I have worked for Thomas Nelson, Inc. since March of 2000. I have been in my present position since June 2000. I started here as a temporary administrative assistant in the telephone sales department. When the person I was replacing returned, my supervisor and several others that I worked with encouraged me to find a full-time position here. Thanks to the good word they put in for me and an available position that I was qualified for, I was able to stay.
Thomas Nelson, Inc. owns several previously separate publishing companies, which now act as semi-independent companies. The sales team has gone through several restructurings in the past five years.
I am the Bible Inventory Analyst. In this position, I am responsible for maintaining a high order fulfillment rate, with a minimum inventory investment, and to increase inventory turns. I work primarily with Bibles, my supervisor and a co-worker, manage the book inventory.
There are several factors that make purchasing and controlling the inventory of Bibles uniquely challenging. First, we sell several hundred different types of Bibles, but they all have the same title and author (Holy Bible by God). Each type of Bible is assigned a number to distinguish it from other Bibles of other translations, trim size (height, width), type size, binding style, study notes, paper thickness and other features. The people who work with these numbers on a day-to-day basis have memorized most of them and in order to communicate you have to know the code.
Each type of Bible comes in various colors of genuine and bonded leather plus hard and soft covers. These can ship with thumb indexing, and various price point stickers. All these variations create a very large SKU base. But, each SKU cannot be ordered separately because they have so many common components. Orders have to be synchronized together in order to take advantage of the economies of scale from producing each of the common components together. Components can be held for a short time. The challenge is that we pay interest on the components and have money committed for long periods of time without even the potential of revenue, if they are held to long.
Another challenge in controlling Bible inventory is the high manufacturing cost. The cost of Bibles are much higher than books, because of their high page count and generally more expensive covers. The higher carrying cost on Bibles makes it critical that the Bible not stay in the warehouse any longer than necessary.
A challenge the whole company faces is the use of a legacy mainframe system. The custom programs are not very strong on data integrity nor is the back-end database. One of the projects I took on when I first started and have continued to pursue is to improve data integrity enforcement and clean historical data. We have made significant progress, but there is still plenty to be done. A related weakness of a mainframe system is the lack of storage space. To make everything fit. Most information has been abbreviated or codified. After time you learn that “CO” means core and that “IS” in one field means indexed and in another field means “in stock” and that 42 means CBA which means the sales group that sells to Christian bookstores.
One of the major projects I have worked on is developing a purchasing system in Access that pulls data from the mainframe. I have also built a couple Excel based custom applications to help purchasing and sales. I am also building a small Access application for accounting. These custom applications can be built faster that an equivalent system on the mainframe and perform much better in the area of data integrity. Actually, I have and am using Access in mainframe data cleansing.
One of the key things that I have learned about myself in this job is that I enjoy working with people. I have always enjoyed working with computers and often the assumption is that you either work with a computer or people, but I really enjoy both. I am one of the few people in the company who actually enjoys meetings. I also act as conduit for large amounts of information and if I do not know the answer to a question I try to find it myself instead of sending them to someone else who might have the answer. This allows me to answer the question myself next time. My most successful and enjoyable moments have been when I helped another person to solve a problem with a computer.
My strengths include problem solving, creative thinking, communication, system development, and process improvement. My weaknesses are in the area of organization and endurance. I do not like being in a rut. I am constantly searching for a better way to do things or a way to get the computer to handle the mundane. I have developed several systems to help me stay organized and on schedule. I use Outlook for all of my calendar information.
Thomas Nelson, Inc. is great company to work for and just about any position here would be enjoyable because of the people who are here. There are several full-time positions available at Nelson. I hope in the future to move into the HR department. One of my long-term goals is to head a large international organization. In preparation for that, one of my mid-range goals is to work in as many departments as possible, so that I can see each aspect of the company first hand.
I do not think I can trace any of the new interests I have developed directly to this internship, but I have during this time developed several new interests, and my long-term plans have changed some during my years at Nelson.
I have encountered many problems/opportunities in this position. I have been able to solve most of the problems by talking to a few key players one on one. Some problems have required a meeting to solve. Most of the problems I have seen here are caused by miscommunication or a lack of communication. A few times I have been asked or have volunteered to build a database or spreadsheet that will facilitate communication between and among groups. And several times I have been involved in changes to the mainframe system.
The classes that have helped the most to prepare for this job are macro- and micro- economics. I was able to prepare our company for some of the ups and downs in the economy thanks to the principles learned in this class. Production and operations was also helpful in preparing for this particular job, since I am actually working with production. Also, Nelson has its own set of terms, and it has been helpful to know the industry standard terms, so that I can translate for outsiders. This was especially helpful when we were shopping for production software.
Note: This post has been back dated to the original date when it was written.