Bindery and finishing have long been characterized as the bottlenecks in the print production process. That is as misguided as saying that prepress is the “black hole” that devours profit margins. Neither characterization is accurate unless a printing operation allows it to be.
With bindery and finishing, automation has allowed for more efficiency and speed and new capabilities have been developed to handle the changes and requirements for today’s print output. We asked several bindery and finishing vendors for their take on developments in the “back of the shop.” Their answers have been edited for space.
QP: “Has bindery automation kept pace with pressroom automation?”
“Bindery automation has definitely kept pace with pressroom automation,” says Michael Bossard, integrated marketing manager for Spiral Binding. “The main factors continue to be identifying the production bottlenecks on the floor and then finding an automated solution matched to volume and budget.”
“From our viewpoint, bindery automation is on par with pressroom automation as they are sequential processes,” says Werner King, vice president of US Operations for MBO. “Naturally, the finishing process tends to take more time, but we consistently push the envelope to make the process more efficient for the operator and for the print finisher. Our most recent technological advancements have been geared towards ease of use, improved makeready times via automation, higher communication between units via data management, and configuration adaptability to meet any job.”
John Jacobson of On Demand Machinery (ODM) does not entirely agree. “The bindery is always behind the press in automation,” he says. “It always seems that all the money is spent in the press area, with little consideration spent on the binding end. The irony of this approach is the value that a bindery operation adds to a product. In the case of a photo book, for instance: What are 15 pages of digital printing worth? Now, bind and add a hard cover and what is it worth?”
“Yes and no,” says David Spiel, co-owner of Spiel Associates. “Bindery has always been a mechanical process and will forever remain so. Software that has sped up the pressroom still far outpaces such automation in bindery. That said, newer touchscreen computers have sped up the set-up process in the bindery. Often an operator can set the computer, press start, and walk away. This is generally found on newer punching machines, creasing machines, and laminators. For mechanical binding and perfect binding, the process still requires the loading of a book.”
Standard Finishing Systems’ director of marketing Don Dubuque also sees progress in bindery automation. “In recent years bindery equipment has really made dramatic leaps in terms of innovation, highlighted by the move towards advanced automation. With the trend of shorter print runs, automation has become increasingly important to customers as they need to be able to changeover from job to job as quickly as possible in order to keep costs under control.
“Print finishing manufacturers have stepped up their game in terms of introducing products that are highly automated to address the changing needs of the marketplace,” he says. “A key to success when automating a product is to make the interface user friendly and easy to use; faster setups equate to more profits on each job.
“The ability to store a job in memory and recall it instantly is also important, particularly when it is a more complicated job that may be run on a regular basis,” adds Dubuque. “Another benefit of products that have intelligent automation built in is the ability to more easily train a new operator. Another trend we continue to see is the move towards JDF workflow integration. Fully integrated JDF-driven workflows, from creation to finishing, can deliver real cost savings.”