Providing inline finishing capabilities lets you increase your profit margins on print jobs, whilst at the same time shortening your own production times, reducing labour costs, improving quality control, cutting back on waste and saving energy.
Traditionally viewed as an afterthought and production bottleneck, finishing is now being viewed as a critical stage in production and a way to differentiate products and create added value. It is not unusual for finishing to generate as much as 40% of production costs, and for poor quality control at this stage to destroy a great deal of added value.
With updates in digital production technology, SME printers have woken up to the fact that investing relatively modest sums in finishing equipment can lead to significant productivity improvements and reduce costs. Results from a recent global trend report show that 48% of respondents were planning to invest in finishing equipment, and 40% are investing to drive efficiency improvements.
Digital inline finishing features a variety of different workflows
These are all about automation, making in-line and near-line equipment critical, but sometimes an offline approach will be more applicable.
So how should you be investing? In inline finishing, the press and inline finishing equipment are directly connected and closely integrated using front-end management controls. This is the solution for you if you produce a defined range of products in standard formats such as stitched booklets, reports, calendars and book blocks. The overall productivity of a digital press with in-line finishing capability is determined by the speed and efficiency of the finishing components, so it is essential that these don’t detract from the rated speed of the digital press.
An offline finishing workflow is more common when a printer has a range of digital and offset equipment, but this increases labour costs. Sometimes the higher speed of off-line finishing equipment will more than compensate for the increased operator invention. It all depends on the type and quantity of jobs you need to finish.
In contrast to in-line and off-line, near-line offers greater flexibility. There is no physical connection between equipment in this case, but the finishing line knows the requirements of each job, from OMR (optical mark recognition) technology or from a direct interface with the press’s print server, through JDF. This enables the finishing line to manage the printed output from a variety of presses and create an audit trail, which is critical to personalized products like mailshots or transactional documents.
Choosing the right finishing workflow will depend on understanding not only your workload, but also how you can apply different finishing solutions to improve efficiencies and add value through new products. However one major benefit that has been largely overlooked by the printer and has not been sold effectively to the customer is inline finishing.
Inline finishing is the process of bringing services such as folding, saddle stitching, side stitching, case binding, punching and other post-processes in-line, so they are accomplished at the same time as the printing. A wide array of finishing equipment is now available to be connected directly to digital production printers to achieve this.
Providing these services in-line not only saves on labour costs; it also prevents missing pages, imperfect collation, and other common mishaps. It makes printing extremely small lots possible – even a single copy – and extends the range of just-in-time services from fliers to catalogues, manuals and other high page-count projects.
Inline finishing in the print industry gives you benefits including:
Inline Finishing means your customers will benefit from already-finished print products, shorter production deadlines for more complex print products and a ‘one-stop shop’ offering everything from a single source.
For smaller printers and in-house print departments, reducing the amount of work that is outsourced gives greater production flexibility and control.
Essentially, the more aspects of a print job you can control internally and offer on-demand, the greater your growth will be and the more customer loyalty you will generate.
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