The Future of the Supply Chain Is (Almost) Here
According to Weinstein, in addition to preflighting, soft proofing and utilizing software that enables shared knowledge between various departments’ workflow systems, Cengage also has realized production efficiencies through standardized software coding, scripting to verify code consistency, automated page make-up, and scripts that allow easy re-use of archived content. “Aside from creating what you think is the most efficient way to work internally, you must choose the right partner vendors,” he adds. “These vendors must understand what you are trying to do and be able to work with software and workflows that you choose; but they must also be nimble enough to respond to the unexpected ups and downs of your volume.”
The Importance of Standardization
From RFID to file management and emerging forms of digital production and distribution, standardization of data platforms is a key element in building new efficiencies into the supply chain.
“We’ve done a lot of work over many years, standardizing the way product information is communicated between trading partners,” notes Michael Healy, executive director of the BISG. “That goes back 10 years to the development of [Online Information Exchange (ONIX)], which is an XML expression of product information. We did that to standardize the way in which parts of a book can be described. By embedding that standardized expression in XML text, I’m enabling computer-to-computer communication and attempting to minimize touch points where humans have to intervene.”
Another example is electronic data interchange (EDI) messaging, where the goal is to facilitate machine-to-machine communication for purchase orders, order acknowledgements and invoices.
“For us, the end game is all about enabling the automation of these business communication messages,” Healy says.
Healy notes that standardization is especially important as the industry moves toward a digital supply chain. Publishers looking to share content safely and securely must be able to deal with multiple trading partners (booksellers, wholesalers, etc.), which has led to recent industry initiatives such as the establishment of the .epub file format as the standard for e-books.