The Printers' Evolution
BB: What does it mean to be a multiplatform printing services company? How has the definition changed from what it was even a couple of years ago?
Edwards: The fact that the world is going to shorter run, quicker replenishment [models is] not a monumental shift for us. However, the advent of digital printing, which is now becoming a significant part of our business, is really changing the dynamics of what we do, how we do it and who we do it for.
I grew up in an environment where you produce books, you put them in a box, they go on a pallet [that] goes to a customer's warehouse, and they do all the breakdown, shipments and distribution. That's a pretty expensive supply chain, especially in an environment where a lot of what's done is speculative—the publishers make a print order and are hoping to sell it. What the advent of ultra-short-run manufacturing has given us and our clients is the ability to make a decision later and later, to only make it when they have an order, and to react quickly to unanticipated demand.
This has changed the whole dialog that we have. I grew up talking about presses and binderies and how fast they can go and how cool they are, but I don't really talk about that much any more. I now mostly talk about supply chain costs, inventory costs, how long a book is expected to be in inventory and why is it that long. With the economic meltdown, our customers had to look at total costs. We've evolved ... by compressing the supply chain, building it [around] when orders happen or keeping very low inventory levels and accurately chasing demand.
BB: What new services are you offering that are most indicative of this change?