Supply Chain Management
To those rooted in a traditional mind-set, some forms of supply chain efficiency will come more naturally than others. For instance, it’s easy to understand why Thomson Learning would join the federal government’s Customs Trade Partners Against Terrorism initiative, sharing information about its security measures in exchange for a streamlined customs process. It may be harder to grasp the necessity of going back to frequently reevaluate inventory in order to facilitate quick asset recovery—or in other words, recovery from the expense of storing books in a warehouse when you could be evaluating what that stock is worth based on a number of factors, such as backorder needs, condition of books, imbalance of stock in various areas, etc.
Just enough, just in time
For the publisher of books with the shortest shelf life in the industry, inventory management has risen almost to an art form. Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.—whose dominance of the women’s romance fiction market is built on series titles with very short life cycles—has had to meet supply chain challenges many publishers are only beginning to face.
“Controlling inventory that never sees the light of day is certainly a problem within the publishing industry in general,” notes Jim Robinson, Harlequin’s vice president of operations. “The cycle of printing begins before you have a read on what the market orders are going to be.
“Inventory write-down has been a challenge for us. We’re becoming an industry that’s more sensitive to the use of raw materials and to supply chain efficiency, particularly in a market that is not showing great growth, and I think all publishers are working to maintain market share,” says Robinson.
Given the cost per book, shifting entirely to digital print-on-demand (POD) was “not an option” for Harlequin, according to Robinson. The goal instead was to supplement the traditional offset process with POD geared solely to quickly making up any shortfalls in the initial print run.