Dump That Paperwork
FTP is good for sending small files such as correction pages and reprints, Coomes said. "The time factor is a huge benefit for us, as well as for the printer," he declared, noting that FTP transmissions take only about an hour.
Mercury Vault, Coomes said, is used for larger files, providing information to printers anywhere in the country. This secure Web site allows the company to assemble a book's content in folders, and keep them organized (folders within folders), as well as keep profiles on the printers with which Microsoft Press works. Printers are given access based on those profiles. "We can post all of our files, but whoever accesses them only has privileges to certain files," Coomes said.
Why dump the paperwork?
To save time, panelists agreed. "The industry needs to retool the front office," said Bill Lavelle of Impresse. "We've made a lot of changes in production; we digitized our page makeup, we digitized how we do prepress, but the essential front office model hasn't changed much. And the paperwork is evidence of that."
According to Lavelle, when the publishing industry moved from analog to digital, the interface was lacking. "We ended up filling in the gaps with paperwork. When we tried to connect the pieces together, we found we couldn't. We didn't have standardization. There was no integration."
To improve efficiency by eliminating unnecessary paperwork, Lavelle suggested eliminating redundancies in the supply chain, and digitizing both business and production workflows. "Look at your business workflow, and eliminate anything that you or your partners -- designers, purchasers, managers, printers, binders, distributors -- do more than twice," he advised. "Understand the relationship between the business and production workflows. In the industry, we tend to treat them as parallel activities, when, in reality, they should be co-mingled. And that's essentially what the new e-commerce model tries to do."