A profitable and efficient bindery operation depends on two things, automation and preparation. While both are important, usually no amount of automation can make up for lousy preparation, and that preparation has to take place at the very beginning when the printed piece is being designed.
For too long, the bindery and finishing operations in quick and small commercial shops took a back seat to prepress and production. Digital prepress and digital output, whether to plate or to digital press, were much more readily tied together in a digital workflow. Bindery was relegated to the back of the shop, waiting to react to the end result of that digital workflow.
It’s not that bindery is an unimportant part of a printing operation. In fact, it is a vital step in preparing most printed products. It is also a major revenue center. For the past 10 years, the Quick Printing Top 100 companies have attributed nearly 10% of total sales to their bindery and finishing operations. Franchise print shops report that bindery and finishing account for more than 8% of total revenue. That is a very significant percentage of this year’s total Top 100 sales of $513 million and total franchise sales of $1.7 billion.
From The Top
Printing needs to be designed with bindery in mind. Most printers know this very well. However, all too often, they fail to communicate this to their customers prior to taking in jobs. Instead, they wrestle with poorly designed pieces trying to make the necessary corrections—and sometimes forgetting to charge for the work. A lot of headaches could be avoided if the printer took time to teach the customer how to properly prepare a job—not only for printing, but also for binding. Sadly, too many printers are so busy trying to get jobs out that they neglect training their customers so the orders will arrive in better shape.
Peachpit Press publishes a wide variety of books and tutorials for designers and creatives. In an article by Claudia McCue on Peachpit’s website, some essential considerations for avoiding bindery problems in the design stage are outlined. They sound simple, but are often ignored when a job is being designed. Among them are:
• Build to the correct trim size. In other words, don’t leave a single business card floating on an 8.5x11" page.
• Provide bleed. Take into account when artwork extends to the edge of a page and extend the image beyond the trim line.
• Stay away from the edge. The closer the artwork is to the edge the more chance of it getting clipped in a trim error.
• Follow the print specifications. Printers should provide these to their customers and insist they be followed. They should include details for folding, bleeds, imposition, etc.
• Finally, design for the intended binding method. Folding, saddle stitching, case or perfect binding, comb binding, and coil binding all have different design requirements.
There obviously are many more considerations in properly preparing a job that will run smoothly through production and bindery, but you get the idea. In many ways it can be like the old computer acronym GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out.
In the ideal JDF (Job Definition Format) world, the printing process would be fully automated from beginning to end. The job would flow seamlessly from website to quote to PDF submission to production scheduling to production to finishing. It would be nice if the quick and small commercial printers’ world were so automated. While JDF is indeed establishing itself throughout the printing industry, the fact is that it has yet to really penetrate our industry segment. That’s not to say it isn’t making some inroads, but a PDF workflow is the standard for now, and that usually stops at the bindery door. There certainly is bindery equipment available today that is designed from the ground up to support the JDF industry standard, but you won’t see it in most quick and small commercial shops just yet.