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Finishing's Smooth, Inline Flow

The personalized, holiday greetings cards have begun to arrive in the mail, and more than a fair share of those ordered online from Hallmark.com are produced by direct marketing firm MSP in western Pennsylvania. (Many of Hallmark’s cards are sold through retail partner websites, such as Walmart.com, and printed on Fujifilm photo paper.) The production secret, especially during this extra busy time of year, is running inline in a single-step operation using a Rollem Jetstream, according to Doug Wright, executive VP of MSP, which outputs from “1.2 million to 1.8 million pieces daily, seven days a week,” he said, using half-web offset presses and a trio of HP Indigo digital presses (models 5500, 7000, and 7500).

The 400-employee company, formerly known as Mailing Services of Pittsburgh, celebrates its 60th year in business in 2013. It also has capabilities for envelope printing, inserting, laser printing, database development/management, tracking, and reporting as well as a full-service bindery within its 150,000-square-foot facility in Freedom, PA. MSP is part of the Thornhill Group, which spun off its TrueSense Marketing (TSM) agency about five years ago. In addition to Hallmark, other major MSP accounts are DoubleTree/Hilton Hotels and OneMain Financial (a Citi affiliate).

For the Hallmark work, the Jetstream starts with a full multi-up image sheet, cuts the sheet vertically and horizontally, and delivers highly precise finished products. It is designed for both digital print providers as well as offset printers, Rollem noted. Sheets are trimmed, slit, perforated, and butt/bleed cut in one, fully automatic system. This uninterrupted processing eliminates guillotine cutting and increases production while performing the most accurate slitting, trimming and scoring processes all at speeds of up to 5,000 sheets per hour (sph). In addition to greeting cards, the finishing solution is ideally suited for the production of postcards, photo sheets, playing cards/games, business cards, direct mailers, coupons, and calendars.

Using XML files input by customers, “We can go from a two-up, 12x18 inch blank Indigo sheet to a finished, 5x7 card in one pass,” Wright explained, “including gutter trims and backbone slitting and scoring.” MSP installed the Jetstream in 2009, and Wright reported that MSP assisted Rollem engineers with the machine design. “The Jetstream is 100 percent faster than our old process,” he noted. “We were running at 5,000 sheets per hour [sph] and now are at 10,000,” adding that no additional set up is required for the backbone slitting/scoring. “We can do one to one or one to many.”

Jetstream is versatile and can be configured in a variety of ways. It operates as a self-contained unit, or it may be integrated into a digital printing line to accept sheets directly from the digital press, thereby maximizing print and finishing efficiency. And it’s flexible. The key to Rollem’s quick change-overs, said Rollem western regional sales manager Doug Sherwood, is its roll-away, modular machine design. Over the past 10 years, the manufacturer has added several features, including the inline gluing and folding tables.

Depending on the application, the Jetstream offers several options including folding, plough folding, gluing, and diecutting to create a complete production line. Product delivery options include a bin delivery, shingle delivery, or an auto-collation feature that gathers product into sets, ideal for game cards, response cards, and other types of packs or sets. In today’s fast-paced print world, the ability to glue and plough-fold is critical to finishing products destined for the mailstream, added Sherwood.

The labor reduction is obvious for the cost-conscious. “We can take a sheet and convert it to product with one operator, who has [total] control,” said Sherwood. “This results in less human error as well.” There also are productivity gains. “Labor and waste are the biggest savings,” he noted, as high as “50 percent to 80 percent in some cases.” Equipment consolidation is another cost consideration, he said, citing the case of one Rollem customer who was using three older machines for production. “Now they have one [machine] that is twice as fast” as those three combined, Sherwood shared. (See sidebar.)

Rollem’s Jetslit product, with a “beefier” set up than Jetstream, also is a versatile inline or nearline finishing system that can trim, crease, perforate, and slit all types of documents, from basics such as business cards to brochures and direct mail pieces. “Jetslit has over-sized blades that can accommodate 14-, 16-, and 18-point stock better than a guillotine cutter,” Sherwood explained. Watch for more “smart” perf solutions coming online in 2013, he said.

Bound by History

Back in 1953, at what would become MSP near Pittsburgh, Dick Busheé, Jr. helped his dad stuff, sort, stack, manage, and mail direct-mail letters in their basement – all by hand. The part-time venture turned into a full-time gig, but print finishing is nothing new. Saul Spiel, president of independent bindery equipment distributor Spiel Associates, gave a rousing speech earlier this year at the Binding Industries of America convention to put things in historical perspective: “There are very few crafts that were around in the 16th Century that are still around today,” Spiel noted. “In those days, there were wheelwrights, blacksmiths, coopers, harpoon makers, and book binders…. You have survived…. In the past five years, half of the printers in the U.S. went under, but you are still around…. How many of you will be around five years from now?

“I once told a bindery owner in California that if he made his own plastic coil, he would save $100,000 per year, and the machine at that time only cost $28,000,” Spiel continued. “His reply to me was, ‘I’m not so much interested in saving money as making money.’ FYI, he’s out of business.”

At Graph Expo in October and at its annual open house last month in Long Island City, NY, Spiel Associates showcased some of its most innovative pieces of bindery machinery, including the Sterling Digipunch, which is equipped with a touchscreen and is able to punch up to 60,000 sheets per hour. Other pieces shown included the Sterling Coilmaster Jr, which can bind up to 600 books per hour (bph) and also the Rilecart WB-360, which is an economical wire binder that can bind up to an efficient 800 bph.


Justifying the Cost

In terms of labor, one Rollem customer estimates that it costs them approximately $100,000 annually to have one person operate one machine. So doing away with an operator or two has a big impact on return on investment (ROI). The manufacturer shared some other thoughts about justifying a finishing solution equipment investment.

“Justification discussions are normally addressed by first identifying a client’s current means of print finishing applications,” explained marketing manager Susan Corwin. “Does the client use third-party vendors and send out their work to a bindery or specialty finishing company or, does the client perform their own finishing work in-house?

“With an in-house scenario, we discuss the ability to lower labor costs by performing multiple processes in one machine, with just one operator,” Corwin continued. “Often time we’ll find existing customer methods require two to three machines with multiple operators and excess paper movement to and from machines. Specific processes and a client’s application base are all discussed in depth to find the most cost-effective methods for them.

“Increased speeds are also addressed,” she noted. “Rollem’s high production capability generally exceeds output of digital presses and, therefore, greatly increases production. Less waste is discussed as layouts utilize all available sheet space. Edge-trimming, center slitting, scoring and or perforating processes of multiple-up images are completed in one process.”

Then there are those who are jobbing out and spending, say, $1,500 per month with a vendor, added Doug Sherwood, Rollem’s western regional sales manager. If the client sends out their finishing work, discussion focuses on a cost analysis of current vendor prices versus the ROI for a Rollem system, generally over a three- to five-year period. Added benefits include in-house job control and quicker turn-around times. Corwin concluded, “Most web-to-print and marketing service providers have easily justified an in-house option to not only lower costs but for the key ability to turn product around quickly.”

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