The Lean Publisher Conference Summary

On Friday 7th June 2017, Printondemand-worldwide was delighted to welcome delegates and speakers to another of our occasional and informal conferences.  The theme this time was “Lean Publishing” with a range of speakers from across the industry talking about their experiences of Lean Publishing.

Lean Systems

Emma Barnes – Managing Director, Snowbooks/Bibliocloud

Emma described how, as a small publisher, she had focused on using systems to become leaner in her publishing.  The key points Emma made were:

  • Avoid duplication – Never do anything more than is absolutely necessary.  Emma gave the example of ISBNs which are received from Nielsen via ONIX and imported directly into Snowbook’s publishing system, so she never has to actually type an ISBN.
  • Upskill and downsize – Rather than employ extra staff Emma had focused on improving her technical skills to develop Bibliocloud, a complete in-house publishing system to deal with repetitive and routine jobs.  By lifting the burden of administrative tasks publishers can get on with publishing books!

Lean is not spending any more money than you have to. While Emma acknowledged that not everyone will have the in-house expertise to develop their own systems, having an off-the-peg system will help automation and avoid duplication.  The key thing to keep in mind when developing your in-house systems is to think about not just storing the information itself as a solution, but how in fact you intend to retrieve and use it.

The Bibliocloud system has evolved to the extent that Snowbooks are now selling it to other publishers, with some well-known names now using it as their publishing system.  In addition, the Arts Council has given Snowbooks a grant to offer Bibliocloud free of charge to some small publishers based on certain criteria.

Lean Metadata

Simon Edwards – Principle Consultant, BIC

Simon had lots of evidence to show that if you put a little effort into your metadata it can reap huge rewards!  Sales increase incrementally if publishers supply BIC basic metadata, if a cover image is added, and if each of the four additional enhanced elements is included in their metadata. 

In an increasingly digital world where discoverability is a major issue, it’s not often that such a clear opportunity to grow sales is available.  Also, if you follow the advice of our other speakers and make your systems as lean as possible it should be possible to make sure the bibliographic metadata you supply is as good as it can be with minimal time and money.

That being said, Simon did make a good point.  Publishers have a responsibility to check their metadata and retailer listings on an ad hoc basis for errors and inconsistencies. After all, isn’t it better that you find anything rather than a possible consumer or the author themselves? Of course, checking all online retailers’ listings is impossible, but checking a handful after activation should throw up any issues to be resolved urgently.

Also of interest of in terms of Lean Publishing was BIC’s role in promoting best practice and use of standards to increase supply chain efficiency.

Without standards such as ISBN, EDI, ONIX and BIC category codes many of the automated systems we tend to take for granted nowadays would simply not work.  A particularly relevant example is how BIC codes are developing into a new international standard (Thema) that will be accepted worldwide, reducing time and effort involved in preparing and disseminating bibliographic information.

Lean Manufacturing

Andy Cork – Managing Director, Printondemand-worldwide

Before we took a tour of our Lean Manufacturing facility, Andy gave a brief overview of our guiding principles of Lean Manufacturing and how it’s a continual process involving all the people in our organisation with a clear purpose to develop a virtual warehouse from which books can be printed and shipped faster than a traditional warehouse can pick them.

Lean Production

Richard Fidczuk – Production Director of Sage Publishing

After a tour of our Lean Manufacturing plant and lunch, we all returned to hear from our next presenter, Richard Fidczuk, Production Director of Sage Publishing.  Richard explained that taking some “simple steps” can help publishers of all sizes become leaner in their publishing:

  • Standardisation – Sage has decreased the number of trim sizes and formats that they publish so they can make their production systems more efficient.
  • Automation – Look at ways you can use computers to automate those routine and repetitive tasks that computers do well.  Not only does this speed up processes by reducing duplication of effort it also reduces the chances of manually introduced errors.
  •  Focus on the essentials – Do not spend time focusing on projects and items that are not significant. Don’t have “workarounds”, identify issues with systems, manage by exception and implement changes/improvements.

Lean Publishing

Thomas Hoppe – Production Director, EH Verlag

Our final speaker was Thomas Hoppe – Production Director of EH Verlag.

Thomas described how EH Verlag has embraced POD so much that their default publishing quantity is always one!  If they have multiple orders they think of it as multiple copies of one order rather than a bulk order.  This approach has revolutionised the way they publish and has also made them more profitable and sustainable. They no longer hold any stock, and from commissioning a title to fulfilling orders POD is at the forefront of their considerations.

Thomas was also kind enough to give us a unique insight into the state of POD in Germany, and also an overview of the German market as a whole.  Particularly interesting was how the leaner publishing practices they’ve adopted have also made them more competitive in markets outside Germany.

Interestingly, EH Verlag has also developed its own in-house publishing system, with a focus on the integration of POD.  

Lean Forward

Although the speakers had not conferred before the day, and there was no duplication of effort, there were some things common to all their presentations.

  • Standardisation – Try to standardise your process as much as possible. There are many standards in publishing so use them where applicable.
  • Best practice – if there are no industry standards develop your own best practice to increase efficiency.
  • Automation – use computers to automate any repetitive or routine tasks.  This reduces duplication of effort and also helps prevent errors being introduced at each stage of the publishing process.
  • Add value – focus on spending the most time on those things which add the most value and are essential to your business and reducing the amount of time that you spend on other things.

Lean is about not spending any more time or money than you have to.  It’s about best utilising your resources to streamline your processes and adding value for your customers whilst reducing time, effort and hopefully stress!