Get out your calendar and schedule a regular date to review your production processes and strategies. Routinely taking a fresh look at your workflow can help you to find new opportunities for streamlining workflows, improving efficiencies, lowering costs and identifying new revenue opportunities. Bruce Jensen, vice president of sales at Transcontinental Printing, recently offered the following tips to Book Business Extra readers to help you improve your book production processes.
1. Take a total cost view. If you’re stuck in a per-thousand mentality, you’ll likely end up being penny wise and pound foolish. Today’s demand-driven best production practices often result in higher costs in some areas but lower total costs throughout the entire book manufacturing and distribution supply chain.
2. Get your in-house tech skills up to speed. While most automated job-management systems are user-friendly, production employees still need to ensure both their equipment—such as properly calibrated monitors—and skills are as up-to-date as possible to efficiently perform tasks such as uploading PDF files, using automated preflighting tools, tracking jobs throughout the production process, and reviewing, annotating and approving proofs online. If your staff isn’t technologically up-to-date, you’ll undoubtedly fail to capture some benefits along the way. Many printers will provide training, but it’s a big plus if your team is comfortable with technology.
3. Convert to PDF. This Adobe file format is now the graphic arts standard. Virtually all premedia workflows are built around PDF files. Learn your service provider’s settings and use PDF/X 1-a, a subset of PDF that restricts file content that does not directly serve the purposes of high-quality print production output.
4. Drive it digitally. Make the effort to work with your printer to digitally drive as many production processes as possible. For example, there are opportunities beginning with digital storefronts that enable book production from your desktop. There also are suites of digital premedia tools that allow publishers to plan their books, archive and retrieve digital assets, automate page production and then manage jobs online. Likewise, computer-driven pick and pack as well as warehousing systems can streamline fulfillment. These are some of important ways you can bring more speed, cost efficiencies and often higher quality to the entire production and fulfillment process.
5. Devise a rapid replenishment strategy. How you choose to fulfill a backorder can have a widely differing impact on your fulfillment and distribution costs. For instance, some publishers choose to ship the available titles and then follow up with a single shipment of the out of stock items when all are ready for shipment. Others choose to ship available titles immediately followed by separate shipments of backorder books as they become available. Still another approach is the integration of digital print into a backorder strategy. Each strategy has a different impact on costs and often customer satisfaction. Work with your partners to devise response alternatives and weigh the cost impact of each.
6. Integrate digital print into your backorder strategy. This enables you to minimize inventories while often allowing quick replenishment that avoids multiple shipments and the associated higher costs. This is a good example of where you need to abandon a per-thousand printing mentality and look at total costs.
7. Make fulfillment someone else’s problem. Small to medium-size publishers especially can avoid the capital investment and distraction from core publishing activities by outsourcing book fulfillment to service providers that specialize in that area.
8. Look under your printer’s sustainability hood. If you are serious about reducing your carbon footprint (and you should be), you need to do some due diligence about your print provider’s environmental commitment and performance record. Form a team that will explore and execute sustainability strategies from end-to-end in the production and distribution process.
9. Enhance your covers on the cheap. Everyone knows that covers sell, and you’ll get the most bang for your buck with ink and coating techniques performed in-line during the normal printing process. New ink techniques, like MetalFX technology, print standard CMYK inks on top of specially modified silver ink to enable the creation of up to 104 million metallic colors—all on a five-unit press.
10. Reduce your supply base. Partnering with a select group of suppliers who have the knowledge, skills and technologies to help develop a finely tuned manufacturing and fulfillment supply chain will deliver the greatest efficiencies. Seek “big picture” people who have the ability to view the entirety of a supply chain and understand how to work collaboratively to reduce cycle times and total costs.
Bruce Jensen is the group vice president of sales for Transcontinental Printing’s Magazine, Book & Catalog group. Contact him at JensenB@Transcontinental.ca
For more information on Transcontinental Printing, please visit www.transcontinental-printing.com