The Digital Bindery
One of Experian's manufacturing alternatives has been to come to the marketplace with a print-on-demand solution, Countryman says. "This solution includes a 600 dpi Océ LED pinless duplex printer, with an in-line cutter from Stralfors, an MBO folder and in-line binder/trimmer. It allows us to produce books in fairly small quantities at a much more attractive per-unit cost compared to traditional methods. It is now practical to have runs as small as 10 or 15 volumes."
Among the trends Countryman has noticed is product redesign for printed versions, particularly where the product has limited life—one to two years. He notes that printed products, which can be digitally composed then digitally printed and finished in-line, can be manufactured very economically.
As for Bice, he believes digital printing system vendors such as Xerox and Océ are working aggressively with a combination of finishing systems companies like Roll Systems to provide complete solutions.
There are some printers for whom in-house, on-demand finishing is not viable—and for them, a trade operation like Woburn, MA-based Seaboard Bindery is an option. Its Fastbind division specializes in Wire-O, plastic coil and perfect binding services in as little time as 24 hours.
Outsource: A Relief Valve
"Companies outsource to us for a variety of reasons," notes Frank Shea, president of the Fastbind division. "Often, there is an in-house work overload, and we are the relief valve. Most often, though, we offer services that are uneconomical to provide in an average on-demand plant. We can take larger jobs that a small printer cannot handle with existing equipment."
Shea notes that one challenge for his company was accommodating smaller quantities and small-format work after years of turning out lengthy runs for large-format commercial printers. Binding and finishing machinery has changed considerably and, he notes that, with the average sale much smaller, it takes more customer service and overhead to do a typical on-demand job.