Talking About Supply Chain Management
Ed Tenthoff, vice president of publishing Technology for Pearson Education; Fran Toolan, president of Quality Solutions; and David LaFauci, vice president and CIO of Courier Corporation, recently discussed the value of planning, information and time-saving initiatives with the editors of BookTech the Magazine.
BTM: How would you define supply chain management (i.e., from the perspective of publisher, printer or technical services provider)?
Tenthoff: A mutual understanding of requirements versus capabilities that then leads to the ability to maximize efficiencies and minimize conflicting goals.
Toolan: From the perspective of a technical services provider, I would define supply chain management as the ability of customers to work with suppliers in such a way that the customer feels as though the supplier is simply a logical extension of their own company. Communication between customers and suppliers should be as simple as intradepartmental communication. Everyone needs access to the same information at the same time.
LaFauci: Printers stand in the middle of the book publishing supply chain in both the customer and vendor roles. Supply chain management optimizes communication, standardizes events and strengthens relationships by shifting from a paperbound, inflexible process to one that is electronic, real-time and beneficial to participants. As a result, participants can reap improved efficiencies, reduced errors and the ability to re-deploy efforts to value-added activities.
BTM: Over the past few years we've all witnessed some extremely ambitious attempts to jump beyond "supply chains" in an effort to create "supply webs." What important lessons have been learned from these recent endeavors?
Tenthoff: To stick with basics and truly understand the elements within your supply chain and the communication necessary to successfully interact with each.
Toolan: I think that there are many lessons learned here, but the two most important are that no one wants to foot the bill (on an ongoing basis) of paying a for-profit third party to create, maintain and administer the supply web, and that there is not just one supply-web. The only place where the supply-web concept has worked is when a relatively large customer mandates to its suppliers that it must use the supply web if they want to continue to have a business relationship. Without that type of "do it or else" pressure, suppliers are loathe to take the time and spend the money to connect their systems to B2B systems that simply cut into their profitability. And the fact that there are always a few competing B2B sites simply expands the costs for the suppliers further.