Monday, September 25, 2006

The Publishing Supply Chain

A number of years ago I was asked to speak at a conference on the future of the book. I did not take this title literally and decided to examine the inherent inefficiency of the publishing supply chain. Importantly, I believed the future of the book had as much to do with profitability and efficiency as it did with creativity.

Since that meeting, I have presented the themes of this post on a number of occasions. As I noted earlier this month an old colleague of mine, Michael Healy has been named BISG Executive Director and he joins BISG with a mandate to address the inefficiencies that are endemic to our industry. Many other industries have successfully addressed supply chain issues and have significantly improved all major functional areas in their organizations; some have created competitive advantage from their attention to these supply chain issues. The publishing industry on the other hand is still characterized by vertically constituted monolithic organizations which rarely share information and rarely collaborate with their supply chain partners to common advantage.

In my presentations, I proposed a structure named The Intelligent Publishing Supply Network (IPSN) which would be dependent on the sharing of information regarding activities in their market. It is information that increases speed and improves productivity, enables better and faster decision making and supports an environment suitable for innovation and development. Time and effort is not distracted with non-productive activity.

The most obvious information limitation publishers and retailers have is accurate sell-through and channel data. Without real time or near time access to information about what is happening – and notice I use the present tense - in the supply chain most publishing industry participants are forced to make ill-informed decisions. Large levels of inventory, sales promotions that sell-out before their sale period ends and uneven product distribution are but a few of the examples of our inefficient supply chain.

Both BISG and BIC (UK) must address the supply chain issues our industry faces and become advocates for improvements similar to those supported by GS1. GS1 is the leading global organization dedicated to the design and implementation of global standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply and demand chains. This organization grew out of the grocery and food business but now spans many industry groups. It may be a viable strategy to integrate some of the publishing supply chain programs of BISG with those of GS1. Not surprisingly they are far more advanced in their programs and there is no sense reinventing the wheel.

Over the next several weeks, I will expand further and update some of the ideas I have presented over the past few years. What is readily apparent however, is that there is a willingness from retailers, wholesalers and publishers to cooperate more to improve efficiencies in the publishing market. BISG will become more relevant in this context.

1 comment:

Eoin Purcell said...

Looking forward to more here! Great post!