IN-LINE vs. OFF-LINE — Cross the Finish Line

This ability to produce unusual formats is becoming more and more important as clients look for unique pieces to catch their customers’ attention. “The goal is to get the consumer to pick up your piece of mail and open it. If you can make it memorable, interactive and exciting, then they are more likely to pick it up,” Humphrey adds.

Increased Imaging

In-line finishing lends itself to higher levels of imaging, as well, suggests Humphrey. However, he says that in-line is still costly to set up compared to off-line finishing. “However, while costly to set up and run, printers tend to make their money back because off the high speeds at which in-line is able to run.”

You really end up breaking even, he notes. “And, at some point, it does become more economical to run it in-line versus off-line. That isn’t for a 20,000-piece job; it’s got to be near one million pieces. But, then again, certain formats can only be run in-line.”

Also at issue with in-line finishing are labor issues, according to the Quebecor World executive. “In-line is an acquired skill. The level of competency required is probably higher than with an off-line system. “With in-line there is a predictability issue on how much you may produce on a daily basis. And because of the complexity and speeds that we are running, there is an opportunity for higher waste,” he states.While in-line finishing is geared toward more higher runs, off-line can offer more flexibility and versatility. “There is definitely a versatility that you get when you are running off-line,” says Pat Allen, bindery manager at Progress Printing in Lynchburg, VA. This $50 million printing operation has opted to remain off-line, although they have at times considered adding an in-line finishing system to their bindery mix.

“I’ve seen in-line systems that have sat idle for weeks. With off-line, you have much more options,” he feels. “You can change size formats from 120-page to eight-page books.”

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