Postpress Efficiency — Bringing Up the Rear
Theoretically, there’s nothing wrong with using older bindery equipment when its performance does not come into question. But press capacity is an issue. Newer presses can have the capabilities and throughput of two (or more) presses from 10 years ago, Lamparter notes. More throughput with press technology, coupled with incumbent binding and finishing gear, equates an imbalance on the back end. That sends theory out the window.
Dennis Mason, president of Mason Consulting and Lamparter’s partner on a PRIMIR study, “The Market for Print Finishing Technologies,” also notes that technology such as binding and cutting has enjoyed immense efficiency upgrades in recent years, with bindery gear becoming less labor-intensive. In terms of production, Mason points out that electronic and mechanical improvements have reduced the degree of jams, misfeeds and incorrectly assembled product.
Unfortunately, the tail end of the production line has a log-jam in need of automating. “The process of assembling orders, putting them in boxes, adding items like CD-ROMs and ensuring that everything is in order, remains a manual nightmare,” Mason says. “Machinery is available that can perform some of these functions, but these require a flexible, cell-like manufacturing operation that remains counter-intuitive to many bindery managers. Automating these areas also often requires computer skills and information technology strengths that heretofore have resided in the prepress area at many printing operations, if at all.
“Companies like Buhrs, Longford and Streamfeeder can automate many processes at the end of the print production process, but these are still not names one often hears when touring a printing plant.”
Clint Bolte, principal of C. Clint Bolte & Associates, believes that services once viewed as ancillary—specifically mailing and fulfillment—now are viewed as typical cogs in the postpress workflow. As such, he sees the dynamics of the USPS and the resulting capabilities of application-specific software have provided many efficiencies in the mailing arena.