by DPS Magazine
In today’s fast-paced world, production speed alone won’t give print providers an edge. The entire process, from order entry to kitting and mailing can be automatically driven by sophisticated workflow tools. In book manufacturing — where it is increasingly common to have smaller runs, down to a book of one—a streamlined operation really matters.
Established in 1984, Books International is a family owned and operated business headquartered in Dulles, VA. It has 150 employees and runs out of 225,000 square feet of space, including its Dulles location and a satellite facility in Chicago, IL.
The company is part of the United Independent Distributors (UID). Created in 2019, it is a network of companies that are progressively integrating. UID is designed to enable its client publishers to maximize the global distribution of their books and other content by providing flexible and cost-effective services.
If you add in the UID, Book International offers a total employee count of 370 with 425,000 square feet. The company provides fulfillment services as well as print on demand (POD) and digital services to publishers worldwide, managing more than 200,000 titles per year.
The book manufacturer classifies its work into two streams, core and POD work. Its core orders consist mostly of first print runs of higher quantities. This year, approximately 60 percent of its printed pages represent core jobs. The company expects to remain on the same trajectory through 2021. About 70 percent is inkjet web printed and the rest is cutsheet, split between inkjet and toner. It primarily produces educational, scientific, technical, medical, and trade books as well as journals.
Dixie Shaffer, director, pre-manufacturing services, Book International, says print volume doesn’t determine or define POD for them, it is about order method. “We have many POD orders that are 400 to 700 copies. Because we invested in an HP PageWide Web Press T490 and the Muller Martini Sigma3 folder book-of-one line, we can run POD single copy orders inline with a 3,000-run trade book,” she explains.
Digital Print Focused
The company’s pressroom is all digital, made up of both toner- and inkjet-based technologies including the Canon VarioPRINT i300; the new Canon VarioPRINT i300 iX; a Canon ColorStream 6300; the HP T490 and T240; an HP Indigo; as well as the the Konica Minolta MGI Meteor-DP8700.
For binding, it offers softcover, hardcover, coil, saddle stitch, and Wire-O options. To complete these tasks it uses a range of equipment, including the Muller Martini Vareo binder with InfiniTrim, the Kolbus KM200 and trimmer, a Kolbus 513 casing-in system, On Demand Machinery casing-in system, a Kolbus casemaker, GP2 casemakers, Standard Horizon 470 binders, and a C.P. Bourg 3002 binder. All of its machines are used for both POD and core work.
With so many titles, a streamlined workflow is essential. For years, the company utilized a proprietary workflow. However, it wanted to switch to a scalable solution that could provide visibility into production. Enter EFI Midmarket Print Suite.
With the EFI Pace MIS system at its core, the Midmarket Print Suite is designed to improve visibility, communication, and performance through end-to-end workflows designed to optimize resource utilization, eliminate manual touchpoints, reduce waste, and grow revenue.
When it came time to implement EFI Midmarket Print Suite, Book International decided on a phased approach. “We decided to start with our core production first,” explains Shaffer. “We receive about 100 core orders daily but thousands of POD orders. So, it was more manageable to work out any kinks with core orders before tackling POD.”
The book manufacturing company went live with core orders in August 2019 and has been using EFI Pace for POD orders since May 2020. At Books International, core orders are manually entered and managed by a customer service representative (CSR). “We learned a lot about Pace and how we could effectively use it by manually entering these orders,” she says. “Core jobs are entered first as an estimate, then converted to a job and scheduled through PrintFlow. It’s our POD workflow that makes us unique and that required a fair amount of customization during the implementation process.”
According to Shaffer, the book manufacturer was the first Pace implementation to import jobs from XML. “We gather POD orders throughout the day, and in the evening, we generate an XML file that includes all of the book data, order information, pricing, and shipping instructions, all batched to Pace, and that’s when the magic happens,” she explains Each ISBN is a separate job. An estimate is created on the fly for each order and then reconverted to a job in the software. “You could have 20 different orders for a single ISBN, and those are aggregated into a single job, or you could have just one order for a given ISBN. Each has its own job number and estimate within Pace.”
Most of the company’s orders are placed electronically through a data interface. For POD, files and metadata for each title are set up in advance, allowing them to be automatically processed and sent directly to the press. Status is then updated in Pace to reflect that the job has been sent to press. “Pace is now the brains of our workflow instead of working with a group of standalone systems,” says Shaffer. “This enables us to quickly get a status of each individual title within a POD order.”
Shaffer admits there is still more work to be done to perfect the process. “We wanted to start using and benefiting from Pace quickly so we didn’t try to do everything at once. We are currently in the process of refining the POD billing in Pace. In the first month, we ran parallel billing on a legacy system; soon we will be exclusively using Pace. The next step is implementing inventory tracking through it.”
The company had a few false starts in its Pace implementation process, but once it assigned a full-time programmer to work on the project and determined that everything didn’t have to happen at once, it took off.
Trust in Workflow
Visibility into the production process is essential to Books International. With sophisticated workflow tools, CSRs spend less time inquiring on job status. Shaffer says Pace and the EFI Midmarket Print Suite have made big difference in its workflow and expects this to only improve going forward. dps
Nov2020, DPS Magazine