BISG Reveals Updated "Supply Chain Monitor" Survey Results

Posted By: Jonathan Fiedler (deleted) Committees,

In June, BISG fielded the first of a planned bi-monthly "supply chain monitor." The idea for the survey came out of discussions of the Supply Chain Committee. With so much of the industry in flux, committee members and others saw value in an ongoing tracking of trends and concerns from across the supply chain. We are pleased to release the results of the August survey, and to present them with a comparison to the June results.

For the August survey, BISG received 77 responses, representing a fairly typical mix of the sectors across the supply chain compared to past surveys: publishers (80%), manufacturers (6%), distributors and wholesalers (4%), service providers (5%), retailers (4%) and libraries (4%). The total adds up to over 100% because some respondents chose more than one response. When reviewing the data for the entire survey, please also note that the line indicating “total respondents” represents the combined totals from both the June and August surveys.

Asked to describe their current concerns with the supply chain (multiple responses allowed), 78% listed sourcing (of print, paper, or something else), just above the response from June (77%).  Other responses also showed little change from June, with increased expenses/inflation in second place again (73% of respondents in August, vs. 72% in June). Concerns with freight & shipping increased (73% in August vs. 65% in June) and inventory planning (57% in August vs. 56% in June) once again rounded out the top four. Other responses were labor (29%), information exchange (27%) and adapting to new business models (19%).

The survey followed that question by asking respondents to name their most significant concern. Again, sourcing led the way for the second month, remaining relatively stable (44% in August vs. 46% in June). This was, once again, quite a distance over inflation, but concerns on that topic have increased (29% in August vs. 14% in June). Inventory planning (11%), freight and shipping (5%), labor (4%), information exchange (3%), and adapting to new business models (1%) rounded out the list. 

Asked to describe what they are seeing in the current market (multiple responses allowed), the top response was "making printing/stocking decisions earlier" (76%), followed by split print runs to manage capacity or balance delivery times (51%). Each of these responses were little changed from June (73% vs. 51% respectively). About 39% noted printing or ordering more frequently. Responses to printing more increased from June (49% vs. 35%) while the responses to printing less dropped (33% vs. 29%). Printing or ordering less frequently (15%) rounded out the list. About ten responses outside of these choices noted issues including, extending schedules; concerns about waste of returns due to overprinting; and limits on capacity and run lengths.

When asked to describe strategies that respondents are using or seeing being used, responses were closely clustered and quite similar to June. The most common response, higher first-run print quantities, was the only response that showed a significant increase in the percent of responses from June (45% vs. 34%).  Reprinting front list titles more rapidly (36%); reprinting backlist titles more frequently (35%); higher backlist print quantities (30%); use of automatic stock replenishment (27%); and higher front list reprint quantities (21%) were also noted. Other answers included use of digital printing, ganging projects together, ordering earlier; and strips and rebinds.

Asked to estimate how confident they were in their ability to source paper, over 60% were "somewhat to not confident at all". Almost 70% were less confident in their ability to source offset print capacity. By comparison, only 46% worried about their ability to source or provide short-run digital capacity. These responses were little changed from the June survey.

The primary concern around freight and shipping remains the time needed to ship from either domestic or foreign printers to distribution centers. The time required to ship to domestic retailers and consumers was less of a concern.

With respect to the overall supply chain, concerns with potential over-ordering by retailers dominated the responses from August, little changed from June. Concerns regarding the need to allocate stock to retailers, remained a secondary concern with similar percentages of respondents noting this issue. Using supply chain inventory to fulfill orders and cross-channel stock balancing received fewer votes, in part because many respondents did not see these options as relevant to their work.

Those responding to the survey included staff working in production and manufacturing (34%), executive or management roles (26%), operations (12%), sales or business development (8%). Other roles made up less than 5% each.

The survey reached a very experienced audience, with 49% working in book publishing for 10 to 25 years, and another 36% working in the industry "forever). Only 8% had worked in book publishing for fewer than five years. Just over half respondents work (or think they work) for BISG member companies, showing that the issues extend throughout the industry, not just among our engaged membership.

Happily, more than 92% were aware of the monthly BISG supply chain "brown bag lunch" series that launched last December; 78% had attended at least one session. And our favorite question, asking you to tell us a good book you've read recently, generated 49 answers, every one different from the rest. We work in a broad and engaged industry!

The survey results can be found in full at this link, with both visual and statistical presentations of answers to the questions posed. If you have thoughts on the survey, its implications, or questions that might help you better understand current supply chain issues, reach out to us at