In vs. off (line) — A "Fight" to the Finish
Quebecor World Direct, RRD Direct and Banta have been highly successful in their in-line and off-line finishing operations. However, much of that success is not the result of providing the print customer with an either-or choice. It's not a question of in-line "vs." off-line, but rather a combination of the two.
As in any relationship, where there are two "sides," there is also the possibility of a union—an agreement or arrangement that is acceptable to both. Such "complementary arrangements" have been the basis of recent finishing success stories for printers like Quebecor World Direct, RRD Direct and Banta, which have discovered the secret of a happy "marriage" between the two technologies.
By offering in-line and off-line capabilities, Barthen says Quebecor Direct has been able to price itself strategically. "Finishing is extremely customer-driven, with multiple changes and larger amounts of product, our ability to meet those needs in-line or off-line has been a big part of our success."
Here's how the combination in-line/off-line finishing process works:
Large quantities of a product are run on-press at full press speeds, and the product is then personalized off-line, later, at subsequent mailing dates. According to Barthen, this not only allows the customer to print the best (latest) names, but the customer also gets a break on price. Because in-line jobs are based on quantity, later mail drops (where the preprinted rolls are simply updated) do not cost as much in makeready and take less time.
This happy marriage of in-line and off-line finishing systems is attracting the attention of other major web offset printers who are currently running only in-line systems. Such is the case with Livonia, MI-based Valassis Communications, where Division Plant Manager Aaron Trager says his company has been looking into the in-line/off-line finishing process.
"With in-line/off-line finishing, you rewind the product on a roll and, then, on a separate finishing line, you can finish at the speeds you need, which are slower than full press speed," Trager explains. "Such a system would allow you to do extended makeready off-line vs. tying the press up for an extended period of time," he notes.