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Edinboro Offset--Imaging Ingenuity

March 1998
BOSTON—A city renowned for its historical tea parties, its commons, the Charles, the Pops, the Celtics...and variable image binding.

Well, maybe you won't find quite that description in a Frommer's Guide to New England just yet, but that may change if Edinboro Offset has anything to do with it. In the past two years, this commercial printer has doubled in growth, due in part to a determined attitude—and a process it terms "variable image binding."

Founded in 1947, Edinboro Offset—whose original owner was one of the first people to own an offset press—maintained its small-to-midsize status printing jobs for a targeted market of resellers. The company, however, was looking to develop a specific niche. Fortunately, when a client turned to Edinboro in a pinch, the niche discovered the company.

"About a year-and-a-half ago," recounts President Leland Morgan, "a sales rep from one of our biggest accounts came in with a problem.

"He had one of his customers approach him with the idea of producing a coupon book, and having every coupon in the book be trackable. Every page would be different from the next page—both the print on the coupon and the bar coding on the back would be different."

Edinboro's client had previously seen his customer's project fizzle when a selected bindery could not complete the job. "We took the challenge, handled the books and got the client out of a jam," notes Morgan.

In fact, Edinboro met the challenge so successfully that the end user, Nynex (now part of Bell Atlantic), was elated. "These coupons were returned [to Nynex] and scanned; they knew exactly who was using what coupon," points out Morgan.

Another Challenge
About six months later, Edinboro was served another challenge. This time, Nynex asked Edinboro to automate and produce a run of 400,000 books. Every book would contain up to 150 coupons and feature a punched-out ID card on the cover for each Nynex customer who received the redemption incentive. The number on the ID card then had to match the number on the coupons—necessitating quality checks throughout production.

Two weeks later, Edinboro presented to its customer a 47-page, 4x9˝ perfect-bound book, with three coupons per page. Ecstatic over the result, Nynex refined the product even further, designating that each book should contain coupons toward the front relevant to the geographical area in which each customer resided.

"We devised a way of imaging web-to-web all of the variable information," explains Morgan. "The job contained over 500 rolls. We modified some web sheeting equipment with a camera system that read the bar codes on the web to keep a 100-percent guarantee on the integrity of the data going into each book."

A Perfect Complement
In a final stage of development, Nynex wanted to add seven pages of extremely high-quality offset printed material toward the front of each book. Edinboro devised a way to insert the pages, then concentrated on the booklet's cover.

"We flat-printed 400,000 covers, diecut the cards into them and imaged the numbers into them," explains Morgan. "Then we brought them to Standard Finishing Systems' perfect binder, which we equipped with an [Inspectron] camera system to read the infeed of the cover and the text."

The Standard Horizon BQ-440 binder was a perfect complement to Edinboro's Heidelberg presses and the bar-coding system. The machine, which produces up to 1,000 quality binds per hour, features automatic air suction cover feed with miss- and double-detection, variable milling depths and a vacuum paper dust extractor. The BQ-440 is designed for single-person operation, and takes up roughly one-third the space of similar equipment.

The Horizon's compact and flexible design, which facilitated use of the add-on cameras and computers used with the bar coding, was especially attractive to Edinboro. Morgan was so pleased with the binder's performance that he quickly purchased two additional machines and is planning to add an in-line three-knife trimmer.

And the end result for Edinboro?

"The response was phenomenal," answers Morgan, who anticipates annual sales of $2.7 million. "We physically doubled last year because of this technology."

In addition to the Horizon BQ-440 binders, Edinboro has added a Linotype-Hell (Heidelberg Prepress) Herkules imagesetter and a six-color Heidelberg Speedmaster press to its operation—the latter of which was obtained at PRINT 97.

And if recent success is indicative of future achievement, Edinboro's growth potential is unlimited. "The agency that we dealt with was a direct mail firm," says Morgan, "and it sent invitations out to bid on this project it called 'matched mailing.'

"We had a 47-way match; the best response they could get from a direct mail printer was a five-way match. We see applications for this bindery capability all over."

Edinboro is modest about its ingenuity. "We were challenged; we basically walked into it up front and were asked to solve a problem," declares Morgan. "If you're given that kind of free rein and you have creative people, there isn't any limit on what you can come up with."

—Carolyn R. Bak

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