The Need For Speed
Publishers want faster turnaround--and printers know it.
By Rose Blessing
Today's book manufacturers are under the gun. Yes, publishers have always wanted faster turnaround for less money. What's new is that today's publishers not only want it; they demand it--and expect to get it.
And printers feel they have to provide it. As Bertelsmann's Wayne Taylor, president and CEO of Berryville Graphics, phrased it, "We are not in the book manufacturing business. We are in the publishing business. We have to be a partner with our publishing clients and give them what they want when they want it -- even if it means working over the weekends. " We realize that we are only as viable as the publishers."
That's not to say it's easy. "It changes the whole cost structure of our business," says Taylor.
In light of this trend, BookTech asked executives representing the largest book manufacturers to share perspectives and current strategies.
The Big Three
Donnelley, Quebecor and Banta share many commonalities
All produce books in multiple fields that typically include consumer, education, juvenile, trade, religious and professional, in one- to multi-color formats, with a variety of binding methods.
Their book divisions can draw on the resources of a parent corporation, which has commercial and magazine printing divisions and other business units.
Each acknowledges the need for fast-turnaround and has moved forward with prepress advancements such as computer-to-plate (CTP) printing, telecommunications, use of PDF files, CD-ROM and Internet publishing and digital short-run printing.
At R. R. Donnelley, John Conley, vice president of strategy and new business development, notes that publishers' "increased focus on inventory management and speed to market impacts every decision we make now," he says, adding: "Turnaround times are much shorter; average counts are going down as publishers try to print more to demand and not have to speculate as much. That affects the way you build any manufacturing solution."
He also underscores the importance of digital technologies, calling them "hugely important" because they take days out of the schedule. RRD's Roanoke plant, for example, is optimized for digital workflows, says Conley.
An early leader in CTP technology, Donnelley now favors use of the PDF format. It's already being implemented in black-and-white work; four-color is the next target, he notes.
What's planned for the future? Donnelley has expanded its capacity to produce juvenile and specialty books by adding a Komori press at Reynosa, Mexico.
In general, says Conley, "Our strategy going forward is driving the efficiency of our core businesses," says Conley. Lest small publishers think the biggest printer serves only the biggest publishers, Conley notes, "Our goal is to provide the right service for all publishers, regardless of size."
At Quebecor, John Boylan, president, also acknowledges publishers' scrutiny of inventory levels. "The impact on manufacturers has been reduced production cycle times, lower order quantities and less (ability to forecast) equipment loading."
Quebecor's strategy includes providing as many services as possible, from a variety of printing, binding and finishing to on-demand printing to CD-ROM authoring and replication. At the same time, each manufacturing facility specializes in a product or market.
Another Quebecor long-term goal is to "improve operating efficiencies, reduce product cycle time and strengthen communications links with customers," says Boylan. Thus Quebecor is investing in improving communication and data transfer infrastructures. Quebecor is also working towards IS0 9000 certification at all facilities.
Banta, for whom the educational market makes up a significant part of its business, is experiencing especially rapid growth in its packaging and fulfillment division, says Dave Mead, vice president. Another high-growth area is Internet distribution, he notes. The book division as a whole is also growing, says Mead: "We've (recently) hired in excess of 300 people," says Mead.
More growth is expected: "Acquisition will play a major part in our future," primarily to add functional capabilities in core markets, Mead adds.
You might think that for the United States printing divisions of Bertelsmann, the acquisition of Random House by the parent company, international publishing magnate Bertelsmann AG, means instant clientele.
That's not necessarily so, reports Wayne Taylor, who oversees the U.S. book manufacturing divisions of Bertelsmann, which include Berryville Graphics (strong in adult trade and four-color juvenile books) Offset Paperback (a specialist in mass market and trade book manufacturing) and other business units. Because Bertelsmann is a very decentralized company, says Taylor: "We have to earn whatever business we get."
Company activity includes Dynamic Graphic Finishing's acquisition of Fell Brothers; Berryville installations including a Timson press, a softcover binding line, a wide-format four-color sheetfed press and a warehousing operation; and Offset Paperback additions including a Heidelberg six-color press and, most recently, the incorporation of Xerox DocuTech 6180 publishing systems and related equipment at its Dallas, PA, plant to bring the company into the short-run printing arena.
Taylor emphasizes the importance of CTP technology in helping Berryville reduce cycle times. And both Berryville and Offset Paperback are engaged in a "constant effort" to automate with robotics, says Taylor.
Offset Paperback recently received ISO 9002 certification.
Courier, whose six plants produce a wide range of books, from religious books on lightweight paper to two- and four-color educational text and trade titles, also is focusing on digital advancements. Courier recently installed Creo CTP equipment and a new four-color Heidelberg M-130 press at its Kendallville, IN, plant. Other technology strides include an established high-speed wide-area network that links all plants; PDF as an integral part of company workflow; and soft proofing and document exchange via the Internet.
Courier has recently launched what Peter Tobin, vice president of sales and marketing describes as an "aggressive" year 2000 compliance program that will include a new back-office system connected to all of the plants.
As a response to the growing short-run trend, Courier acquired Book-mart Press in 1997, "exponentially expanding our short-run book manufacturing capability," says Tobin.
Though best known as a cover and jacket and components manufacturer, Phoenix Color will take on books' inside pages, too, with the opening of a plant in Rockaway, NJ, this month. Another book manufacturing plant will open at Hagerstown, MD, in late 1999.
The company is also closing on a site in Lebanon, IN, near Donnelley's Crawfordsville, IN, plant. The location of this forthcoming plant--and existing plants--is integral to Phoenix's goal of providing same-day service to customers, says Louis LaSorsa, chairman and CEO.
To provide fast turnaround affordably, says LaSorsa, maximum plant automation is essential. Thus Phoenix is emphasizing CTP workflows and as much in-line work as possible. Phoenix also uses its own trucks, does its own paper sheeting, and connects its own sites and many customers via its ColorNet network, which includes delivery of remote proofs at customer sites. Two plants operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
As a yearbook publisher, Taylor Publishing became a short-run specialist long before short-run became cool. "Our average run is 500 sheets," says Scott Latham, vice president of human resources.
The books are printed on sheetfed presses; a move to digital xerographic is unlikely, though the company is always watching developments in this field. The short runs have the effect of making Taylor's in-house composition a critical operational hub: "We have quotas that are unbelievable," says Latham.
Students' pages, created on a variety of platforms, are ever more complex; some are handling their own scanning, Latham reports. Taylor also offers students use of its own proprietary software optimized for creating yearbook pages. The company is currently experimenting with sending a few schools PDF proofs over the Internet and allowing them to mark up corrections electronically, too.
Jac Garner, president of Webcrafters, a softcover book manufacturer with strengths in the education market, concurs that scheduling flexibility and digital technologies are key issues; his company is extending its CTP capabilities. He notes that publisher consolidation, particularly in the educational field, may reduce the number of books published as publishers streamline product lines, as well as cause changes in buying, manufacturing and product design philosophies. "It's important for the supplier to be flexible and patient," he notes.