Bindery: Too Much … Automation?
A senior technician and I were at a system install last week when we got into a philosophical discussion on bindery system design. I noted that bindery systems were getting to the point where the only “hands on” requirement for an operator was the ability to push the right buttons. My technician friend immediately jumped in and said (in no uncertain terms) that this was not a good thing. “Why?” I asked.
He countered that all bindery systems process paper. Paper is an organic substance. And all saddle-stitched, perfect-bound and hardcover products (and more) are built of this organic material. Therefore, an operator should know how paper behaves. They should know how it flows through a system, how it should fold (properly), and how moisture, heat and cold affect it. They should know what the grain direction of a sheet should be for each process. They should also know what the properties of offset, text, cover, tag and newsprint stocks are, and how they perform in different binding processes. How does the speed of the machine affect it? (And believe me, it does). How does the print affect the binding?
After some minutes of discussion with my friend, I began to see his point about the dangers of pushing too many buttons and not knowing enough about the finer points of the process you are dealing with.
Is this an argument for better (and more in depth) training for both offset and digital bindery people? You bet. That’s a real investment in both dollars and time, but the result is an operator who both understands their machine automation, and also the underlying processes that the machine is trying to achieve. The end result is a system that runs better, with less downtime and fewer defective products. So as we were troubleshooting our machine on that Friday afternoon, I began to pay very close attention to all of those little belts, rollers, scoring wheels and others that had an impact on our high-speed paper path and their proper adjustment with regard to our paper source.
I will leave you with a quote from the great Professor Emeritus Werner Rebsamen of RIT who knew how paper behaved in binding like no one else, and who once described the perfect book block as “well pressed is half bound.” That’s an accurate statement!