California is synonymous with beautiful people, fine wine, sunshine and glamour. Plus, it's Silicon Valley is home to some of the world's tech giants. If you've ever owned an Apple product – and who hasn't? – you'll know that it was "designed in California". Which naturally makes it cool. That it was assembled in China…well, maybe not so much. Cool or not, where things are actually made really does matter.
Globalisation, or "the exchange of ideas, capital, and goods across the world driven by technology", means products that have their roots on one continent and comprise components from any number of others are now often the norm. Consumers have welcomed cheaper imports, embraced fast-fashion, even grown accustomed to overseas call-centres, as businesses have faced competition from foreign parts that have driven prices down.
Cheaper is good, right?
If the price is the only consideration then lower-cost, usually as a result of lower overheads and often fuelled by lower employment costs, is truly great. And if the end product is digital – think games, apps and software development generally – where delivery relies on transmission rather than traditional shipping, it's also good.
- when the timing is critical, for example for "Just in Time" manufacturing
- where quality and ethical methods can't be adequately policed at arm's length
- if the supplier will not necessarily prioritise your orders over others if demand spikes
- should the supplier run into unforeseen operational problems
Then suddenly "cheap" can lose its appeal.
The impact on books and print
For many products, most notably PPE, the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be the "perfect storm". While the consequences may not have been life-threatening, printed output was also affected.
Many of the world's books, wherever authored and in whatever language, are now printed in China. Using traditional offset print this is a process with an average turnaround time of 8 to 10 weeks. 4 to 5 of those weeks taken up by the printing and binding, with shipping often another 4 to 5 weeks.
But the shut-down of factories across the region, and the disruption to air freight, meant that books rapidly became "out of stock" and launches were inevitably delayed. Reliable sources are saying it's unlikely that air freight levels will return to pre-pandemic levels before 2024, perhaps even later. Along with many now re-thinking their supply chain, publishers also recognise the benefits of onshoring (or reshoring) production.
Everything in place
For some industries that might be tricky, even impossible. But in the UK we have access to the technology, the skills, the raw materials and the delivery infrastructure to rival and indeed beat overseas competitors. And that doesn't necessarily come with a price tag.
Traditionally books were printed first and then sold which, to turn a profit, relied on skilled and accurate forecasting, plus a significant amount of good fortune. Getting it wrong can mean a hefty loss. Using a "Print on Demand" (POD) or even "Print to Order" (POD) model means writers and publishers can satisfy demand swiftly without risking investment, disruption or uncertainty.
If you like your books locally sourced and both designed and made in the UK (which is also pretty cool!) talk to us about how we can cut delivery time to days rather than weeks.