Trade Binderies Hit the Wall
It's no secret that we're dealing with a greatly compressed printing industry as opposed to the "roaring '90s." For trade binderies, the news has been even worse. As their traditional printer customers have shuttered or consolidated, many have been forced out. In the last few years, some of the largest trade shops in the Chicago-land, the East Coast, and more have closed their doors. And many of these were not "mom-and-pop" operations, but very large print finishers with loads of equipment.
But, amidst the bad news, there are trade binderies that are not only surviving, but doing well, thank you. What are their secrets?
Get Efficient: Much of the bindery machinery produced was built to the "heavy iron" standards. Properly maintained, these systems could produce for 10 years or more (in some cases, MUCH more). But that doesn't mean that they meet the new efficiency demands of rapid makeready and low-labor input. New binding and cutting systems are light-years faster and more efficient than older ones, and can produce both high-quality long- and short-run work with lower manning requirements.
As with printers, the company with the latest and greatest in technology will have a speed and output cost over a firm that does not. Central Bindery in Phoenix, spent close to a million dollars on a brand-new Kolbus KM473 high-speed perfect binder not long ago. That's a lot of money for a trade bindery. But the new binder allowed them to turn out both long and short runs, with either EVA or PUR adhesive binding, and with extremely high quality. The new technology on the binder allowed their operators to make almost all of their "corrective" adjustments while the machine was running, saving lots of production time.
Find a Niche, and Fill It Well: That old saw about specialization really has some life to it. Binding Edge, a trade bindery in Neenah, Wis., faced a sleep-depriving decision some years ago. Owner Steve Penkala and his wife agonized over the purchase of a highly-specialized mechanical binding system from Bielomatik, a German manufacturer.
This was a "million-dollar" decision, but the machine would enable them to turn out a wide variety of spiral wire and plastic coil bound books at a rate of 10 times greater than most of the similar systems available. They made the purchase. Today, they own one of the two such machines in North America, and are able to crank out high-quality mechanically-bound orders of 300,000 or so faster (and with less cost) than their competitors.
There are probably a laundry list of actions that apply to both printers and trade binderies alike. But the bottom line is that trade binderies are facing probably the greatest challenges within the lifetime of their businesses. It will take a mixture of creativity, analytics, and risk taking to see them through.