Mid Island Bindery — Bucking Bindery Trends
WHAT IS this strange-looking thing? Bob Geier wondered aloud, when a customer stopped by (circa 1987) and handed him a small, round piece of plastic. “I’d never seen anything like it before,” recalls Geier, owner of Farmingdale, NY-based Mid Island Bindery. “The customer said it was a compact disc, and that it was going to be huge someday.
“That was a milestone year for us,” Geier notes. “We worked hard with our customer to produce the books that accompanied every compact disc at greater speeds then they were currently being produced and hold all the specifications required by the final assembler.”
Mid Island produced sleeves and books for compact discs until 2004, when the client closed its New York plant. But in 2005, an opportunity arose with another existing customer, Coral Graphics, that wanted to expand into the printing of books and packaging for the multimedia market in Louisville, KY.
Into the Niche
“Aware that we had almost 20 years of experience in this area, they asked if we would be interested in developing a close working relationship in this venture,” Geier explains. “We agreed, and with Coral Graphics putting together a state-of-the-art printing facility and Mid Island creating Next-Tek Finishing, a state-of-the-art finishing plant, we were able to meet the critical demands of this industry.”
Suddenly, Mid Island Bindery had grown into a two-facility, two-state operation. When many trade binderies across the nation were closing their doors, Mid Island’s reputation of meeting customer’s needs had enabled its growth as one of the most modern, high-tech facilities in Louisville and one of the last true trade commercial finishers in New York.
Next-Tek has become a relied on finisher for the multimedia printing companies located in the Louisville area, Geier asserts. When the facility opened in 2005, there were 15 employees. Today, there are 80.
Business was booming back at the Farmingdale facility, as well. And 2004/2005 became another milestone year. It was then that a customer brought in another unusual project: a 680-page, plastic spiral-bound book. What’s most unusual about the project is its run length: 250,000 copies.
Run Lengths of 250,000
In today’s market place, where everyone is forced to pinch pennies to get by, why wasn’t this project sent to the least expensive bindery, even if it was out of state? The answer is simple enough: Most plants can’t handle mechanical binding run lengths of 250,000. With digital and on-demand printing all the rage, most are simply not set up to handle such lengthy runs. Not nowadays, anyway.
Mid Island was no exception. Initially, it wasn’t capable of binding 250,000 1.3˝-thick books. But keeping the faith with his business philosophy, that “if the customer wants it, the customer gets it” (even if that means adding new equipment to handle the job), Geier was determined to win the work—not once, or twice, but routinely year after year.
“The first year that we produced the project, we bought several manual plastic spiral machines, but we could only produce one-third of the work,” he explains. “We had to outsource the rest to other binderies that produced the job in this manner. The next year, I approached our equipment supplier, Michael Spiel of Spiel Associates. I told him that I wanted to complete the entire job in-house.
“So we purchased a Sterling Coilmaster automatic plastic coil binding system in 2005. Then, we were able to do two-thirds of the job. The next year, we bought another Coilmaster and finished the entire job in-house. And, we did it in four weeks, which was the amount of time given to do the project. We have taken on the project every year and, with our new equipment, we are able to keep it flowing smoothly in our plant.”
At the same time, Geier and his partner, Bob Russo, were busy branching out into another service offering. “We wanted our customers’ products to be able to go straight from the bindery into the mailstream, so we added mailing operations. It’s been a good value-added service to our clients. We set up a full data processing department to handle the complicated data work our customers required, as well as high resolution ink-jet and laser equipment. Work primarily consists of personalized department store catalogs, annual reports and large direct mail projects.”
To keep competitive in today’s marketplace, in January Mid Island installed a fully automated Kolbus perfect binder with a top speed of 15,000 books per hour. The new Kolbus joins an arsenal of high-tech machines that includes four saddlestitchers (with Signature recognition), 14 folders, four paper cutters (with jogger and unloaders), two Wire-O binders, two Rilecart wire binders, two Sterling Coilmaster plastic binders, another perfect binder, four Bobst diecutters, foil stamping equipment and several tip on machines.
Geier notes that many of his long-run jobs are finished using his Rilecart B-599 automatic double loop wire binder, which he claims is one of the fastest wire binders in the world, capable of binding 4,000 books per hour.
And that’s just at the New York location. The Louisville finishing facility comprises a dozen folders and stitchers, diecutters and gluers set up for the multimedia work.
“Our final products produced in Kentucky go into thousands of stores, so the packages must be exceptional. Our quality control has to be very tight. There can’t be any defects. We’re graded by our customers for defects/quality, and our packing is graded/compared with other vendors that do the same type of work. The competition is on—and so is the pressure.”
Interestingly, the finishing work coming out of the Farmingdale facility is also scrutinized by customers. Two important revenue streams are high-end annual reports for Fortune 100 companies and auto showroom brochures.
“Every job we take on has to be done with care and quality, and completed on time,” Geier says. Other work includes catalogs, calendars, pamphlets, pharmaceutical brochures and, of course, books of every kind—each with specific finishing requirements.
Strategy Pays Off
Geier maintains that his business strategy has paid off, as 2007 was a record year with more than $18 million in sales. He claims his capabilities expansions are well thought out, and his equipment purchases are smart. He gives kudos to Spiel Associates for the supplier’s expertise in knowing what equipment will fit best into his operation and best fulfill his needs.
Finding and cultivating market niches—like multimedia packaging, long-run mechanical binding, perfect binding and direct mail personalization—are keys that have led to Mid Island’s continued success.
Another equally important driver behind Geier’s ability to run a profitable business is his “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” attitude. It’s a business philosophy that has enabled him to buck traditional trends and build a thriving trade bindery business. PI