In vs. off (line) — A "Fight" to the Finish
"The key is that direct mail clients always want the best names, that is, the latest and up-to-date name list, where they've keyed in on demographics and they're getting the better return on their mail projects. The ability to update regularly is done off-line," says Bob Barthen, vice president of non-imaged products at the Quebecor World Direct Division.
"The ability to cut, fold, glue and personalize in-line [Quebecor World Direct also runs more than 25 in-line systems] has proved to be very profitable for us," Barthen adds. "But, it's the flexibility of off-line that represents the major boom in our business. The ability to get to the end customer at the last minute through personalization is one of the major advantages of off-line—its enormous flexibility."
Quebecor World Direct runs three off-line systems, which provide the entire gamut of finishing capabilities. "Everything you can imagine...folding, cutting, stacking, perfing, diecutting, gluing, imaging, personalization," says Dwaine Kin- derknecht, vice president and division manager, noting that Quebecor World Direct has "the most high-tech off-line systems in the world: double-web off-lines, with up to 76˝ between two webs, and multiple, dual-cutoff capabilities."
Kinderknecht says in-line finishing gives Quebecor World Direct the ability to finish, personalize and go direct to mail—all in one, in-line process and at full press speed.
The major difference between running an in-line and off-line system, notes Kinderknecht, is the cost savings. "In-line is fairly costly to set up. It may take eight to 10 hours on the full blown in-line process, but there is a shorter makeready on the incremental runs using off-line." Thus, the cost of the initial makeready of the press run is offset by the shorter and less expensive makereadies off-line, says Barthen.
"Off-line provides the advantage of quicker makereadies, because there is no downtime waiting for the press line and its makereadies, which are more time-consuming and costly," adds Kinderknecht. "With off-line, you have the advantage of not having to worry about the printing or the expensive downtime of the press. And considering that the press is the major capital expenditure, it's also the one that is most costly when sitting idle."