In vs. off (line) — A "Fight" to the Finish
Off-line: You can have multiple presses printing roll-to-roll to supply one off-line system, so capital expense is much lower. Four in-lines vs. one off-line.
Off-line: Off-lines can be made with variable-size cutoffs, so if you have two presses and both have different cutoffs, you can finish in those cutoff sizes.
In-line: You can't do variable cutoffs unless you have a variable-size press. You have to have the line sized to match the press cutoff. However, shaftless, variable size, in-line systems are now being manufactured to match variable-size presses.
In-line: Operators are running both the presses and in-lines. One crew for each complete printing/finishing line.
Off-line: A crew is required for the press and for the off-line system. Employee base is higher than in-line.
In-line: Takes up more space; an in-line system doubles the footprint of the press.
Off-line: The system can be put in another part of the room or building, or in another building entirely.
Off-line: "If you have off-line, you can support it from other facilities," Markovich says. "Donnelley, Quebecor and Banta all have a central facility with off-line systems, and they feed those systems from various parts of the country. This allows them to manufacture their jobs regionally and finish their production centrally in one facility."
Traditionally, Markovich says, web offset printers run in-line finishing systems for speed, volume, automation, consistency and reduced labor costs. However, noting a recent interest in off-line finishing systems, he reports that many of the larger web printers (currently using in-line systems) are now looking at off-line possibilities.
As an example, he cites such heavy hitters as Quebecor World Direct, which runs three high-tech off-line systems, including a double web that is one of the most advanced units in the world. He says the company also recently installed a single web, off-line system. It's a variable-sized, modular system that allows for five cutoff sizes, ranging from 17˝ to 28˝.