Animation Operations and Supply Chain Management
Apologies for the profoundly boring title. Knock off the ‘animation’ at the front and you pretty much have the class I’m taking right now. It’s basically about operation decision-making within a company and how to manage the supply chain of a business (don’t get too excited, it’s an entry level course).
It got me thinking though, when it comes to animation, the supply chain is somewhat flexible yet inflexible at the same time. It’s flexible in that if you have a bunch of great artists who can crack on with the job and churn out exactly what you’re looking for, then you might be able to squeeze things a wee bit and wrap up early. If you run into delays, that sends a shockwave down the rest of the production pipeline.
Right now, we’re looking at shoes and how they are ordered months in advance of the season for which they are intended. Not too different from animation, eh? The interesting thing about the three cases we’re looking at (Crocs, ECCO and New Balance) is that all three take quite a different approach to their manufacturing and supply chain (outsourced but flexible, vertically integrated and some outsourcing but some manufacturing in the US).
Perhaps surprisingly, animation, really has developed supply chain-wise since the hayday of Hollywood. Things have changed dramatically since then, what with the off-shoring of the actual animation in the 70s and all, but we have gradually seen a return to the rather flexible nature of doing everything in-house.
The introduction of Flash certainly helped as it made animating in the US cost-comparable. Secondly, the internet has meant that the cost benefits of off-shoring or outsourcing can be had without sacrificing the immediacy of working in a studio. Daily production can be supervised closely from the other side of the planet without much effort.
My point is that while the animation industry has not seen the kind of seismic changes (such as off-shoring) in quite a few years, there have nonetheless been advances in how animated films and TV shows are created. Increased efficiencies in this area have only lead to better quality content and lowered (relative) production costs. Just something to keep in mind.