Open Enrollment | Subscribe to Printing Impressions HERE
Follow us on

JUST-IN-TIME FINISHING -- Flying to the Finish

April 2002

The whole point of on-demand printing is to get the customer his or her print order in a short amount of time. So you have an army of 100+ ppm printing devices and you can churn out short-run, digital documents like there is no tomorrow.

That is all well and good, but customers are looking for finished documents—books that are bound, brochures that are folded and marketing materials that are cut, slit and punched.

Out of necessity, digital and on-demand printing has become more and more popular in the commercial printing world. According to CAP Ventures' 2000-2005 U.S. Print On Demand market forecast, print volumes in the digital color market are increasing by about 25 percent annually. Obviously, the need for on-demand finishing capabilities follows right along with these figures.

One prime example of a commercial printer that understands the ins and outs of both on-demand printing and finishing is Carol Stream, IL-based Copresco, which is strictly a digital printer. By not using traditional offset presses, the company has a distinct advantage when it comes to on-demand work, notes Copresco President Steve Johnson.

No Drying Time

"This means no offset inks and no drying time," Johnson points out. "That is an essential consideration for on-demand finishing, where the binding process may begin as soon as the first copy of a book comes off the press."

Johnson stresses that Copresco never allows the fact that its jobs are printed on-demand to limit the client's binding options. Nor is print-on-demand an excuse for inferior quality, he says. Copresco offers wire stitching (corner, side, saddle), mechanical (GBC, plastic coil, double-loop wire) and adhesive (perfect, tape) binding, as well as drilling, shrink-wrapping and insertion into ring binders for looseleaf books. Case binding (hard cover), Otabind (lay flat) and single-loop wire (spiral) are outsourced to trade binderies.

To satisfy the on-demand finishing needs of its printing operation, Balmar Inc., of Gaithersburg, MD, has an experienced in-house bindery staff to tackle even the most challenging deadlines.

"We have two fully staffed shifts in our bindery department until 11 p.m., and have a crew on hand if needed for a third shift," reports Earl Gift, director of manufacturing. Gear like a Dexter Lawson drill, a Scott tabbing machine, a Duplo collator/stitcher, a GBC USP13 automatic punch and a Plasticoil binder are just some of the units employed for just-in-time finishing at Balmar. But Gift says that in-line finishing is also a big piece of the binding equation.

"We use tape binding in-line on our Xerox 6180," he says. "Our Xerox 6135 has an in-line SBM (signature bookletmaker) saddle stitcher. And our NexPress 2100 also has in-line collation."

Balmar operates three print production facilities; four on-demand digital printing centers; a full-service mailing and fulfillment center; a facilities management (outsourcing) division; a comprehensive legal publishing and reproduction center; and a full-service design studio.

Meanwhile, back at Copresco, for saddle stitching work a Vijuk Fenimore Sidewinder accommodates four-page signatures and folds on-the-fly. Flat sheets and two-, four- and eight-page impositions are the rule in print-on-demand circles, Johnson remarks. For perfect binding, a handfed Sulby Auto Minabinder is used.

"Though neither of these two pieces of equipment were specifically designed for on-demand finishing, short makereadies and great flexibility in size and thicknesses make them ideal," Johnson advises. "Because both machines were originally created for commercial binderies, quality is equal to those of books that have taken weeks to conventionally print and bind."

For Copresco clients who feel that maximum economy is paramount over appearance, side stitching may be substituted for saddle stitching, and tape binding for perfect binding, he says.

"These processes can be accomplished both on- and off-line," Johnson confides. "As for mechanical binding, a plethora of smaller punches and binders manufactured by GBC and Renz allow for instant changeover and zero makeready. Running speed is sacrificed with smaller equipment, but in a world where books are produced by the hundreds instead of by the thousands, this is a worthwhile tradeoff, since we still finish ahead because of radically shortened makereadies."

One of the largest manufacturers of mass-market paperback books in the world, Offset Paperback Manufacturers (OPM), of Dallas, PA, produces approximately 350 million mass market and digest book products a year. OPM can take a project through the entire process starting with digital photography through prepress, printing, binding and distribution/fulfillment.

Getting In-line

Situated within the Bertelsmann organization, OPM is part of Bertelsmann Arvato AG. Steve Talacka, print-on-demand manager, heads up the digital printing and on-demand business for the company. He explains that OPM uses in-line and near-line perfect binders for its on-demand finishing needs.

All of its binding equipment is from C.P. Bourg, including a BB-2005 Book Factory and two BB-3000 off-line binders. Everything printed (text and covers) is produced digitally on Xerox DocuTech and DocuColor equipment, he says.

To deal with the fast pace of an on-demand environment, Talacka points to his staff as a major reason for his success. Without an experienced, well-trained group of employees, an on-demand printing and binding operation would not be able thrive and survive, he contends.

"Having technically competent operators who can repair equipment quickly and troubleshoot is critical," Talacka adds. "We have not encountered any major hurdle that we have not been able to overcome."

There are two evils that on-demand printers point to when speaking about digital printing and on-demand finishing—makeready time and spoilage. In the realm of print-on-demand, where customers often request the exact quantity needed, double-digit overruns and the time to print additional copies due to waste in the bindery can drive costs above the acceptable range. Faster makereadies are also of the upmost importance when total finishing time is measured in minutes or hours. Binding gear that can address these needs, without sacrificing quality or flexibility, is key.

On-demand printers report that once the proper finishing equipment is in place, and proper scheduling and workflow systems are coupled with the determination to meet extremely challenging deadlines, just-in-time finishing is not much different or more difficult than conventional binding.

Still, a true digital, on-demand printer—no matter how well-equipped—must have at its disposal a group of trade binderies that are equally committed to the on-demand concept, and willing to deliver at a moment's notice, Copresco's Johnson concludes.


Click here to leave a comment...
Comment *
Most Recent Comments: