Supply Chain Management
The biggest challenge was producing a POD product that replicated exactly the look and feel of offset printed books. Working with print and imaging solutions provider Océ, the company developed a digital product printed, like offset books, on bulked up newsprint.
“We were looking for a process that could mimic identically what we get from the offset world, so the consumer could not tell the difference. It’s a lot cheaper than producing way too many [books] and pulping them,” Robinson notes.
The new process has had ripple effects throughout the company’s supply chain. Previously, production runs were set based on predictions from three sales and marketing groups (Internet, direct marketing and retail sales), all providing numbers meant to ensure product availability.
The company now can pull back on print orders without risking a shortfall. It also has shifted responsibility for managing inventory from marketing to manufacturing, helping to ensure that marketing forecasts are as accurate as possible and allowing available inventory to be sent through the channels where it is most needed.
“The old supply chain has to be constantly reworked,” Robinson says. “Cost is the game, and margins are sacred.”
Within Harlequin, the move toward revamping the supply chain “was not an easy sell.” However, the firm’s leadership was progressive.
“We asked people to take a leap of faith to see this work,” he says. “There’s an investment here.”
For Chattanooga, Tenn.-based AMG Publishers, the investment involved adopting technology to dramatically cut the time it takes to move a project out of production. A secure, online repository of project information allows for instant tracking, automatic preflight and error notification, and flagging of upcoming deadlines.
The idea is to automate as much of the production process as possible, making it faster and more predictable without any corresponding loss in quality control. “It streamlines the whole process of manufacturing,” says Tim Taylor—market leader of the Religious Books in Media group at Montreal-based Transcontinental, provider of AMG’s Digital Workshop software—who stresses the connection between production, manufacturing and distribution in a well-managed supply chain. “With a limited amount of warehouse space, it’s important to manage the flow more efficiently in order to more accurately predict inventory needs.”