Lessons from a printer’s demise: the case of MPG Biddles:
For several reasons – outlined in my post on print procurement (1 Nov 2012) – MPG Biddles were a good supplier to have. Which makes it a shame that they are going into administration (for news of which, see PrintWeek‘s article here).
We had placed an order with the company to print the paperback edition of Teaching Creative Writing, on which we’d made an advance payment. We’ve now had to delay the UK/Europe publication date while we transfer the job to another printer.*
I feel great sympathy for the company’s staff, not least because their personal touch was one of the attractions of the service they offered.
I feel sympathy too for the publishers who will have lost assets in the form of cash and stock. But not so much.
Why? Because good practice in continuity management should limit one’s exposure to any one supplier. As I wrote in my post on the subject (9 Jan 2012):
In our selection of suppliers to work with, we ensure that there is plenty of duplication. It is tempting, once one has decided which supplier is best in class, to send all one’s work in that direction. For example, if a cover designer proves outstanding, it is natural to think, “We’ll ask the designer to do all our covers”. However, such a policy increases the level of operational risk: if the designer were then, for example, to fall ill, that could delay the entire publishing programme. We therefore like to work with more than one of each type of supplier – more than one copy-editor, more than one e-book converter, and so on.
Given Biddles’ virtues, it was indeed tempting to shift all our UK/European printing to them. Fortunately, we didn’t: we kept open accounts with two others. Teaching creative writing has now shifted to Berforts, a company that much impressed me when I visited their press in Stevenage in 2011.
I hope that a new business arises from the ashes of the old at MPG. For one thing, it would make it easier to reprint if the same files can be used with the same equipment. For another, I’d like to think that at least some of the staff from MPG will get their jobs back albeit with a new employer.
*The American and Australasian publication dates remained unaffected: the book was passed for press at Lightning Source on schedule.
Postscript: According to this report in PrintWeek – http://www.printweek.com/Business/article/1184941/mpg-evaluating-possible-sale-options/ – MPG had not, as of 4 June, actually entered administration, though it has indeed announced its intention to do so.