No More Big Squeeze
Pearson's Mitchell says publishers are also becoming more analytical, not just about their workflow, but about their business relationships.
"We are moving into an ever-increasing metric environment," he says. "We're working with our suppliers to drill down into the relationship. You measure where the cost drivers are, and you take steps to leverage them out of your operations."
It is not data analysis for the sake of it, but rather gathering information of value across the supply chain, and making decisions based on that data. It's not the only tool, says Mitchell, who cautions "being wedded to any one technique," but it's certainly one of the new tools borne of a recession-era economy that will likely remain on the tool belt in years forward.
One insight Pearson has learned: paperless transactions are faster, easier to audit, and save money. The publisher is aggressive about eliminating paper in supplier relationships and the workflow.
Instead of paper, they're using electronic purchase orders, invoices, remote proofing, and digital file transfer. Whenever technology offers a compelling reason to change the way business is done, such a change is pursued, Mitchell says: "There is no question that [this] is driving down the cost of business. We are targeting at least a 5% productivity improvement every year."
Global sourcing is also gaining favor among publishers and manufacturers. With the ease and ever-lower cost of proofing and transmitting publications electronically, publishers are increasingly willing to consider printers and manufacturers not just in their backyard, but around the globe.
Caution and focus are the watchwords in the education market. "We said we were recession-proof," says Susan Badger, president of the Wadsworth Group, Belmont, Calif., a unit of Thomson Learning Co. (owned by Thomson Corp.). "But state and local budgets took a plunge in the past year, affecting textbook sales."