firm Gap Intelligence about toner cartridge shortages. Gap Intelligence regularly monitors prices for inkjet and toner cartridges (as well as PC, printers, and other peripherals) in numerous retail and e-tail channels. Thus, the firm can provide valuable perspective on which products may be in short supply.