Simpler Is Better

I was having a conversation with an associate who once owned a fairly large bindery in the Southwest. He now sells digital finishing systems and we were discussing an intricate system approach to a complex finishing project. My associate did a bit of reminiscing about his bindery days when his general approach to a job was “simpler is better.”

This resonated with me. After a long career helping to configure fairly complex mailing and finishing systems, I have learned to reduce complexity wherever I can. In an effort to reduce labor input, today’s offset and digital finishing systems incorporate multiple components. Buckle folders can now slit, perforate, trim and glue in one operation. In-line and near-line digital web systems can punch and perforate, fold and glue, and produce both saddle-stitched and bound books as one continuous system.

The “catch” is that every added function or module is also a potential roadblock. Every small misalignment between modules, every transfer point of paper, every speed differential becomes a potential troublemaker. And when the entire system is not meeting its production goals, one may have to put on their Sherlock Holmes Deerstalker hat to try to pinpoint the cause (or causes). This is why it’s SO important to think “simplicity first” either when designing a multi-stage finishing system, or when setting up a finishing job.

Does it make sense to have an automatic transfer of a book block to a binder, or is it faster and more efficient for an operator to do this? How many different functions do you want to build into a system? Is it better to perform some operations separately. Digital finishing people, as well as bindery owners, managers, and operators, have to make these decisions every day when planning the job. The advice that I have consistently gotten from these folks has been, “what is the simplest way I can do this?” Words of wisdom.

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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