Tapping the Supply Chain Opportunity
For intellectual property industries, this is less of a trap. Differentiation is built into the title of every book (although one can look at the textbook sector and wonder about that). Plus, the supply chain management of outsourcing production and manufacturing has long been embedded in management practice (less so for other marketing and distribution functions), although it has been constrained by the limited foresight of outsource providers. It is a more significant issue for book manufacturers and printers.
Book manufacturers and printers are by nature and design conservative in foreseeing and responding to lethal threats. Their technology and equipment fixed-cost investments are substantial. They are the tail to the publishing dog (no slight intended), relying on a pull instead of a push marketplace (fortunately countered by the massive investments of technology providers such as Hewlett-Packard, Xerox, Kodak, Creo and others).
As a consequence, while many possibilities exist for them to become key links in supply chain management opportunities created by today’s multiformat product life cycles, primarily only the conglomerate firms such as RR Donnelley and Quebecor World have effectively extended their reach in this manner.
Family owned Edwards Brothers, a book manufacturer based in Ann Arbor, Mich., saw the opportunities for a distinctive supply chain value proposition by managing the book manufacturing life cycle needs of their customers’ titles early in the era of emerging digital printing. In July 2004, Book Business (then called BookTech Magazine), reported that “in addition to conventional production, Edwards Brothers has developed customized printing solutions to meet the unique challenges of several customers. These include remote digital printing operations in the warehouses of Rowman and Littlefield, The University of Chicago Press, The National Academies Press and an overseas location in the United Kingdom in partnership with the National Book Network.” Since then Edwards has opened a facility at Houghton-Mifflin’s K-12 warehouse.
Eugene G. Schwartz is editor at large for ForeWord Reviews, an industry observer and an occasional columnist for Book Business magazine. In an earlier career, he was in the printing business and held production management positions at Random House, Prentice-Hall/Goodyear and CRM Books/Psychology Today. A former PMA (IBPA) board member, he has headed his own publishing consultancy, Consortium House. He is also Co-Founder of Worthy Shorts Inc., a development stage online private press and publication service for professionals as well as an online back office publication service for publishers and associations. He is on the Publishing Business Conference and Expo Advisory Board.