When discussing projects with their print service providers, marketers and business managers often focus on factors associated with the printing portion of their jobs. They don’t put as much thought into functions such as folding, trimming, bindery, inserting or sealing. Yet, these finishing steps are critical to project success.
Project managers must budget time and money to account for what happens to material after printing. Fortunately, print service providers can reduce this expense while simultaneously adding value to print projects. Inline finishing is one approach that accomplishes both.
Most print operations have traditionally used offline or nearline finishing methods. After printing, employees would transport the material to the finishing equipment which could be in the same building, on a different floor, in an adjacent structure, or even across town. The time spent moving materials, queuing jobs for equipment, and setting up machinery affected the final cost and project duration.
Sophisticated controlling software and automated equipment now make it possible to eliminate these delays. Progressive companies like EarthColor have attached finishing equipment to their print presses. We can now print and finish materials in a seamless and continuous process. Plain paper goes in one end and finished product comes out the other.
Inline finishing provides benefits in five major areas: labor, variability, integrity, speed, and transportation.
In offline finishing environments, specially trained operators run different pieces of equipment. A pressman may run the printing press, but someone else handles folding, trimming, inserting, etc. In contrast, a single individual may handle multiple operations on an inline finishing production operation. Fewer employee hours spent running jobs translates into lower costs for customers.
Digital printing has increased the need for inline finishing equipment that can run dynamically. Documents with variable content may have different finishing requirements, or pages within a document can vary. In billing applications, for example, the first page of a bill often features a perforated stub but subsequent pages are not perforated. Computer-controlled devices make the adjustments on the fly, perforating only the necessary pages.
With inline finishing, automated workflows download a set of finishing specifications to the production line along with the print job. Because electronics control the finishing equipment, the risk of human error is reduced. Lower material waste reduces cost by lessening the need for print overruns.
Vital for any printing project is progressing from concept to execution as quickly as possible. Delays can impact marketing campaigns, regulatory compliance measures, or documents like employee benefit booklets. Inline finishing can shave days from a project’s duration by lessening machine set-ups or productivity bottlenecks.
It can be risky to move material around, even within the same building. Extra handling increases exposure to errors as printed documents are moved to the next production area. Entire jobs can temporarily disappear while in transit to a separate facility because couriers dropped them at the wrong site. Finishing the material inline reduces the probabilities for all those negative events.
Not every job is fit for inline finishing, however for those that do qualify EarthColor is able to increase the speed to market and reduce overall costs by using this process.
Check with us to learn more about our inline finishing capabilities or arrange a tour to see the process in action!