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AMERICAN BINDERY DEPOT -- A No-nonsense Approach

April 2002
BY ERIK CAGLE


Chris Scarano took a quick drag from his cigarette, cased the warehouse and shook his head with just a hint of disgust.

It was unusually quiet for a Tuesday morning at American Bindery Depot in Edison, NJ, not at all indicative of the activity that buzzes through the plant on a daily basis. Scarano wanted to show his crew in action at full throttle to a group of visitors, but a large order had yet to arrive, so the pace was more subdued. Still, Scarano didn't like the timing.

"It's hardly ever like this," Scarano confides, bursting out a plume of smoke.

Not that Scarano or his partner, Anthony Cuccinello, had anything to prove to their guests. This 137-employee operation—along with Hand Works, a 35-person inserting, collating, tipping and shrink-wrapping division—is a tightly run ship. Everyone in the company is versatile enough to switch from station to station, whether it's stitching (a 24-hour-a-day operation), folding, gluing or diecutting.

Even Scarano and Cuccinello, despite the fact that they're nattily attired ("Tony usually wears sweats," Scarano reveals, "but he looks good today.") work on all the machines themselves. There's no room for strict pencil-pushers or other one-trick ponies.

"Everybody here does more than one thing," Scarano adds. "If you don't multi-task, then you're out of here."

The pair went headfirst into the business three years ago. They met while working at Creative Response in Wood Ridge, NJ. Cuccinello left to open his own cutting and folding operation, and remained in contact with Scarano. The pair came to the conclusion that they could leverage each other's strengths as a team—Scarano handles sales, estimating and scheduling while Cuccinello oversees manufacturing and billing—and carve a niche in the competitive North Jersey/New York metro market.

American Bindery Depot was thus born in April of 1999, consisting of eight folders and two diecutters. The company generated a respectable $1.8 million in sales, but has since built its base to $7 million annually by servicing printer clientele such as Quebecor World, Sandy Alexander, Banta Direct, Barton Press, Pictorial Offset, Command Web and Georgian Press, among others. In the process, its equipment repertoire has expanded to include 16 folders, four stitchers, three diecutters and seven shrink wrappers.

Beating the Competition

"Our growth has pretty much gone as planned, but it is a little bit surprising," Cuccinello says. "We have quite a bit of competition, but we're aggressive about customer service and in keeping them happy."

Scarano notes that his customer base is complementary in that the workflow is always steady. American Bindery Depot certainly holds up its end of the bargain.

"We're very customer-friendly," he says. "When we say we're going to give you a job by a certain time, we do it. And we don't haggle on price."

American Bindery Depot attracts a bevy of pharmaceutical work, along with publication inserts. Its diecutting and hand assembly capabilities attract the former. High-volume stitching is another forte; a recent load of four million books came to the company on a Friday, and it left before the weekend was over—folded, stitched and shrink-wrapped.

Getting started on their own was a bit of a challenge, but both men had developed a name for themselves and their work. "We had some good, loyal clients who supported our growth, as far as getting us work along the way," Scarano remarks. "Tony had some financial contacts. We had good track records, which was helpful in getting work started."

Not only did relationships with customers act as a catalyst in American Bindery Depot's growth, its dealings with a particular manufacturer aided the company's viability during its formative period. Scarano and Cuccinello have formed a bond with MBO America and its president, Hans Max, that is built on mutual respect, admiration and a willingness to offer more solutions than questions.

"The most important thing we get from MBO America is excellent service—it is beyond belief," Cuccinello says, his voice filled with awe. "When we call, they have someone here in our shop in an hour or two. They have helped us grow our business.

"One time we got a really big job in and we didn't have the capacity to do it," he adds. "And MBO went ahead and sent us a folder, even before we could complete all the paperwork. It really goes above and beyond the call of duty."

American Bindery Depot had previously dealt with another large folder manufacturer, but couldn't shake the feeling that they were just another number. As a small bindery with some very large commercial printing clients, both Cuccinello and Scarano felt they needed a vendor who could provide more personalized and immediate service.

"Hans helped us install the MBO machines, which allowed us to get the start we needed and to grow our business," Scarano says. "If there's a problem, MBO will work with you. If you have suggestions about their machines, they'll listen."

The Latest Equipment

The latest addition to the American Bindery Depot line is the B26-S Perfection folder with the BA700 bander. Nine of the folders in the shop carry the MBO name, as will subsequent additions.

"What I like most about these machines is that they're operator-friendly, easy to set and easy to maintain," Cuccinello states. "(The Perfection) is a higher production machine and it's consistent. It's so much more efficient. It allows for less manpower; we can do a two-up configuration and only have one person at the end of the line.

"With the bundler, the machine runs steady. It's not stop and go," he adds. "If a bad sheet comes out, it's ejected without stopping the machine."

The owners are looking to maintain their current level of job volume while keeping pace with machine technology. Another facility, replacing its current 66,000-square-foot accommodations, is not out of the question.

"We've hit the peak—we're where we want to be," Cuccinello says. "But we're always looking for ways to do things better."
 

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