A Checklist for Would-be Digital Finishing Manufacturers

Let’s face it, the growth opportunities for traditional finishing manufacturers are few and somewhat far between at the moment. That’s why a large number of “old-school” firms are racing to enter the still-growing digital print segment, because that’s where the growth opportunities are right now.

But wait! Before you decide to re-tool your commercial bindery gear for digital, take some tips from my checklist. Believe me, it’s been gleaned from experience.

1) It’s A Different World.

Yes, it is. The press-to-finishing workflow is quite different from offset. Many digital shops prefer single sheets (two-pages) over creating folded signatures. Since the data is often variable, a 16-page signature could wind with 15 blank pages. And digital work is pre-collated; no need for a gathering section. The point is that many traditional bindery systems have to be “re-thought” for a digital workflow.

2) Make It Flexible.

Because high-speed continuous inkjet is still fairly new, many shops acquiring a press don’t know what new work they may get (or COULD get) in a year or two. As a result, they’ll be reluctant to commit to a one-trick finishing system. Your finishing solution should be flexible enough to process a variety of formats.

3) Oops! Your Selling Model Got Switched.

The world of the “traditional” bindery equipment rep was well-defined. He (or she) knew EVERY print shop and bindery in their territory and was a regular, welcome visitor. Reps typically dealt with the owner or upper management. They knew what was going on inside the plant and knew what projects might trigger a sale. The press room was something of an alien area, and the bindery was where the action was.

But in the digital world of continuous web, press and finishing are typically proposed at the same time. The entire system, from front-end to back are bid at the same time. When you walk in after the digital press install, the party may already be over. The key to winning the business is partnerships.

Don has worked in technical support, sales, engineering, and management during a career in both the commercial offset and digital finishing sectors. He is the North American representative for IBIS Bindery Systems, Ltd. of The United Kingdom.
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  • Paul Gardner

    Very helpful perspective Don – great points all!

    I would add one more:
    Don’t sell DIGITAL Finishing Equipment as if it were an isolated, stand-alone solution. While it may be spec’d and purchased solely to finish digitally printed material, it’s likely that at some point your machine will see analog (offset) work too. And in some of the more innovative shops, you’ll see printers binding a combination of offset and digital work together on the same line.

  • Brian Rothschild

    I totally agree with Paul. A shop should always take flexibility in function and format into concideration so as best to maximize the ROI as well as the creative services that can be now added. Make sure the art or prepress dept. is involved as there will be a learning curve, but, a good one.

  • JoanneDDavid

    Automating and optimizing postpress processes offers enormous potential for PSP now and not just turn around time but also quality control from upstream. Postpress automation should be controlled from the prepress and that is going to be true not just for in-line but off-line too. The simple fact that you can use a JDF job ticket and send it to the finisher allows you to validate your job before going to print and make sure it is built inrespect to the capabilities and constraints of the chosen finishing device. More to come on this at Print 13.