Reinventing Book Printing: The New Supply Chain

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The book publishing supply chain has been completely transformed by technology. New tools, ranging from the now fairly standard electronic data interchange, to new advanced inkjet technologies, have reduced supply chain costs and eliminated the steps of moving books from manufacturers to consumers. Improvements in printing technologies, in particular, offer publishers new ways of managing the supply chain, both nationally and, increasingly, internationally. The new digital printing platforms generate much less waste and require less setup time than the old ones, and this higher productivity allows lower prices to be passed on to publishers.

One of the pioneers of supply chain innovations is Strategic Content Imaging (SCI), a New Jersey-based digital printer that offers tailor-made supply chain solutions to its customers. Dale Williams, vice president of SCI, says the company’s Automatic Replenishment Program (ARP) is shifting the focus on replenishments from unit price to sale rate. According to Williams, the program is perfect for editors “who aren’t ready to embrace the true one-off POD mindset.” Even for those not fully participating in the ARP program, the concept allows publishers to keep inventory on hand at predetermined levels, and that inventory can be moved as demand changes. As a book progresses in its lifecycle, Williams notes, another part of ARP offers publishers the option of a true print-on-demand service when the sales rate of a book drops to a certain level.

SCI offers these programs on a wide variety of platforms, including HP digital inkjet, Indigo and others. It also offers a wide range of finishing options, including hard cover binding. According to Williams, having different finishing operations in-house extends digital printing to many editing lines that have just gone from offset. He says recent trends support his take on how publishers should interpret manufacturing costs. “For years, I have advocated that total cost of ownership, rather than cost per unit, be the central concept in managing a publisher’s supply chain,” he says. “Now the publishers are reaching out to us and the discussions are on how quickly SCI can implement an ARP for them. The adoption of high speed inkjet technology has certainly been the main cause of this change. “

Blurb, a leading San Francisco-based online publishing platform, is another company at the forefront of supply chain improvement. Bruce Waterman, senior vice president of operations, notes that due to advanced workflows and common print file specifications, customers can order books from one region and Blurb can produce them in multiple countries. . This reduces the cost of freight and eliminates the administrative costs of exporting, as well as delivery times.

As Waterman reported, companies are looking to improve their supply chain efficiency beyond the United States Internationally, HP, the market leader in high productivity inkjet systems, has over 50 billion pages of potential capacity on over 30 sites. worldwide, including locations in Australia, China, Europe, Japan, Latin America, the Philippines and Singapore, enabling global book publishers to adopt distributed print models.

For Pearson in the Asia-Pacific region, production manager Vicki Bzovy believes that hybrid printing is essential to meet the varied market demands of her business. “We used digital printing for small runs, personalization, on demand, even if it’s only a single copy, as well as for handling end-of-life inventory,” explains- she does. For Bzovy, there are many reasons to choose digital printing, but “the main one in most cases is being able to print small runs relatively inexpensively, whether for new titles, reprints or custom titles. . And as digital printing has become more efficient, higher quality, and more flexible in terms of cut sizes, inventory availability and finishes, we have been able to resolve other issues such as inventory, obsolescence, personalized publication and end of life printing.

According to Bzovy, there are many variables to consider when choosing digital printing. “It’s not always about price, quality or turnaround time,” she notes. “For us, digital printing is another option as a delivery method. This allows us to offer a different offer to our customers. Digital printing also allows Pearson to reduce inventory, freeing the company to invest in new areas of business. “Digital printing gives us more flexibility … It’s about selecting the optimal printing method for the right product, at the right stage of a book’s lifecycle, that produces the best result,” adds Bzovy.

A version of this article appeared in the 03/10/2014 issue of Editors Weekly under the title: Reinventing Book Printing: The New Supply Chain


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