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Digital Finishing -- Making a Stitch in Time

February 2009 By Mark Smith
Technology Editor
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AS DIGITAL printing demand, applications and operations grow, adjustments are being made in finishing strategies. In-, near- and off-line solutions all still have their place, but determining the best approach has become a more site-specific decision.

What’s best when a shop has one digital press can be very different from when it has grown to having two, 10 or well on its way to 100 digital presses. The range of applications produced can be a more critical factor in weighing the efficiency of in-line vs. the flexibility of near-/off-line solutions. 

These issues and more can be factors in the finishing equipment buying decisions made by Jeff Ude, purchasing manager at Consolidated Graphics (CGX) in Houston. The organization is comprised of some 70 companies, the majority of which have digital and offset printing capabilities.

Most of the locations have only one or two digital presses, while some have 10 or more machines. Various Xerox iGen3 (including one iGen4), Kodak Nexpress and HP Indigo model color presses account for more than 100 of the 200+ digital devices (small to large) CGX operates across all of the facilities.

“We have a number of in-line solutions for booklet-making at certain companies, but we have a lot of near-line solutions, as well,” Ude reports. “We base the decision on the particular need set of the customer group served by a location.”

Having multiple presses feed work to one near-line finishing solution might be the better option in some cases, while in-line can offer advantages for other work, he says. CGX installed Xerox iGen3 presses with in-line bookletmakers, for instance, because the volume of one particular project demanded that capability.

Going in-line can also be a requirement for sensitive work that deals with people’s finances, medical records or other private information to ensure the right pages make it only to the intended recipient. “Some clients will actually write it in the contract that finishing has to be done in-line for security reasons,” Ude says.

Doing More With Less

Going in-line vs. near-line is an issue CGX sometimes goes round and round on, both internally and with clients. The economic and business climate is now adding extra weight to the decision, he adds. 

“We’re being very cautious just like everyone else, and trying to limit our spend. I’ve been having that very discussion (about a near-line solution requiring a smaller capital outlay) with one of our companies, as we look at what we are going to invest in this year. It traditionally has gone in-line, but I think near-line might be a better solution,” Ude explains.


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