Cover Story: Top 30 Book Manufacturers
BB: What other important factors are affecting the industry?
Collinge: There’s a lot of challenge in the paper markets. Costs are changing rapidly depending on demand, and there are some challenged suppliers that are core to the industry that seem to be navigating some of their credit challenges. … Managing those relationships is getting to be a key part in supporting a publisher and printer’s success, because those things are volatile—with environmental issues, cost changes in paper, and in some cases, credit and financial challenges within those suppliers, it’s a lot more dynamic than it was a few years ago.
BB: So the price fluctuations of paper as a commodity and the health of these companies factor in?
Collinge: And the third thing is the complexity and changes in paper options, some driven by environmental concerns, some by technology advances. … These developments are adding new opportunities to really address the functionality of books and the economics of the paper equation, and it’s making for a more complex planning and selling process, which is a good thing to have because it means we are looking at doing things differently rather than just supporting the status quo.
Jim Pentecost, president and CEO, Dickinson Press
BB: What are the most important trends you’ve seen in the book printing market over the past year?
Pentecost: … The economy. We are adjusting to that … with efficiencies as well as some [decreases] in staff, [and] cost-management initiatives—all the way from our estimating system through the maintenance system. We are also negotiating better rates and terms with all of our vendors, whether in the insurance on the business [or] materials we use.
A significant trend is in environmental sensitivity. … So, we have made some changes there …, for instance, we have become chain-of-custody certified with SFI [Sustainable Forestry Initiative] and PEFC [Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification], and we’re waiting for our FSC [Forest Stewardship Council] certification. And … we are doing a lot more in the area of recycling.
Another significant trend is in shorter runs, and we are trying to accommodate that with some of our smaller web presses, … as customers [try] to keep their inventory levels down.
BB: Is digital figuring into that for you?
Pentecost: It is not for us. … I think digital is still 1,000 copies and under, so generally if it gets down that low we are probably not a player. We will do 2,500 copies and above, but where we start to become efficient is at about 7,000 copies. …
BB: Have you made any recent improvements in technology or workflow?
Pentecost: We’ve made changes in our software and prepress area, as well as adding some items to our web process, such as closed-loop color systems, which reduces makereadies and reduces the amount of time it takes us to get on the count. We’ve also made investments in efficiencies in the binderies, with some in-line production capabilities in labeling, shrink-wrapping [and] cartoning.
Rather than lay people off, we decided to find other jobs for them, so we brought back in-house some of the work we had traditionally outsourced. … [Also], more of us are wearing more hats. … We’ve also done some cross-training with people in the line where they can work on several different pieces of equipment.