Supply Chain Management
The supply chain is becoming more demand-driven, Brewer notes, which means narrowing the gap between production and consumption in order to ensure adequate quantities on the shelves without holding extra stock. Therefore, good communication with vendors and real-time warehouse tracking is essential, and publishers without the right technology to make this happen are “subjecting their business model to major blackout holes,” he says.
“In a tightly organized, well-communicated network of distribution, you control what you push to get money out of the supply chain,” Brewer continues. “Downstream thinking is not enough; this is why reverse logistics are so important.”
In other words, supply chain conduits are dynamic and bi-directional, as forecasts of supply and demand (ideally) meet up against real-time data that indicate what is selling where and how best to adjust stock, manufacturing schedules or even marketing strategies.
An example, notes Brewer, is the “Harry Potter” book series, which sells better in the Northeast than in the Deep South. In this case, it’s easy to see why analyzing regional data matters––but, with the right tools, the same process can be done for any book, even on a store-by-store level.
“A lot of people running businesses are coming from sales and marketing backgrounds,” Brewer notes. “The instinct is push, push, push …” But, while the marketing push and the investment in getting the book out are natural ways of thinking to those with sales backgrounds, it may not be so natural to go back after the big initial push and parse the numbers and analyze stock. That’s what many companies are missing, he says.
Brewer suggests publishers should consider looking back up the chain—reverse logistics—to capitalize on their investment long-term. For example, knowing what product they have in stock and what condition it’s in (i.e., able to sell as new, to be sold at a discount, sold to a third-party distributor, donated, pulped, etc.) can help publishers manage inventory more efficiently and cost-effectively.