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On-Demand Finishing -- One-stop Shops

April 2003
By Erik Cagle

How important is turnaround time in an on-demand, digital printing environment? Moreover, how critical is it to accommodate short-run finishing needs without outsourcing?

Just ask Tom O'Brien, president of Greenville, NC-based AccuCopy, a digital printing operation with annual sales in the $10 million range.

"We are in a fairly remote area, geographically," O'Brien says. "We couldn't afford the time it would take to send jobs out for finishing, given that they would have to travel several hundred miles to make it to the nearest trade bindery."

AccuCopy, which is slated to move into a new 70,000-square-foot facility this spring, utilizes three Xerox DocuTech 6155s and two Heidelberg Digimaster 9110s to complement five Heidelberg Printmaster sheetfed presses, a half-web, a two-color perfector and an envelope press.

AccuCopy also operates a thermography business and a Web-based, online ordering system for its business card clients nationwide.

In-house Philosophy

"We primarily serve printing brokers, although we do have several large in-plant customers," O'Brien states. "We are solutions- and product-oriented, and try to produce jobs entirely in-house. We do quite a bit of looseleaf work, such as documentation, technical catalogs and manuals that include index tab dividers. Our quicktabs division is one of the largest index tab manufacturers in the Southeast."

Headlining the finishing department are a Standard BQ-240 perfect binder for short-run jobs, a Muller Martini perfect binder and Wohlenberg three-knife trimmer. High-speed punches from James Burn and Sickinger allow for Wire-O, plastic coil and GBC binding.

One-, two- and three-tower Standard Horizon MC-8 collators—one with stitching, folding and trimming and another with offset stacking—augment a two-tower Standard Horizon VAC 100 collator with ST-40 stacker, SPF-20 stitcher/folder and FC-20 trimmer.

A Polar 115-EM highlights the company's three paper cutters, along with six drills and rotary scoring equipment. It also boasts foil stamping, diecutting, embossing and laminating capabilities.

"We don't use any in-line bindery equipment. We prefer near-line finishing so that we can take jobs off the presses or laser printers and finish them as a separate step," O'Brien states. "That gives us scheduling flexibility, and higher quality and productivity. We do market ourselves as being able to 'turnkey' entire projects in-house. This gives us a great edge, both cost- and time-wise."

Fast Turnaround

Recently, AccuCopy produced 4,000 copies of a book for one customer. The files arrived on a Thursday morning, and the job required seven tabs, as well as printing, punching, collating and coil binding. The order was filled the same day, with the balance delivered the next day.

"Without having all of the finishing capacity that we have in-house, we couldn't have turned that job in a week," O'Brien points out.

"Our customers like that their jobs never leave our floor until we ship out the finished product. There is always a danger, when you send finishing work out, that you may have problems with it. We like the fact that our company is responsible for all aspects of producing a job. We're accountable for the work we do and take pride in accurately finishing jobs. Last year, we produced more than 15,000 jobs, and we had errors on less that 100 of those jobs and had to reprint less than 25 of those jobs. That's an error rate of less than 1 percent."

CMI, based in Chicago and a member of the Consolidated Graphics (CGX) family, began life modestly in 1961, selling typewriter ribbons and duplicating supplies. The company has evolved into a well-rounded sheetfed printer producing books, business-to-business collateral and marketing materials. It recently installed a six-color, 40˝ Heidelberg perfector.

Its digital capabilities consist of two Xerox DocuTech 6180s and a DocuColor 2060. "We manufacture a large amount of print-on-demand documentation and training materials, as well as variable work," states CMI President David Steinberg.

CMI has long performed its own finishing, including saddle stitching, perfect binding and Double-O wire binding. The same holds true for its digital environment: in-line saddle stitcher with three-knife trimming, handfed perfect binder, six-pocket Muller Martini stitcher, a 27-pocket Muller perfect binder, and high-speed Double-O wire punches and binders.

"By having everything under one roof, we're able to apply whatever technology is the most cost-effective for that particular project," notes Steinberg. "We produce a lot of print-on-demand work, have a Web-based order and fulfillment system, and provide variable imaging and personalization on digital equipment."

Inserting, personalization, mailing, fulfillment and distribution are other services the mid-sized printer offers in order to complete the single-source loop. "Our philosophy has always been to be a one-stop shop for our customers and we've tried to encompass whatever technology is out there to meet their needs," Steinberg says.

Often times, digital and conventional printing methods can serve as mutual catalysts. This has been the case for Seattle-based Emerald City Graphics, a 75-employee printer with sales in the $14 million range.

According to Mark Steiner, president of Emerald City, the sheetfed printer thrives on a number of big-ticket clients in the great Northwest—Microsoft, Boeing and Starbucks. Primarily a general commercial printer, Emerald—also a member of the CGX organization—produces a fair measure of short- and medium-run books and manuals.

Complementary Services

"Not only do we do clients' high-end commercial work, we do their digital work, as well," Steiner remarks. "Sometimes we will start out doing their digital work, and it leads to getting commercial work, and vice versa. They can bring it all to one place. With digital capabilities, it allows us to turn jobs quicker."

On the digital end, Emerald City uses a Xerox DocuTech 6180 and a DocuColor 2060. Finishing capabilities include in-line saddle stitching with face trim. The company can perform corner stapling and tape binding in-line, as well. Custom vinyl binders are also produced in-house. Off-line, Emerald City performs Wire-O and spiral binding.


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