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Innovators: production

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As VP-manufacturing operations & distribution for McGraw-Hill Cos., Chris Olson has spent much of his time trying to pare the number of suppliers the diversified media company uses. After defining the needs of McGraw-Hill's various units, he was able to trim the vendor list from around 150 to about 100. "There were many inefficiencies there, including our time spent negotiating," Olson said.

Hooking the various media properties up to the right suppliers has saved McGraw-Hill a considerable amount of money. "The challenge is to understand the requirements upfront," Olson said. "We put a lot of effort into developing those requirements and fully understanding the implications of cost around those requirements."

Armed with that information, Olson led his team in using McGraw-Hill's leverage to drive down prices, tighten manufacturing times and introduce new technology. For example, he tries to make sure McGraw-Hill is among the first companies to take advantage of new technology at its printers. "That new technology adds additional capacity that we can take advantage of," he said.

While Olson said he focuses mostly on print, he plays a role in the many other ways information is being dispersed today. "That's been the focus of McGraw-Hill for 20 years now," he said. "We always want to get the information to the customer however they want receive it."

Olson is on the board of IDEAlliance, the International Digital Enterprise Alliance, which enables information providers to share technology strategies, innovations and standards.

He is now looking to improve the company's transmission systems. "We've done a lot of work internally to capture our spend so we know where we're spending, how much and when," he said. "That dictates where our biggest needs are." -M. J. M.

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