Putting processes in place is the need of the hour

As the assistant vice president, demand planning and production, at one of the biggest trade publishing firm, Penguin Random House India, Ajay Joshi explains to Subhasis Ganguli why it’s important to have a holistic view of demand planning

21 Mar 2018 | By Subhasis Ganguli

How different is your current job from the previous one?
Adding demand planning over and above the production responsibility opens up the horizon. It gives you a better understanding of the total value chain, so that you can take conscious decisions which are better for the organisation. Now I do not look at the issues in compartments but have a holistic view towards the same.
As you are also responsible for stock now, does that effect your print decisions, especially for print runs?
Yes, of course. Now, we can plan with more accuracy. Knowing stocks levels and the pattern of sales help us decide the runs and the mode of printing. It has also helped in reducing the gap between demand and supply substantially. 
As the head of demand planning and production, you are now responsible for the value chain. What are you doing to improve the efficacy? 
Putting processes in place is the need of the hour. Inventory control and optimising print run is a challenge. TAT (turnaround time) needs to come down further to process the order faster. We successfully handle the long tail of our rich list through digital printing and do not keep much inventory for the same. Hence, the larger catalogue is live at all times.
Please elaborate...
Our emphasis is to make stocks available in the market in time. Re-order level (ROL) gets reviewed regularly, which triggers re-ordering quantity (ROQ). It is checked frequently by keeping in mind the average TAT for offset and digital printing. We had gone through an exercise of standardisation, which pays a huge dividend to improve efficiency. 
Where would you place Indian printers vis-à-vis printers from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore? 
We have committed and efficient printers in every region. Both in India and in China, the commitment to efficiency and cost is good. In addition, colour printing is a specialty of the printers in China. 
What will be your advice to the Indian printers if they want to capture the global market?
Our printers would benefit from bringing in more efficiency into the ecosystem if we want to be truly global. India could be a one-stop print centre, as most of the publishing houses use the pre-press facility in India. So, if Indian printers could work out a plan and implement it successfully, it could be one-stop solution for procurements for any publishing house. But they need to improve their MIS, and improve their commitment levels. However, I must add that the printers we deal with have shown tremendous commitment.
In your opinion, what do Indian printers lack on their way to becoming a preferred print destination for international publishers? Which are the areas they need to improve?
I believe Indian printers lack unity and commitment, and lack of process and workflow, coupled with paper sourcing. Another glaring omission among the Indian printers is the lack of MIS for online status updates. Indian printers need to improve upon the shipping time and make more realistic commitments. They should also be open to adopting new technology. 
With your new position, how could you help Indian printers go global? What is your expectation from them?
As I have already shared, there is a scope in increasing commitment levels, process enhancements, adopting new technologies, and improving workflows. There are many printers in India who are servicing globally, and I think they have adopted the requirement/ changes mentioned here.  
What is your take on GST? The general feel is cost is going up for GST…
Yes, we have considered that. When there is a law, we all have to follow the same.
What has been your experience post-GST? Do you think the processes are now more transparent as desired by the introduction of GST?
For us, it is not very complicated as we work with limited number of printers. They have shared the information and inputs we need. We travel together through this learning curve. 
All change is painful. How are you planning to cope with the challenge?
We have planned well for GST implementation. Now, the question is, how we can keep it simple.
You are now responsible for stock holding as well as cash flow. So, you need to print the stock just-in-time at the same time keep a control on print quantity to reduce wastage and pulping. What is your plan to mitigate these challenges?
We have come a long way from a minimum threshold of 1,000 copies to 300 copies and even single copy printing now. The challenge of projecting quantities in publishing is quite tricky, unlike FMCG. We can project print quantity based on the data we have of the number of copies sold in last three months, six months or one year. But this will not guarantee that the pace will be the same for next three months. A reader can change his mind. But yes, the concept of print-on-demand has given us an opportunity to reduce our stock levels to some extent.
Do you think digital printing could help you overcome these challenges?
Definitely. Digital printing is playing a very important role in our inventory planning. We have implemented the digital print programme successfully and now for quite a few years, we are doing the same, it helps us control our inventory and to make the list available at all times.  
There is no colour inkjet print engine in India. Do you think there is enough market for the same? Is it right time to invest in that technology? 
Trade books are predominantly monochrome. So, there is not much scope in it. But, as the children’s list is growing, we might have some requirements in the coming years.
Do you feel a need of a common forum, where you could meet periodically, share your knowledge and discuss challenges in a less formal environment? Does an increase in people connect program could be helpful? 
Yes, we look forward to it. We need to have these kinds of contact programmes, where we meet in a relaxed environment and exchange our views and ideas with our peers, experts and market leaders. I strongly recommend forming such forum. 
Will you be ready to attend this forum organised by a third party? What is your take on this? 
Yes, we will be willing to participate in such programmes to share best practices and also to gain from these programmes. Any platform adding value to the supply chain is welcome. 
Today, no publishing house has a laboratory of its own to test the end product. With the change in market and as awareness and expectation of the end customer is growing, isn’t it important to have a lab to test the quality before the stock hit the market? 
We control raw materials by standardising the same and get it checked periodically. I would like to mention our requirements, such as gsm, bulk, grain direction and page pull strength, in the contract/ purchase order rather than monitoring the same on ground level. 
It is like preventive maintenance rather than reactive maintenance of the machines. As a market leader, could you take a chance on your reputation? 
There should be some measures of quality and standardisation. We meet with our printers regularly and share our expectations. Paper gsm, bulk, pull strength and grain are very important to get a quality book. The onus is on the printers to deliver the right product as per our specification. We will not compromise on the quality of printing and will ensure we always maintain the standards set by us. 
Though the onus is on the printer to deliver the right quality, it is important to specify your requirements correctly. As you mentioned, grain direction, gsm and bulk of a paper are important. It does not cost much to set up a small lab in-house. What is your take on this?
I agree. As I mentioned earlier, we prefer to mention the standard requirements, be it gsm and bulk for paper or page pull strength for binding. The onus should be on printers to deliver the same as per our required specification and also to certify the same. To start the process, we need to discuss with the printers and take them on board.

About Ajay Joshi

Ajay Kumar Joshi is the assistant vice president of demand planning and production at Penguin Random House India. In his 15 years of experience, he has worked with companies like Thomson Press India, Penguin India, Scholastic India, before moving back to Penguin Random House India.