Unlocking Efficiency: Automated Finishing Solutions in the Print Industry

Posted by Roger P. Gimbel, EDP on May 21, 2024 1:31:51 PM
Roger P. Gimbel, EDP
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Digitization of the print industry has leaped over the last two decades. The average shop floor today is significantly more automated than it was 20 years ago. All front-end functions, administrativeperfect binder departments, presses, and e-commerce platforms are managed by workflow and MIS systems that share information for higher efficiency and productivity.

The bindery department, often the most labor-intensive area of the shop, had lagged somewhat, with job-ticket information not making it quite as far as the folders, cutters, and gluers. Part of the reason is the multi-faced aspects of bindery. After printing, paper can be die-cut, bound, folded, stamped, jogged, trimmed, or embellished with coatings, foils, and other decorative elements. Over the last few years, though, manufacturers have turned out automated versions of traditional devices, bringing automation to the back of the shop. The drive for automating the bindery closely resembles the drive for automating other parts of a print company. Printers need to reduce make-ready times and costs, handle shorter runs and more frequent job changeovers, and must meet the need for on-demand printing. They must also contend with non-standard print jobs that embrace variability and personalization, and, of course, they must solve the perennial problem of skilled labor shortages.

Printers cannot meet the complex demands of today’s clients without automating as much of the print operation as possible.

Automation rests on connectivity between automated cutters, die-cutters, trimmers, folders, and other post-press devices that can receive job-related specs and instructions. Printers also need a workflow software system that moves information from job intake to dispatch without the need to re-enter information along the way. Ideally, they will have an MIS system that ties all the various parts together.

When an automated device receives specs, it can set up an incoming job in a fraction of the time it would take to do it manually. The process eliminates guesswork and most manual functions.

Automated devices that can lay down coatings, foils, and other features make digital embellishments or intricate die-cuts possible, for example. Apart from their appealing results, automated device popularity is growing partly because they make short runs possible and can produce personalized material.

Benefits of Automation

Though not totally without some challenges, automation will deliver quantifiable benefits like efficiency, productivity, and profitability.

  •  Quicker Production

Shorter make-readies and quicker turnaround times means print companies can process jobs quickly and output more work in any given shift.

  •  bottleneckSave Costs

An automated set-up reduces human errors that take time and money to fix with potential make-good work. Automation reduces the overs that printers use for testing and make-readies and, crucially, automated devices need less labor to run them to maintain their throughput levels.

  •  Avoid Bottlenecks

An automated operation can also help to avoid bottlenecks, as job scheduling ceases to be a manual function. More efficient scheduling reduces downtime and can generate more sales and revenue per day.

  •  Reduce Redundancy

Information for jobs and clients needs to be entered only once, again eliminating wasted time and reducing mistakes. Profitability rises when business and production workflows share data without requiring manual re-entry.

Eliminate Operational Silos

Last, when connecting all production workflows with an MIS system, printers can connect multiple functions and do away with departments that operate as islands or silos. This gives managers a total view of their operations, with information readily available about costs per job, waste, bottlenecks, device downtime, and other relevant data. Accurate and up-to-date information leads to more informed and strategic decisions.

For an end-to-end production system to truly deliver all its benefits, it must include the bindery. Developing a plan to automate post-press, regardless of how complex it might be, is crucial to the long-term health of any print shop.



Topics: MIS,, Automation,, Workflow, news, post-press, make ready, bindery, finishing

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