Automation to Cut Supply Chain's Weakest Link
Also slowing the changeover has been a lack of software. Supply chain management software companies have yet to create an off-the-shelf application using XBITS, but Degener expects they will come on board soon. Degener says that the XBITS working group is now developing marketing and implementation guides to help get the word out.
McGraw-Hill will be one of the first large publishers to integrate XBITS into its supply chain solution, according to Brian Sharlach, McGraw-Hill's director of manufacturing systems and e-commerce. Sharlach—who also helped to develop XBITS and chaired a session at the 2004 BookTech Conference & Expo earlier this year on XBITS' impact on the supply chain (where Degener was a panelist)— says existing EDI solutions are outgrowing their usefulness. While EDI was a novel concept in its time, Sharlach says using proprietary data schemes and networks are not cost competitive with conducting transactions over the Internet using XML standards.
He says that McGraw-Hill, which has to keep tabs on the paper and other supplies at 70 printing locations, expects to save $20,000 in the first year by eliminating paper transactions from its internally developed system. McGraw-Hill will work with its 25 largest suppliers on moving to XBITS, which would encompass 95 percent of their transactions. By using XBITS, "Our transaction time will be reduced and accuracy increased by eliminating manual operations," Sharlach says.
"Book publishing will look more different in 10 years than it did 100 years ago," according to Martin Korsin, vice president of business solutions at content supply chain company Innodata Isogen. Korsin says that by using XML and XBITS for their transactions, publishers can participate more easily in digital printing.
Korsin says publishers can reuse the XML descriptions of book components when they want to distribute content in other formats, such as CDs, online or Adobe's PDF. The need for large book warehouses will decrease as more companies move to local printing. Korsin says the real-time XBITS inventory data will allow publishers to practice just-in-time inventory and to print books on demand.