No Mere Owls for Delivery of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”


Sep 05, 2007

Posted by SueTLC

Planes, trains, and trucks may be sources of transportation used by Muggles, but these were the methods used in delivering some 12 million copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to eager fans worldwide on July 21, 2007. In a fascinating detailed article that is now online at DC Velocity, the extraordinary efforts made by the team at US Harry Potter publishers Scholastic to ensure the delivery of the book are highlighted, with the piece noting that “planning for the rollout began in January, even before Scholastic had the finished manuscript.”

The level of detail and planning that went into working out the logistics of this massive delivery effort are discussed in this article which features lengthy interviews with Andrew Yablin, vice president of global logistics for Scholastic Inc who was in charge of the book’s distribution.

As soon as information on the book’s actual size and weight became available, Scholastic began the process of calculating load plans. “Then we could plug that into a formula to see how many books we could get on a truck and then reserve the capacity,” Yablin says. The eventual load plan came within 1,000 pounds of the legal maximum allowable weight on the trucks.

When it came to the particulars of load planning, however, Scholastic’s logistics partners took on much of the responsibility. For full truckloads, Combined Express” which acted as a third-party logistics service provider” worked with Hunt to design a uniform plan: Each truckload would be exactly the same as the next. The uniform loads were palletized, with each pallet shrink-wrapped with a corrugated top and banded. “It was a pretty tight package,” Yablin says. “We tried to design the package so we could tell pretty quickly if product had escaped the system.”

The books, which were kept under tight security before the release, included precautions such as alarms on the trucks delivering the long awaited final installment in the Harry Potter series. “For the tightly controlled release, all of the books were packaged, wrapped, and labeled with security in mind. Labels, for example, did not identify the book, and opaque black shrink-wrap on skids and pallets obscured the contents and made any tampering quickly evident. To add to security, drivers were told only that they were picking up printed material.”

In addition to all 50 states, Scholastic also distributed the novel to a reported 29 additional countries for the release, which was no small task.

As with the trucked shipments, all of the air shipments moved on pallets. Those pallets were built for air export at one of the binderies and moved by J.B. Hunt to an ActivAir facility. That facility provided 24-hour manned security, primarily by off-duty police officers hired for the project. All shipments moved in wide-body aircraft that could accept LD7 aircargo containers. “Nothing was loaded in the belly loose,” says Joe Kronenberger, vice president for the United States for ActivAir. The forwarder also established an over, short, and damaged (OS&D) reporting process on receiving to ensure that goods arrived intact.

When it came to scheduling, the goal was to have shipments clear at destination as close to the release date as possible. “Scholastic allowed us to put the plan together based on our experience with clearance and delivery in each country,” Kronenberger reports. The shipments moved on a total of 17 airlines and all- cargo carriers.

12 Responses to No Mere Owls for Delivery of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

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That’s a really cool article; I never considered that when I read the book! (First! Whohoo!)

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That is a pretty intense system they had there. Is it strange that even though it was a long time ago,as I read this, I was looking for ways to sneak out books?

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i didn’t even consider all the planning it took to keep the book secret till the 21st i was looking for ways to get it before but they had tight security

Avatar Image says:

Maybe not an interesting article to most people but I liked it! My dad’s a mail carrier so he was responsible for bringing Harry Potter to MANY Muggles on release day! :)

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kudos to these unsung heroes! i never really dwelt on the actual bringing of the books in our bookstores… that made it possible for us to get and read them! i wouldn’t know what i’d do if i didn’t have those books, let alone the DH on time.

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The most touching story I heard was here in UK – the release of Deathly Hallows unfortunately co-inceided with this country’s biggest ever floods. Thousands of people were stranded with little resources and much dependance on emergency aids – this included the abandoning (or postponing) of mail delivery – except one team of postmen braved the danger floods against Royal Mail orders to get their batch of Deathly hallows delivered. I’ll try and find that article on the bbc website.

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Found one article on it – but not BBC. And my mistake, it wasnt a team but one man called Richard Yates, a true Haryy Potter hero I reckon!

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Hers the full BBC story on it.

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Thanks for the link, Sue. I found it a fascinating article and it, once again, illustrates what a once-in-a-lifetime event the release of DH was…

Avatar Image says:

Thus JKR’s work is stimulating the economy, if only for a day. I’ve had experience with logistics and shipping, so this was a really interesting article. I was shipping fireworks, though; books are much easier to manage, though this one was just was explosive (metaphorically, though; not like Weasley products!)

Avatar Image says:

Awesome! Strangely, I always pictured armored trucks with actual security, or at least something unbelievably more complex. And you 2 first people, you should be ashamed of yourselves for trying to get an early copy! That would be a leak!

Avatar Image says:

happy and cool. I am from Bangkok, Thailand

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