A Guide to Buying Digital Finishing Systems (Part One)
1) Don't Buy Office Equipment: Not too long ago, a majority of digital print volume was printed on cut-sheet toner printers. Finishing options were (and still are) many, with a host of built-in bookletmakers and perfect binders that could output a finished product. These were built for the speeds and volumes of the cut-sheet production model. But we’re now in the era of digital big iron. At least that’s how I describe the new inkjet web printers, which can easily run at 500 fpm, with monthly duty cycles of 50 million impressions or more.
Because the presses have been “beefed up,” it means the finishing gear must follow suit. When making the transition to digital web inkjet, make sure the finishing part can handle the heavier duty cycle. You don’t want to invest in a saddle stitcher, web finishing system or perfect binder that has a two-year “end-of-life” tag or that will need to be rebuilt on a regular basis. Pick a vendor that has a verifiable track record of manufacturing machinery that can run at high speeds and can go the distance. This will not be your cheapest option, but machinery that will maintain a good uptime record with reasonable maintenance costs will be more cost-efficient than you can imagine.
2) Who You Gonna Call? The second big consideration is: who will keep your finishing systems running? There are lots of options. If you’re system is part of a high-speed printer platform, the printer vendor will (usually) offer to bundle finishing system maintenance along with the printer. After all, web inkjet printer manufacturers typically station technicians at your site or close by. This has the promise of instant response to a problem. The downside is that it comes with a monthly fee, which can be fairly high.
If a local finishing systems dealer is involved, they will be the local option, and they will typically offer support on a per-call basis. Then there are national equipment manufacturers and service firms, which can provide post-sale service for almost everything in your plant. Service is a huge part of annual revenues for these firms, and they employ hundreds of trained technicians at locations across the country. They will provide service and routine maintenance on a per-call basis but prefer an annual contract for each system.
The last option (and perhaps the best) is self-maintenance. Many finishing systems vendors will offer a self-maintenance course designed to enable your operators to address many of the problems and routine preventative maintenance that your system needs. You don’t need staff who are seasoned engineers to be successful with this. The newer “professional-grade” digital bindery machines can be mastered with proper instruction and there’s no better way to keep a system running (or provide a response to a problem) than having an operator react immediately to a situation. Even better, there’s no ongoing cost beyond paying for the training and stocking a reasonable level of spare parts.
More on this subject next week.