Navigating the Global Market
If you're considering offshore sourcing, here are some additional words of caution.
Milton Batalion, senior vice president of production and manufacturing for Time Warner Book Group, says selecting an offshore printer is much like selecting a domestic printer. But no matter what printer you choose, challenges can arise in managing such a long-distance relationship, primarily in shipping and potential delays.
Rail congestion, for example, has been a recent concern, as it is making it difficult for book shipments arriving on the West Coast to be moved on time. "It could be just the peak season, but it's also likely that there is just a shortage of space, as some companies have moved from truck to rail to compensate for high fuel prices," says Batalion. Time Warner Book Group has people monitoring situations such as these, says Batalion, so the company is instantly made aware of any delays and can address them quickly, if not in advance. However, Batalion says smaller companies could be significantly impacted by this type of problem.
A dock strike last year affected anyone bringing goods into the United States, says Sandy Grebenar, head of design and production for Harcourt. Dealing with a foreign country's laws can be challenging as well, notes Batalion. He recalls at least one situation where that was an issue and, he says, "We were essentially at the mercy of the printer." The company Batalion was doing business with had gone bankrupt in the middle of a large press run. "We had to move the work to the U.S. to get the rest of the books printed on time. That could happen here, too, but it may be a little more complicated if you're working in a foreign country," he says.
Few business executives would rush into something like sourcing overseas, but in case the rip tide should pull you quickly out to sea, better drop anchor fast to slow down. International business consultancy Booze Allen Hamilton suggests that best-practice companies first try a few run-throughs to test the process, and even suggest a couple dozen "exercises."
It's also important to have a disaster recovery plan in place, for anything from a natural disaster to a vendor's bankruptcy, or even disease. "We lost an operation in Beijing due to SARS—not a hurdle you generally anticipate," says print broker Ken Coburn, who has worked in several print management positions overseas.
- Noelle Skodzinski