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FOR THE second consecutive year, Visant Corp. nailed down the top spot in Book Business’ Top 30 Book Manufacturers list—produced by PRINTING IMPRESSIONS’ sister publication and ranked by 2005 book manufacturing revenue—in what was certainly an up-and-down year for many book printers. The book manufacturing landscape continues to change, with paper prices on the rise while availability declines.

Publishers are being more vigilant than ever in controlling their costs, while Asia’s impact on the market increases each year. In its annual look at the state of the industry, Book Business sought insights from executives at four of the companies on the list—four companies, it is worth noting, that posted gains in their book manufacturing revenues for 2005.

Executives from this year’s top companies talk about challenges they face—from rising costs to pricing pressures and global competition. They include John Edwards, president and CEO, Edwards Brothers; Bill Long, vice president of sales and marketing, The Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing Group; Marc Reisch, chairman, president and CEO, Visant Corp.; and Peter Tobin, executive vice president, Courier Corp. This is where they see the industry heading.

Over the last year, can you identify any major changes in the book manufacturing market, as well as one or two major challenges facing your company? How is your firm responding?

John Edwards: We are seeing intense price pressure in the marketplace, a tight paper market and rising healthcare costs. And there is some concern with too much capacity and the seasonal nature of the business. The peaks and valleys are much bigger than they used to be. We are almost getting to be like the toy business where everything seems to happen toward the end of the year. Business is up and down a lot more, so we have a lot more variation of volume coming in, [which is] much harder to predict. For example, our sheetfed presses will be buried, our web presses will be empty and two weeks later it will be the opposite. So, today we are required to create a more flexible workforce to react to where the volume is, which is not a bad thing.

Bill Long: Over the past year, there have not been any significant changes in the book manufacturing marketplace. We continue to see intense price competition, and run lengths continue to decline as publishers look to control their inventories. This has forced Maple-Vail to look to our employees and suppliers for fresh ideas on ways to reduce costs or improve efficiencies. We are implementing internal processes to support the reduction of makeready times throughout our operation and are making a number of investments to address capacity blockages and to reduce staffing levels.


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