Getting Started: Shifting Production Workflow Overseas
Moving your production workflow from Minneapolis to Mumbai takes time, but in the end, it will save you money. Here’s how to get started.
Once you decide that it’s time to start outsourcing to India, it takes time to get the process up and running. Any workflow disruption is a risk, and your outsourcing company should help you analyze the risk and implement the change as smoothly as possible. Open communication with both your outsourcing vendor and their staff overseas is key, so you can communicate your expectations. As long as communication is open, you will not lose control of the aesthetic of your publication.
First, the publisher needs to take the time for a workflow analysis, to understand the current workflow;how production is currently handled, and what staff members are responsible for each step of the workflow. The transmission of in-house workflow to outsourcing workflow does not happen overnight. You will start by finding the parts of your workflow that can be outsourced easily, effectively and quickly, to India. Your outsourcing company may map out your workflow and communicate the ins and outs of that process to their India operation. That workflow is recreated overseas, just as it would be in another city or state.
Many times, your outsourcing company will make suggestions to the publisher about reengineering your existing workflow to either reduce error, save time or increase efficiency in order to avoid future problems in an offshore model. Changes can range from timing on proofing to number of proofing cycles to adding additional quality control steps.
The next step requires the publisher to create specifications for the design of the publication. Some publishers think in terms of a style sheet for both the cover of the magazine and the inside pages. Once those specifications have been determined, the designated team in India that is assigned specifically to that publisher masters the requirements and specs. Almost all communication can be done through e-mail, although phone communication is also an option. “You have an architect design a brick wall and you have the bricklayer lay the bricks,” says Bob Kidd, vice president of global content sales for Cadmus. “We are not the architect, we are the bricklayer, and the publisher is the architect.”
To ensure a strong transition, your outsourcing company should take you through a testing phase, which can range from a few days to a few weeks depending on how smoothly it goes and how many changes need to be made to the process, if any. Some vendors suggest the publisher send files directly to their management staff initially, so they can work out any issues and tweak aspects of the workflow to ensure a streamlined workflow in the future. Once the publisher is satisfied with what happens during testing, the process transitions into live production. On average, it takes a few months to go to live production from the initial stages of workflow analysis.
For most publishers, the transition is smooth. Communication is made through project managers located in the U.S. for the first few months of outsourcing. You can grant as little or as much design freedom to your team in India as you desire. Over time, the production person in-house builds a relationship with the people on staff in India. Inevitably, other steps of the workflow process may start to migrate to India, making in-house production responsibilities less and less of a concern and equally less of an expense for the publisher with time.
Your staff will expectedly decrease in size. You may have to find a number of your existing staff members other positions within the company, but do not furlough everyone on your in-house production staff. You will probably still need about two people on staff who need to make very last minute changes in design and who can operate and interact with the India team and your vendor’s management team.