Supply Chain Management
Sticking to the basics
Sprague, of Seeburger, identifies four basic elements that companies often fail to focus on when looking to improve supply chain function.
“If the data is not good, what good is tracking it?” Sprague notes.
The first is ensuring an effective “integration infrastructure”—making sure a company’s myriad parts function well together, and that these elements work seamlessly with shippers and retailers.
“We have this integration area that has become more spaghetti-like,” he says. “So, consolidate systems, enable training partners. Integration and technology simplify that.”
Once connected, data validation and exception management (the ability to verify orders and correct errors quickly) become critically important. This is where universal work lists and task managers, such as those used by AMG and Elsevier, become important. Quickly identifying and fixing problems is essential, whether on the production end (flagging font incompatibility, for instance) or in shipping (mismatched invoices and payment errors). This works best with an automated process that cues the right person to immediately interact with the system.
Having ensured the quality of the data, the best-run companies make use of this information as effectively as possible, requiring certain procedure-to-pay processes and point-of-sale information on a daily basis. Only at this point can inventory-monitoring solutions—the fourth element—be utilized as effectively as possible. “Until you know what you’re shipping, finding [the shipment] does not really add value,” he notes.
In some ways, book publishers need to catch up to the supply chain practices already in place among the large retailers with whom they do so much business.
“You have the Wal-Marts and Targets of the world saving millions of dollars a year on information exchange,” Sprague says, referencing a publishing client that until recently still was using paper invoices. “Everything I talk about is about making information management more efficient, so that I have money to spend in other places.”