The finishing department must have been an invention of Walt Disney. Sure, the press does all of the heavy lifting, sweating through various run lengths, but there’s something that happens between the time the piece is printed and later boxed or inserted.
Finishing is the time when the magic happens. Instead of Tinker Bell with a magical wand, it’s Ted with a folder and a tattoo crawling up the side of his face. But this is not about Ted, this is a conversation about finishing in a toner and inkjet digital cutsheet printing environment.
We’ve rustled up several printers from across the country to gauge their approach to finishing and perhaps share a story about a given project that truly raised the bar once the finishing touches were applied. Fourth up in the four-part series Essence Printing.
Essence Printing, San Francisco
This family-owned business has graced the Bay Area for 38 years, offering digital, offset and wide-format printing to go with ancillary services, such as warehousing, kitting and assembly. Conveniently located 15 minutes from San Francisco International Airport, Essence Printing produces marketing and advertising collateral, annual reports, direct mail, catalogs, packaging and Web-based services.
In-line finishing production is the default preference for Essence Printing, notes General Manager Michael Iburg, but that is tempered by the notion that an issue with the folder (for example) can shut down the entire line. That leaves near-line as the perfect hedge bet; Essence has its Mohr cutter integrated with both of its HP Indigo presses. By using the SmartStream Direct2Finish module, job data is automatically transferred from the press to the cutter for every job, eliminating cutter setup, errors and associated reprints.
“With HP SmartStream Direct2Finish, that means a single operator can RIP a job, print it, finish, pack it up and get it out the door. We can do that all with one person,” Iburg states. “That makes near-line finishing a lot easier for us.”
Essence Printing has the benefit of redundancy to aid in its finishing. Should one machine go down, the job can be quickly rerouted to maintain the promised turn time, even if it’s at the expense of the printer. Practically speaking, HP SmartStream Direct2Finish enables the company to increase the speed in which a job can be turned, especially when many of the jobs are tagged “ships today.”
“Jobs move really fast through our shop and that’s one of our biggest challenges,” notes Frank Plughoff, prepress and Indigo manager. “Deadlines are our biggest obstacle.”
Future investments at Essence Printing, from a finishing standpoint, will be aimed at adding as much automation as possible. Cost efficiency is delved from creating workflows that involve as little operator intervention as possible. A job sans fingerprints is a happy job.
With so many custom projects coming in the front door and going out the back door in the same day, knowing the specs frontwards and backwards is more than a figure of speech at this plant, according to Iburg.
“Quite often, we get together in teams and start with a finished product, then backtrack through it to see exactly what will need to be done throughout the entire process,” he reveals. “We establish a workflow by tracking backwards. It means every department in the shop has to be 100 percent on its A game.”