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. Third up in the four-part series Gilson Graphics.
Gilson Graphics, Grand Rapids, Mich.
This $26 million commercial printer is no stranger to the industry. It services the retail, higher education, book publishing and agency verticals, among others, delivering products that include retail signage, marketing collateral pieces and direct mail. Gilson Graphics is also known for being the first U.S. installation of the Fujifilm J Press 720 cutsheet inkjet press, while its president and CEO — Dave Gilson — is a popular speaker on technology panels.
The company uses a decidedly off-line approach to its print-and-finish workflow. Gilson notes that because the J Press has a delivery, he could easily set up finishing gear in near-line fashion. But since the company performs a vast number of different operations/functions, Gilson treats the J Press like an ordinary offset press, which means transporting by skid to the finishing department.
Life with the J Press has been pretty rewarding for Gilson Graphics. Initially, there were challenges with UV coating the sheets, but a wavelength tweak did the job. Gilson likes the larger sheet size, color consistency, increased color gamut and improved registration.
One aspect that has improved the quality of Gilson Graphics’ workflow is having a dedicated bindery for its digital work. Previously, the digital output was being finished in the “offset” bindery, but that created a wonkish backup.
“There was always a conflict, because the regular bindery was always geared for larger quantities, always set up to run something for several hours, even a day for a job,” Gilson notes. “Breaking into the schedule for a 500-piece run, for example, wouldn’t work. Having a separate bindery and staff for the digital work that we’re producing has worked out to our advantage.”
The dedicated bindery fields between 40 and 50 jobs per day; Gilson jokingly mentioned the need for a drive-through window. He’s pondering adding Auto Count devices to several machines to automate the process more.
One of Gilson’s recent finishing projects is not nearly as hip or flashy as the others, but it is a success story. A new customer needed a print-and-collate job that entailed 80,000 press sheets — a job that was somewhat challenging due to its collation sequencing. Gilson wanted to run the job conventionally and then collate off-line, but his production manager wanted to run it on the J Press and collate it directly off the press, which has a barcode reader for two-sided variable work. This was done in order to avoid the same issues the customer’s previous print provider had encountered.
“If you judge it by the print cost numbers, it was a fixed cost. It would’ve been less expensive for us to print that job offset and manually collate it,” Gilson points out. “But taking a step out of the process sped it up and got it done ahead of time, which the client loved. Most importantly, the collation sequence was perfect.”