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

April 2002

"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.


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