Founded in 1979, Productivity Inc. was one of the first consulting groups to study and then introduce Japanese manufacturing techniques to the U.S. Among the practices Productivity introduced to the U.S. were "lean manufacturing" and "just-in-time" distribution, according to Maura May, publisher of Productivity Press, the company's publishing arm. The press was founded to publish English translations of the most popular Japanese production titles.

"We were a big part of the 1980s craze over Japanese production techniques," said May. Now Productivity Inc. is headquartered in Shelton, Conn., and the press is based in New York City. Productivity has about 50 employees; 10 of them work for Productivity Press.

The company publishes such works as Toyota Production System and Henry Ford's Lean Vision. May said the press generates annual revenues under $10 million. "The last year has been tough for manufacturing, but we're looking for growth in the next fiscal year," she said.

The publisher has a backlist of about 150 titles, said May, that account for 80% of its sales. The press is looking to increase its frontlist. "Our focus is on business improvement, so with businesses cutting training budgets we've been hurt. We had a lack of frontlist titles. But we're looking to grow the frontlist by about 60% in the new fiscal year," May said. PP has been publishing seven to 10 new titles a year. May said the press will offer about 15 titles during this fiscal year and hopes to publish 25 to 30 in the next. In addition to books, Productivity Inc. offers audio and videos.

Much of the company's sales are via direct mail, but its titles are offered through a variety of outlets and some bookstores. Initial print runs are "several thousand," but many of its backlist titles have been selling steadily since the 1980s.

The press markets its titles primarily to automotive manufacturers but, May said, is expanding its marketing to "all kinds of manufacturers, as well as the government, hospitals, technical colleges and military institutions." The house recently signed a nonexclusive agreement with Books24x7, an online reference resource, to begin offering 28 PP titles as part of its online library of technical reference titles.

May pointed to the health-services industry as a new market for the press. "We're going to expand the number of titles we offer and watch the marketplace for new companies to service."