Production Managers, the Industry's Next Dinosaur
It started with the typesetters in the early 1980s. Film strippers, dot-etchers and camera operators were the casualties of the 1990s. Color separators had to quickly reinvent themselves to survive the transition into the electronic millennium. Who is the industry's next obsolete professional?
It appears to be the production manager. Is it possible to produce a magazine without a production manager? More and more magazines are doing just that. Like the typesetters and film-based prepress specialists, many responsibilities of the production manager are being replaced by technology or absorbed into other departments.
At one time, it was unheard of to even consider that any publication could ever get produced without the spearheading drive of the production manager (PM). The PM put everything together: the schedule, vendors, materials, staff, supplies and ultimately the delivery of product. They were responsible for quality and costs.
PMs were the only managers who regularly worked with every other department—editorial, art, advertising, circulation, marketing and executive management. Outside of the company, they worked with artists, photographers and advertisers, as well as typesetters, camera operators, color separators, dot-etchers, film strippers, paper suppliers, printing salesmen, press operators, mailing companies and the Post Office.
PMs also had to manage supplies—and there used to be a lot of supplies. Art boards with printed templates in non-photo blue to the printer's specifications, tissue and acetate overlay material, X-acto knives and blades, Rapidograph pens and ink, stat camera film and paper, rubber cement and/or spray mount, etc., etc., etc.
Production managers put together the extremely complicated production schedule. They determined page count. They laid out the magazine, telling both advertising and editorial where their pages could go, telling them where
they can and cannot have color or positioning. They juggled schedules and solved impossible problems. They had power. They were magicians. They were gods.