A Requiem for the Bindery?
Many of us over 40 years of age marvel at the digital proficiency of the 20-somethings. We look at the millennials (and those younger) and their desire to be software engineers, programmers, entrepreneurs, video game developers. But, we wonder, who's going to run the saddle stitcher?
Seriously, many folks in today's bindery have more than a little gray around their temples. They'll be leaving to enjoy their golden years soon. And who's going to replace them? When you speak to young people about what they want to do in life, (and I'm sure you do at some point), do you hear "I want to run a press," or "I want to work in print finishing." Probably not.
Many of the folks presently in the bindery got there by accident. That is, this was a summer job, or their first job after high school. They found out that they liked it, found enough challenge in it, and stayed. Eventually, they learned enough to run the biggest and most challenging systems. Many "graduated" into plant management, and their responsibilities grew along with their company.
But this begs the question of where their replacements will come from. The finishing systems of today are very different from the generation of 30 and 40 years ago. Back in the day, there was a lot of "heavy lifting" of paper, and it could take some years to learn how to properly set up and run even a buckle folder. Long apprenticeships were not uncommon.
Today's equipment replaces much of the former set-up craft with computer-guided systems. But there is still a lot to learn in order to consistently produce a high-quality finished brochure, periodical, or book. And there remains many innovations to come in print finishing. The challenge will be to convince the coming generations that print finishing is a career worth entering. That's something that should be high on our priority list.
Don has worked in technical support, sales, engineering, and management during a career in both the commercial offset and digital finishing sectors. He is the North American representative for IBIS Bindery Systems, Ltd. of The United Kingdom.