How our PrintOps system works

A multi-lingual, global, zero inventory network, synced with a single command that prints thousands of books a day

At Lost My Name we print a lot of ‘Print on Demand’ (POD) books. Over 146,000 at the time of writing. Yesterday we printed over 3000 in one day, our best day ever.

Designing a POD system to operate at this scale poses significant engineering challenges.

  • Scale. We need our system to be able to grow quickly in order to satisfy the rapidly growing demand for our books. We’re currently experiencing sales growth of 20% week on week in the run up to Christmas.
  • Speed. We have customers all over the world, and we need to ship their books to them as quickly as possible.
  • Quality. We want every customer to get the same high quality book.
  • Agility. We want to be able to easily update and improve our books when our writers and illustrators have new ideas for story segments or improvements in layout. We’re already on our sixth iteration of Lost My Name.
  • Variety. We want to be able to sell our books in multiple languages, with different cover and gift wrap options.

All this adds up to a significant engineering challenge that we solve with two key ideas.

1. A global, standardised production network

The first big idea is to try to get total consistency in delivery across all our print houses, and to ensure we have a good distribution of locations.

We currently have a global network of print houses (two in the UK, one in the US and very soon one in Australia), and every print house is capable of printing every variety of POD product we sell — soft back, hard back, all languages.

We then create commercial arrangements with each print house where they are paid per book shipped within a specific timeframe. We’re aiming for a zero inventory business, which reduces waste and keeps costs very tightly tied to demand.

We currently allocate orders based on physical proximity to the shipping address of the customer and try to ensure the shortest delivery time possible. In the future we’d like to build a bidding system in to our print house supply chain to help manage supply and demand more efficiently.

2. A single, synced, asset pipeline

The second thing we do is run a single centralised system for managing the assets that make up the POD book that allows us to sync changes to our print houses with a single command.

Before we explain how this works, its important to understand the nature of the POD book we create at Lost My Name.

Currently, a Lost My Name book is made up from a combination of several different story segments, each of which represents four high quality, full colour spreads. The various segments we have are:

  • 28 story segments for every letter in the alphabet
  • 3 ‘helper’ story segments
  • 1 bridge story segment
  • We have an intro, an outro and a cover for every book

This is a total of 448 high dpi images for the actual POD book, plus 290 low dpi images for the preview we offer on our website.

In addition, with every new language we add that figure increases one fold. For example, here’s our index of British English book assets

And here’s our index of German assets:

Each page of the high quality size image is around 5MB, so thats 20MB per segment. The average book we print has 5.6 letters plus an intro and an outro (four pages each), so that’s 142MB per book.

As mentioned earlier, we over 3000 books yesterday (and we’re growing 20% week on week right now).

If we operated a system that rendered each book on our servers that would mean sending 397GB of images over the internet yesterday — a significant cost. Over the lifetime of the business so far, that would be around 16TB of data.

So instead, we operate a system whereby each print house hosts a synced version of our book assets locally, and we just send them .csv files once the order is completed on our website.

Once the print house server receives the .csv file it then gathers the correct story segments that make up the child’s name, puts them in the right order and renders out the unique PDF to be printed.

Here’s what the system looks like:

One of the coolest things about this design is the workflow we’re developing to allow our writers and illustrators to easily update our book — the ‘agility’ challenge mentioned at the start of this piece.

Today, if you want to pull down all the assets onto a local machine you can do this with a single command (provided you are running our Zebra sync app):

$ bin/sync

And if you make changes and then want our global network of print houses to start printing your improved story immediately, you simply type:

$ cap production sync_assets

This is really awesome and something we’re very excited about — it means that updating and improving our book is closer to the git workflow used by our software engineers.

How can we improve?

Our entire system is very much work in progress . We’re learning as we go, and would love to hear from other PrintOps specialists about how they do things on twitter, or in the comments— and if you’d like to help us more directly we’re hiring!

Some of the obvious things we’d like to do next include:

  • A bidding system for print houses to help manage demand better
  • Better management of our PrintOps test environments
  • The ability to offer our system from the cloud — some print houses are already requesting this
  • Version control on our publishing workflow
  • More instrumentation in the print houses so we can expose the awesome POD process to customers

P.S — Follow us on twitter for more updates on how we’re making Lost My Name and if you enjoyed this piece please hit recommend below. Ta!

Join us!

If you’d like to come and work, play and hang out with us, here’s what we’re looking for. Though you could just send us something phenomenal, leaving us with no choice but to follow up, to:

careers@lostmy.name

Financial Controller

We’re looking for an experienced Financial Controller to oversee the global reporting and compliance functions, leading a team of two finance analysts to deliver continuous improvement in the financial operating model.

Reporting into the CFO, the successful candidate will demonstrate a high degree of commercial acumen and be comfortable working in a fast-paced and dynamic start-up setting where every week will present new opportunities and challenges to navigate.

With ample room to grow, this role is a great chance for the right candidate to work alongside the leadership team and deliver tangible improvements for the business allowing us to deliver on our 3 year strategic plan.

The key areas of focus are:

Reporting

  • Ownership of the financial month end close process for Lostmy.name Ltd and Lostmy.name Inc
  • Consolidation accounting for Lostmy.name Group (UK and US Entity)
  • Preparation of month end commentary packs and presentation of results to the senior leadership team together with key action points
  • Cash flow and working capital management

Compliance & Control

  • Overseeing global tax, regulatory and compliance agenda including Sales, Income and Payroll Taxes in the UK and US
  • Owning the year end external financial statement audit process
  • Laying down a robust control environment in order to deliver accurate financials with a high level of data integrity

Business Partnering

  • Leading cost saving initiatives to help the business to improve operating efficiency
  • Working closely with the BI team in order to streamline and automate the reporting process
  • Working closely with the engineering team on the R&D tax credit workflow

Requirements

  • Qualified accountant (minimum 2 years PQE in an industry position) - ACA, ACCA, CIMA
  • Experience managing a team and overseeing a financial month end close process for a group
  • Experience with US accounting/tax is a plus
  • Willingness to roll up sleeves and get stuck into the detail while simultaneously keeping an eye on the big picture
  • Self- starter, high degree of emotional intelligence and comfortable making decisions where there may be a high degree of uncertainty
  • Experience using cloud accounting software; we use Xero in combination with receipt bank. Experience of these packages is a plus but not a requirement
  • Experience in start-ups/tech/publishing/retail/consumer products is a plus but again not a hard requirement

Benefits

  • Competitive salary and a real stake in the business - you'll share our success
  • Be part of a fast growing company creating products that are really loved by customers all round the world
  • Manage your own work as part of a small, tightly knit team
  • Flexible office hours
  • Awesome BUPA healthcare for you and your whole family
  • Fantastic mobile phone scheme & childcare vouchers benefits
  • Training budget of £1000: we'll sponsor any conference you wish to attend or speak at
  • Delicious team lunches

Senior Copywriter

Words are brilliant. But there are millions of them, and without good writers, words just sit there in the wrong order saying the wrong things. Rotters.

We’re looking for a remarkably creative comms writer who can make words do exactly (exactly!) what they need them to: entertain, surprise, jump through hoops, play the cello — anything they command. Someone with the ability to be playful and hilarious, who isn’t afraid of a good pun, but who is also marvellously disciplined and hard-working. And they should be brilliant at ideas too.

Feeling confident?

You should have a lot of experience writing comms. You have the knack to be funny and clever without being self-indulgent. You have a light touch but can also land a message with real weight. You know how to edit yourself, how to think about messaging hierarchy, how to make people open emails, click buttons and buy products. And you should be able to create funny, sharable content that your mum might see and chuckle at before boasting to friends that you came up with it. You should also be self-motivated, pro-active, collaborative and self-sufficient. You should know how to write for email, social media or on the side of a banana.

Most importantly, you can make people smile every time they read your words or ideas.

Lost My Name is one of Britain’s fastest-growing brands and this is an opportunity to help turn a successful start-up into a global name. We are a playful, kind brand. This opportunity will be ridiculously exciting to a smart, funny, eloquent, engaging, intelligent, autonomous, experienced, creative and all-round superb candidate.

The team you’ll be working in delivers creative output at a higher-frequency than any other team in the business. We literally ship handfuls of content every week and watch and learn from the public reaction. We get to directly shape and influence the brand by continuously exploring and publishing new concepts and ideas.

This role is the sole copywriter in the team, which gives you a central role in expressing the tone of the brand. You will report to a very experienced writer, who can help you sharpen your talent even more.

Key areas of focus

  • Writing emails and blog posts for our weekly Editorial content
  • Writing humourous, sharable content for Twitter & Facebook
  • Collaborating with our designers to devise and develop creative editorial concepts
  • Writing pithy, dad-joke-esque comments on our Instagram content
  • Writing emails for product promotions
  • Helping to firm up our tone of voice for Twitter and Pinterest channels
  • Helping to champion and promote the brand tone of voice across the business

Experience

  • 5+ years’ experience as a copywriter for well known and/or playful/entertaining consumer-facing brands
  • 3+ years of experience with SEO, email, web copy
  • Ability to produce both long-form and short-form writing
  • Extensive experience and understanding of all social channels, including behaviours and algorithms

Benefits

  • Competitive salary and a real stake in the business - you'll share our success
  • Be part of a fast growing company creating products that are really loved by customers all round the world
  • Manage your own work as part of a small, tightly knit team
  • Flexible office hours
  • Awesome BUPA healthcare for you and your whole family
  • Fantastic mobile phone scheme, childcare vouchers benefits
  • Training budget of £1000: we'll sponsor any conference you wish to attend or speak at. Travel the world and share your knowledge on us!
  • Delicious team lunches

Japanese Speaking Customer Service Angel

We're looking for someone to help us share the Lost My Name magic with our friends in Japan! We’re looking for a brilliant Customer Service Angel to help support our increasing presence in Japan. What kinds of things would you get up to in this fun, flexible role? We are so glad that you asked...

Customer Service, mostly...

People approach us with all kinds of queries. Sometimes they just want to know how much shipping is to Tokyo (it's FREE!). Other times, a book has gone on a different route in the mail system and we need to re-create it ASAP in time for a birthday party. Occasionally a customer would like to change a shipping address, or add a personal dedication.

We also get an incredible amount of feedback with ideas for improvement and future products, and just lots and lots of heartfelt thanks for such a wonderful book. These are just a handful of examples of the issues and topics we deal with on a daily basis. And we like to answer and solve ALL of these inquiries in the same way: super responsive, polite, empathic and delightful. We handle our customer support through a collaborative online platform where you can respond, solve, escalate, re-assign, tag and archive all queries in an efficient and transparent way. If you know how to use Facebook or Gmail, you’ll have no problems with our system.

What else should you know?

The role is a remote working opportunity, with some time flexibility to suit you - e.g. mornings, evenings and weekends. There’ll be an induction period with our marvellous training and co-ordinating team, along with a detailed explanation of how it all works.

So do you think that you can help us? If so, then click Apply Now.

  • You got a flair for friendly and positive digital communication - you know how to be nice, and genuinely lovely online
  • Fluency in Japanese and English language (written and spoken) essential
  • You’re looking for a genuinely exciting and meaningful new adventure, and the idea of making children more curious and kind sounds awesome
  • You must be available for at least 20 hours per week (flexible, including weekends)
  • You’re a super motivated, dedicated, smart and an energetic self-starter
  • Ability to work under pressure and adapt quickly to adverse situations

Lead Designer

You’ll have a real passion for design and communication, and a genuine desire to do brilliant work. As a Lead Graphic Designer you will be responsible for taking the lead on the creative development of design projects across multiple platforms. Driving the creative standards of the Design Team and developing junior designers’ creative abilities, making sure the creative brief is fully explored and delivered to the highest standards.

Key Responsibilities

  • Responsible for the design and production of graphic design across multiple platforms.
  • Responsible for working with internal clients to deliver requirements on time and in line with the brand style.
  • Responsible for applying and co-ordinating the design across the brand.
  • Use a good awareness of design processes to question and challenge design briefs and solve design problems.
  • Be aware of current design trends and attitudes to help inspire the team
  • Understanding peripheral processes, i.e. print, interactive and mobile platforms.
  • Manage and develop junior designers.
  • Work closely with the studio manager to manage and prioritise the workload on a project.

About You

  • Ability to deliver against tight and complex timelines.
  • Knowledge of and sensitivity to trends influencing design in general.
  • Ability to manage multiple and competing work priorities, demands.
  • Strong written and oral communication skills, including ability to make persuasive presentations to internal audiences.
  • Driven and passionate.
  • Stress resistant and confident.

Qualifications and Experience:

  • Recognised design degree.
  • Significant industry experience.
  • Versatile and open mined.
  • Meticulous crafting and attention to detail.

Skills:

  • Excellent communication and presentation skills.
  • Dedicated, passionate and challenging.
  • Ability to lead, manage and inspire.
  • Strong ideas with a portfolio to match.
  • Self motivated and a team player.
  • Loves discipline of identity and branding.
  • Excellent working knowledge of Adobe Suite: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat

Senior Brand Manager - Books

We’re looking for an exceptional product / brand manager to join our team and look after the ongoing growth of our book portfolio across territories, formats and licensing opportunities. This important role includes taking stewardship of the growth roadmap for our flagship title Lost My Name.

This role is similar to a licensing manager position within a publishing firm but with two vital differences.

The first difference is that you’ll be working within a very agile, vertically integrated business that currently does all it’s own retail, marketing, manufacturing and product design with a sales footprint in every major market in the world.

This means that if you have a plan to achieve growth through change to any of these functions you can make that change happen within days or weeks, not the usual timescales of months or years.

The second difference is that all the brands and products you will manage use personalisation and technology in creative ways to tell their stories. This means that you can have a one to one relationship with customers through the products you market to them - but it also means you face interesting challenges in doing traditional licensing deals.

If these opportunities and challenges excite you, and if you have a track record in building entertainment brands, particularly in the kids and families space, we’d love to hear from you.

Key responsibilities and targets

  • Drive incremental revenue growth in our book range
  • Key stakeholder in setting and driving overall unit targets across territories
  • Own the internationalisation roadmap for all our books
  • Own the format roadmap for all our books
  • Own the individual brand roadmaps for our most successful books, including developing new upsell and retention products via in house design or licensing
  • Line manage several junior delivery colleagues within the product team

Expected experience and skills

  • Business focused and experienced - You have a demonstrable track record growing revenue on entertainment oriented properties. We’d like to meet people who’ve managed and grown products and brands turning over more than £10M a year.
  • Analytical and data driven - you can show us through examples of how you’ve used quantitative and qualitative data to make the right decisions for the business.
  • Creatively sympathetic - you can also show us examples of how you’ve reasoned out plans and projects from a creative position and protected and enhanced creative value in the properties you’ve managed.
  • Strong communicator and leader - you know how to make change happen in a fast moving company and you’ve got experience of directly line managing more junior colleagues.
  • Gets stuff done - above all, we want someone who is going to roll up their sleeves and get stuck into the fantastic challenge of bringing the values of our books to as many people as possible across the world. Lost My Name is a young company that is just getting started on it's journey - You’ll be super excited to join in and start shipping from day one.
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