You’ve invested in high-end, wide-format post-press and finishing equipment. But one thought keeps nagging at you. Are you making the best use of that investment?
Getting the most out of the considerable investment you’ve sunk into that equipment involves a wide array of considerations. Have you looked to the manufacturer for all the training and education available? Have you gotten up to speed on the full range of capabilities the finishing equipment can offer?
Have you taken every measure available to you to limit waste? Are you ensuring you have competent, well-paid and loyal personnel running the equipment? Are you using the right materials? And above all, are you viewing the equipment as, to use one expert’s words, “a platform for profitability”?
Finishing as an Afterthought
The fact that some PSPs don’t reap all they could from their wide-format post-press equipment shouldn’t come as a surprise, says Jerry Hill, vice president of new market business development for Richmond, Va.-based Drytac Corporation, a manufacturer of laminates, adhesives and finishing equipment.
“In smaller and medium-sized companies, you have pre-press, the printer, and finishing is the last step,” Hill says. “Business owners get worn out figuring the right computer and software to determine the images. Then they focus on the printer and inksets. And finally they say, ‘I guess we have to have some finishing, so let’s go buy a roller laminator, a liquid coater or an XY cutter, or a flatbed cutter.’ And they give that less time . . . They put a lot of attention on the front end and on the printing process, and finishing is an afterthought.”
That’s a big problem, because what comes off the printer isn’t ready for sale. It has to be cut and mounted or sewn, seamed and grommeted. Finishing is the “worst place to mess up,” Hill says. Incorrectly perform finishing and you lose three times, he adds. The first is the loss of the job not finished correctly, the second having to do the job over. The third loss is the opportunity cost of the next job in line that could have completed while you were re-doing the first.
“Unless you have that finishing done correctly, you have to throw it out and start over,” Hill remarks. “If done poorly, the customer’s perception of your quality is negative. So my suggestion is don’t make finishing an afterthought. Don’t think of it as a necessary evil. Think of it as a profit center.”
Optimizing that Investment
How can you get the most from an investment in wide-format equipment? According to Rick Nerenhausen, sales training manager for Sarasota-based LexJet, the first step is to view that equipment as a long-term investment.
Printing equipment should probably be paid off in three years, because within that time, speed, image quality, ease of use and profiles for media will all be outstripped by newer printing equipment. When it comes to roll laminating, by contrast, the investment can be paid over a much longer time frame. Invest in a $25,000 or $30,000 higher-end laminator, and it is very possible to get 20 years of service from the machine if it is maintained properly, Nerenhausen says.
The equipment should be evaluated the same way a printer would, Hill says. That begins by understanding the full variety of capabilities the printer can offer. In his years in the business, Hill has seen many PSPs purchase finishing equipment with the goal of using the equipment to do one job for one customer.
“They need x, so they buy equipment to do x, and that equipment does x,” he says. “But most finishing equipment offers multiple capabilities that allow it to do x, y and z. For instance, a PSP who does car wraps buys a laminator that applies the overlamination film. But that laminator can also apply the masking film for weeding out cut graphics. The laminator can also mount.