My first day in the printing industry made me feel like I was one step closer to being a rock star. I had moved to New York City in the late 70’s, telling my parents I was going there to attend college. The real reason was that I wanted to join a rock-n-roll band, get a record deal and tour the world. You had to go to New York or LA to make that happen.
I found a band that would have me as their bass guitarist, I attended Columbia University part time, and soon found myself working with the band leader in his parents’ printing company, sandwiched between the city’s meatpacking district and Greenwich Village.
After the usual first-day introductions they set me to work collating sheet music by hand. The piece was Christopher Cross’ Ride Like the Wind, his mega-hit song from 1979. I remember thinking how cool it was just to be surrounded by the aura of musical stardom. It didn’t matter if it happened to be in the industrial atmosphere of a commercial printing bindery department.
Of course I understood that manually collating 10,000 sets of sheet music would not make me famous. Yet simply participating in the production of music for a hit song was an authentic New York experience. And that was good enough for a twenty-something bindery guy with zero experience and a serious need for cash in an expensive city.
In reality I had an advantage. My little fantasy gave me a big picture outlook on the menial task set before me. I liked to imagine what it would mean to me as a musician to have a company distributing thousands of sets of sheet music for a song on which I had performed. I knew it would mean a lot and of course I’d want it done perfectly.
With such a viewpoint, as both potential customer and producer, I performed the task with extra care. So when my supervisor said they had to be done before I went to lunch, it didn’t bother me so much because I had a sense of the importance of the job. When the owner corrected me on my shoddy shrink-wrapping of the project, I didn’t feel put upon or overwhelmed because I had already subconsciously put myself in the customer’s shoes.
In hindsight these were some great lessons for a first day at a new job. Of course we all expect to get a list of tasks, priorities and expectations when we settle into a new job. One of the most important things I learned was to always take it a step or two further than the job description in front of me, to think beyond myself.
It’s not that hard. Put yourself in your bosses' shoes for a minute. (We all have bosses.) What do you think is expected of him by HIS boss? What pressure and expectations is he or she facing? Always try to understand what your boss is trying to accomplish. The reasons behind their actions are rarely arbitrary. If you get a good feel for that, you'll do your job better and you benefit in other ways.
- You'll react better to what is demanded of you, especially if it’s difficult or even beyond the call of duty.
- You defuse tension and avoid the negative, “it’s not my job” mentality.
- You give yourself a greater sense of purpose.
- You make it more likely that you’ll be promoted because in a sense, you’ve already stepped into your bosses shoes. Your colleagues will sense that.
Try to imagine the problems and expectations faced by the owner of your company. In any job, the daily activities and stresses of small business can be wide-ranging and seemingly without reason. There is always a reason. In the end it may not make sense to you, and you might even disagree. But if it makes sense to the person to whom you’re accountable, and you understand that reason, it’s a lot easier to accept and to hop on board in support.
Ultimately, we should try to understand what customers want, because that’s what drives everything. In the end, it is the customer who signs your paycheck. If you take some time to understand that, your first day and the many days to come are far more meaningful than if you stuck to reading the boring job description in front of you.
The first day on a new bindery machine usually gave me the same feelings as the first day on a new job. It could be intimidating, even after many years in the industry. It was more so when the owner brought in a customer, their ad agency, the company sales reps and production people to watch you run a critical job.
Chuck Yeager, the famous test pilot who broke the sound barrier, said about flying the dangerous X-1 rocket plane, “It wasn’t that the X-1 would kill you, it was the systems in the X-1 that would kill you.” The secret to his success was that before he operated any equipment (in his case, dangerous airplanes), he would learn the systems inside and out.
In my first year or so running an ancient Sheridan saddle stitcher, I didn’t really understand much about how and why stitcher heads operated. The result was a lot of needless stitching problems and wasted books, along with broken and prematurely worn parts. When I took time to fully understand that particular part of the binding system, my results improved dramatically.
The ‘system’ on your job might involve bindery equipment, software or management procedures. Whatever the system, learn the ins and outs before you take off and you’ll likely have a smooth landing.
The first day of retirement hasn’t arrived for me, nor do I have any plans for it. I’ve noticed however, that we get numerous requests from folks in the industry to keep them on our Bindery Success™ mailing list after they retire. That says a lot about the industry. After a lifetime of working in printing, they'd like to stay in touch with people, events and ideas. There are good memories and the challenges have their rewards. For the newcomer, this is a good sign of things to come! It means you have much to anticipate.
There will always be a new ‘first’ in your future. You can count on that. Whatever it is, remember to think of the big picture, to think with the ‘big hat on’. We’re always students. I’m not jumping around on a stage these days, unless you count playing with the church choir as a gig. But I’m still relishing the adventure I embarked on when I took off for New York City, and I still remember the lessons.
Small tabletop folding machines are simple, reliable pieces of bindery equipment. With their utility at doing short runs quickly and their prevalence in the used equipment market, they’re a popular option for digital print finishing departments.
Maybe you received a little training when you bought your folder or perhaps you just read the manual and watched a video. If you’re new to folding machines, this will get you started and will probably keep you running for weeks or even months. But if you don’t remember some basic pointers, eventually even the routine jobs will start to give you grief.
Problems on small folders typically have simple causes and many are entirely preventable. Here are a few basic tips and habits to help your troubleshooting efforts and keep your folding machine running like new.
Keep the machine clean. Dust is the enemy of all bindery equipment. It sticks to oiled parts, rollers, trays, shafts, and accessories. Even very small amounts of dust on the accessory shafts can prevent you from sliding tools freely. It can build up in fold plates and fold rollers, causing paper jams and smudging your beautifully printed jobs. Over the long term, it behaves like sandpaper, gradually wearing out anything that moves.
If you do nothing else, keep your folder clean! It takes seconds to wipe it down at the end of each day. Keep it covered when it’s not in use.
Keep your fold rollers clean. (There’s that word ‘clean’ again!) If you have rubber fold rollers which are glazed, hardened or cracked, you will have problems. Follow the manufacturer’s directions when applying cleaners or solvents. If you’re not sure, use warm water and a mild soap on the rubber components, using care around metal parts. Combination rubber/steel rollers also need to be kept clean, both metal and rubber parts.
Water, or a water and solvent solution, is often required to remove glazes that are a combination of paper dust, inks and varnishes. Be sure any metal components are wiped dry.
Lubrication. Most small folders require little lubrication, but when called for, be sure to do it according to schedule, and with the right amount of lubricant. In my apprentice years I made the mistake of being overzealous with an oil can. The folder mechanic who witnessed the results of my transgression simply said, “I bet you won’t ever do that again!” For weeks I was pulling oil-spotted sheets from the jobs I ran. He was right, I never did it again.
Maintain friction feeder parts. If your folder has a friction feeder, there are components in it that wear with use. Older Baumfolders for instance, have a rubber retarder roll that needs to be periodically rotated and eventually replaced. Rubber feed wheels are susceptible to glazing. Ideally you should keep these clean and in good condition. If a feeding problem suddenly appears, check the rubber components and adjust, clean or replace as needed.
Square up the in-feed. Most small tabletop style folders feed directly into the fold rollers, although some will have a register table. Whichever it is, be sure the in-feed guides or the register table side guide is perpendicular to the first fold roller.
Although you may have to skew the in-feed guides at some point to compensate for a sheet that is not cut squarely, it is always better to start with them set perpendicular to the fold rollers.
Put another way, given a folding machine in reasonable mechanical condition, given paper that is trimmed properly, and given an in-feed that is set correctly, the paper will always register and fold perfectly. Take away any one of those items and that’s when your folding problems begin and your setup times increase.
Check your sheet spacing. A good rule of thumb: if more than half of the folded sheet is going into the first fold plate, increase spacing between sheets. This prevents the trailing edge of a sheet from interfering with the lead edge of the following sheet.
To demonstrate this to a folding machine novice, set up a letter-fold job with the first fold in plate one, set to 2/3 of the sheet length. Do the final fold in plate 2. Keep the spacing close. Run some sheets into the machine by hand and watch the slow-motion action as the sheets overlap. It becomes clear why spacing can be a problem. It isn’t always a problem but if an issue appears with this type of fold, then spacing is the first thing you want to adjust.
Know your folding machine limits. Is the stock too thick or thin for your machine? Yes, there are limits and no, you probably can’t run that 14 pt board through your tabletop machine. I know you’re going to do it anyway, but don’t complain to the manufacturer when it doesn’t work as well as a 20# bond! Some light-use folders are designed only for book weight or copier papers.
Remember too that stocks heavier than about 6 pt. will require scoring or creasing. This is the only way to maintain consistent register and in many cases will be needed to eliminate fiber cracking.
Read the Manual. Even though your machine is fairly simple, make sure you have all the operating and maintenance basics covered by reviewing the manufacturer’s instructions. A tiny oversight can cause major problems.
For instance, you want to ensure the fold plates are always installed correctly, according to directions. On some machines it’s easy to install them incorrectly! If you don’t catch that, you’ll be scratching your head all day trying to solve a ‘folding problem’. There might be safety switches or re-set buttons particular to your machine. It only takes a few minutes to review your entire manual.
The bottom line is that a low-cost used folding machine combined with a creasing machine (such as our CreaseStream Mini) makes for a productive and very responsive digital post-press department. Be mindful of the few simple items above. You’ll prevent most folding machine problems and keep your digital printing operation running the way you want.
Have a small folding machine tip or story? Feel free to share below.
It can be a headache, but there are times when it’s necessary to run a scoring or perforating job twice through a piece of bindery equipment. Maybe you have one creasing tool available but this job calls for two or three. Perhaps it’s an equipment scheduling problem and the small folder with one scoring tool is the only one available that day. The headache usually starts with the second pass through the machine, when the operator discovers the entire first pass didn’t register, or is in the wrong position, or is crooked. Worse yet, a customer discovers the problem!
Whatever the scenario, there are special challenges that will catch you off guard if you aren’t accustomed to running multiple passes. A few simple habits however, can prevent the high-speed, inadvertent transformation of valuable printed material into waste sheets.
1) The first pass through a folding machine might impart a slight curl to the sheet. This in turn can influence the register the second time through. It also makes it harder to feed. Generally this is a folding machine issue, but it can happen on scoring machines as well. If you encounter a curl problem, here are a few things you can try.
Simply flip the sheet. An up or down curl might catch the edge of a deflector or roller. Flipping it over might eliminate the issue. Run a few test sheets to see if the register problem disappears. If it does, then be sure to move the scoring or creasing tools to the opposite shaft.
Prevent or minimize the curl in the first place. Here’s a tip for folders that reduces or eliminates curl and improves register. The downside is that there are size limitations depending on your folding machine. You can download the tip here.
Let the curl work for you. If the sheet already has a curl, run it through the folder on the first pass so the fold rollers remove the curl. In some cases you’ll end up with a perfectly flat sheet for the second pass.
2) If a scored piece is to be subsequently folded, check it in the folding machine. When you score and fold inline you get instant feedback if there’s a problem. So it’s obvious when to stop. Not so with two passes. But there is a workaround.
Make the first score you run the same as the first fold in your folder. For example on a letter fold let’s say you plan to fold up into fold plate #1 and down into fold plate #2. On your first scoring pass, do the score for fold #1. Score a handful of sheets. Set your folder for fold #1 only, and then run the scored sheets through the folder to check position, register and quality.
If the folding is done on another machine, repeat this process with the second score. In any event, make sure you test it on the folder before you run an entire scoring pass!
3) Check the register with every handful. To start with you should have “reference sheet” with the score or perforation lines marked exactly in the right position. A rule-out (lineup sheet) is helpful, but I’ve found it more accurate to have an actual sample cut to size and then marked. Then take one sheet periodically and compare it to your reference sheet.
It’s also vitally important to check sheet-to-sheet register as you jog each lift from the delivery. Sight along the edge of the neatly jogged lift and any register problems will be readily visible. The photo at right exaggerates the effect. Yet anything that strays from a perfectly straight line as shown is an indication of a problem.
When checking register in this manner, check both the leading edge AND trailing edge. It sounds like a lot of work but it's easy. Jog the lift, look at one side, flip it over and look at the other side. It soon becomes second nature.
4) Be sure paper is trimmed consistently. Running in two passes is like shuffling a deck of cards. If there is any variation or other problem, it will be almost impossible to sort it out afterwards. If the lead edge of the sheet is roughed up or dinged, this too can cause problems. Set aside any problem sheets and deal with them separately.
5) A rough or deep perf can affect register on the second pass. If you’re running a combination of scores and perfs and you think the perf might be a problem, do the perforating pass last if at all possible. Or better yet, use a finer perforating blade or a micro perforating tool.
If you have a way to flatten the perf as you are running, be sure to do it. Many perforating machines have a de-burring or flattening feature built in. On a folding machine, you might be able to flatten the perf if you have a 16pp right angle section or you have pre-slitter shafts. A note of caution from one who has been there and done it: do NOT flatten a lift of perfed sheets using the clamp in the guillotine cutter! This will just make them stick together when you go to feed them again.
Yes, it requires a little more effort and care when running multiple passes on your folding and scoring machines. As with ALL post-press work, it pays to take a few minutes to think the job through to the end, well before you ever pick up that first sheet.
Of course the sales department says I should have just shortened this article to one sentence, “Buy all the extra Tri-Creasers and Micro Perforators you need so you can do everything in one pass.” In the interest of being accommodating to my colleagues, and for those of you new to our bindery solutions, you can download more info below.
Have a two-pass story you want to share? Add your comments below and be sure to share this article with your colleagues.
If you manage a post-press operation, you know how easy it is to be pulled every which way by the daily details of running, maintaining and scheduling a mix of bindery equipment. Throw in an equipment breakdown, a personnel issue, or a snow storm and your headaches multiply.
It’s a tough spot to be in. The post-press end of the printing business is very much a hands-on affair and traditionally we’re taught to muscle our way through whatever is in front of us. Bindery department supervisors often come up through the ranks, so there is probably little in the way of management training.
But when the management responsibility falls on our shoulders, then we must make the critical transition from working IN the business or department to working ON it. Otherwise the operation is managing us.
This doesn’t mean you have to do it full time, especially if you are a hands-on supervisor or even an owner whose duties include operating equipment. Your management education can start with the simple act of stepping back from the daily grind to take a look at what’s going on.
Here are nine components of your operation that are easy to examine. Small changes in each can have an instant, positive impact on productivity.
1) Checklists. Even the simplest of checklists is proven to prevent mistakes and improve efficiency, quality, safety, and communication. Pilots, surgeons, and equipment operators in many industries use them for good reason.
They can also be used to make decisions in advance. This in turn reduces the number of pesky, repeated questions you get asked throughout the day.
We talk about checklists in more detail here in this related article. The article also contains a link to download a “Checklist for Checklists” which will help you in creating checklists tailored to your operation.
2) Training. What training programs, if any, are required of new employees on your staff? Is advanced equipment training available to operators who want to move up and learn more? Manufacturers and equipment dealers are great resources. So are bindery equipment mechanics who often have decades of experience they are willing to share. A day or two of training from an experienced mechanic can yield huge dividends.
If you have a larger staff, you undoubtedly have internal expertise which could be put to good use in a formal training program.
3) Safety. Is there a safety program in your shop or department? If not, there should be. Bindery equipment, despite all the safeguards, can still cause serious injury. Working in a warehouse environment around forklifts, trucks and loading docks also pose their own special hazards, especially to the newcomer.
There are plenty of free and low-cost safety training resources available online through OSHA, the Printing Industries of America, and the Binding Industries Association. And don’t forget, equipment manufacturer’s recommendations are an important resource for specific safety recommendations.
4) Manage Activity and Measure Results. If we could manage results, life would be simple! Of course the only thing we can truly manage is our activity and the activity of those colleagues for whom we are responsible—who does what, how they do it, when they do it, etc.
But if we don’t have a system for measuring the results of that activity, how do we know we made a good decision? We don’t. We must determine what’s important and then measure it.
For instance, if you are supervising a crew of folding machine operators, you probably want to keep track of production on each machine. If you know that average production on Folder A is a certain level and Johnny is always 20% less than average, then you know you’ve got to address how Johnny is doing his job. Perhaps he needs more training.
There is no right or wrong thing to measure. If it’s a digital post-press operation, perhaps the number of jobs that ship each day is the important number. Each business or department has its own unique needs and special importance. Measuring results will lead to questions and these questions will guide you in the ongoing process of managing activity.
5) Managing Slack Time. Downtime due to lack of work is too often seen as free time, or a time to relax and let everyone have free reign. That’s a mistake. Slack time like this should be managed and scheduled with the same importance as uptime.
A simple way to do this is to have a list of pre-planned activities prepared for slack time. When slack time happens, your staff jumps right into the list. This turns wasted time into productive, useful time. Go here for a related article on the subject of managing slack time.
Perhaps a little free time or fun time is important to your organization. If so, put it on the list! The point is to manage it, rather than letting it manage you.
6) Drug Testing. If drugs are being used in your workplace, then your staff’s productivity is unquestionably worse than it should be. So too their health and safety.
7) Lean Practices. In a perfect world, lean manufacturing comes from the top down in any organization. But if your organization doesn’t embrace the concept, you can still incorporate lean practices in your department. There is a more detailed article on lean practices here.
A great primer on the subject is Setup Reduction for Printers: A Practical Guide to Reducing Makeready Time in Print Manufacturing by Malcolm Keif and Kevin Cooper. It’s an easy read and as the title suggests, it’s geared specifically towards the print industry. You can buy the book here on amazon.com.
8) Analyze Unscheduled Downtime. Here we are talking about failures in equipment or personnel that result in unscheduled machine downtime. As Murphy’s Law teaches us, such failures occur at the worst possible moment and will cause the maximum amount of financial damage.
Some failures are preventable, yet that only happens if you take the time to analyze why it happened. In fact, there is an entire industry devoted to failure analysis using data collection. For our purposes, you can start an analysis by using questions or if you want to call it by its proper name, Socratic Method.
Let’s say for instance that a folding machine is down. Your question series might go something like this:
Q. What caused the folder to go down?
A. A vacuum pump failed.
Q. Why did the pump fail?
A. It overheated.
Q. Why did it overheat?
A. The intake filter was clogged and the cooling fins were caked with dirt.
Q. Why were they dirty?
A. The night shift thought the day shift took care of cleaning and filters, and the day shift thought the maintenance department was responsible.
Q. So what can we do to ensure this doesn’t happen again?
You get the idea. With questions, you can drill down to get to the real reasons behind a failure. Of course one line of questioning may open up two or three more lines of inquiry. That however, is a good thing. Questions will uncover problems and educate at the same time.
Use questions wisely. Remember, we’re not trying to fix the blame; we’re trying to fix the problem.
9) Analyze Rejected Jobs. I’ve seen many companies who simply accept a certain level of rejection. Rejected or re-worked jobs are simply another form of failure. Questioning and analyzing a rejected job as you would an equipment failure is a powerful way to prevent it from happening again.
Yes, failures will always happen. The key to succeeding is to move past the failures as fast as possible. Successful companies and departments will still fail, but they won’t fail at the same things over and over again.
To sum it up, make it a point to carve out some time each day to work ON whatever it is you manage. It’s a lot of tiny, thoughtful changes that make possible the big improvements. As the old saying goes, “Little hinges swing big doors,” and your bosses or customers are knocking!
We welcome your comments and stories below. Please feel free to share socially with your colleagues!
I’d wager that the real story of our work life isn’t in the bindery and printing jobs found on our resumes or posted on our LinkedIn profiles. What makes us who we are is more often found in those long-forgotten jobs we don’t bother to include. Other times it’s the story behind a job that carries the real meaning and lesson, often in ways we don’t expect.
My first work experience isn’t exactly what you would call a job. Growing up on a farm, I remember crops being harvested, hay being baled, cows milked, eggs picked, chickens fed, the garden tended, barns cleaned, and the countless other chores that went into making up a day in the life of a farmer. When I was old enough, probably 8 or 9, I was drafted to participate in the chores. Farm life has a rhythm tied to nature. So farming work didn't really seem like work; it seemed as natural as the rising and setting of the sun. It was simply the way the world functioned.
In later years, when I began learning my way around the bindery and print shop, the amount of work involved didn't intimidate me. Hard work, and lots of it, was, after all, a natural thing. But there were a few educational stops along the way to my adventures in print finishing.
My first ‘real’ job was as a dishwasher at a traditional road-house diner frequented by interstate travelers, truckers, construction workers, and hungry locals. It was the summer before 8th grade and at thirteen, I was delighted to be earning the princely sum of $1 an hour for 40 hours a week. It was big money to me.
The personalities at the restaurant, both workers and customers, were right out of a TV sitcom. You didn’t want to bother the owner on a Monday morning if she had a bad weekend at the track. The efficiently flirtatious waitress was skilled at earning maximum tips in minimum time and had a regular and quite colorful cast of daily breakfast and lunch customers. The ornery short-order cook softened on slow days and called me over to the grill to teach me how to cook.
I already had a good work ethic from the farm but the folks here taught me to be diligent. If I let some dirty silverware get by they’d ask me how I would feel if I were sitting down to eat with a dirty knife and fork. Thus I learned to put myself in the customer’s shoes.
I had no choice but to learn to be sociable since I was surrounded with a casting director’s dream crew of dysfunctional personalities. I learned to ask the owner how she made out with the horses before asking for a day off. I learned to step up to the plate when early one morning, with no cook in sight, the waitress convinced me that I could indeed handle the grill and take care of those first breakfast orders. (That’s when I realized why the cook shared his skills with me. I was the perfect cover for his alchohol-induced tardiness and I wouldn’t dare squeal!) I learned that for value delivered to others, you get value in return.
In high school I worked with my two younger brothers in the kitchen at a local seafood restaurant. Since it was closer to home and we were too young to drive, we could ride our bikes to work.
Here I learned about building trust. In just a few months the owner and manager came to trust us enough to let me and my brothers man the kitchen alone. Looking back I am amazed at the level of trust placed by an adult in three pimply teens who couldn’t even drive. We did all the prep, cooking, handled the take-out window and did all the clean up. It gave us all tremendous confidence. You can’t buy that anywhere. While my two brothers both learned they liked the business (they each own restaurants) I decided I’d prefer a different career.
When that place closed down after the young, well-liked manager embezzled restaurant funds and ran off with a waitress to Mexico, I went to work at the local all-girls college cafeteria. Hey, where else would a teenaged boy go for a job? Here I learned a little about destruction of trust.
One afternoon someone stole my wallet from my locker when I mistakenly left it there while changing. I remember it contained $55 which was probably an entire paycheck. It shocked me. I realized I was working side by side with someone who could look me in the eye, laugh and joke, then turn around and rob me. It was a scary loss of innocence, but I learned that trust in others takes time to develop. Sometimes it never does.
Even with this incident, I liked my college cafeteria job. It was an escape, a way to make money, and actually a lot of fun despite moments of drudgery. The boss' daughter also worked in the kitchen and I remember one day she told me her dad thought I was often angry because I didn't smile much. This stunned me as much as having my wallet stolen!
How could my outside appearance be so different from what I was feeling inside? Sure, I was quiet and introspective but never angry at work. I loved work. From that day on I learned to smile more, to match the outside to the inside. I didn't want to wrongly put others off. In turn this taught me to not judge others so quickly. Outside appearances usually don’t tell the whole story.
One of the toughest jobs I had was working nights in a print shop. The work itself was easy. It was the emotional toll that was hard. Prior to this job I had been laid off from a really good, long time job as a bindery supervisor. I quickly got a new job but that came to an end soon after the tragedy of 9/11. Desperate for work I took the night shift job. My duties were whatever needed doing, including sweeping floors, loading the saddle stitcher pockets, packing boxes and when they had the work, some guillotine cutting and folding machine work.
It was not fun but I learned a few things that changed my life. I learned to be grateful for a job when so many had none. I learned the importance of perseverance. Keep at it and never give up. It was this lack of full time employment combined with relentless searching which led me to start representing Technifold products. If I were safe and comfy in a full time job this never would have happened. Lastly I learned there is honor in all work, no matter how inconsequential it might seem.
There were other jobs too. I packed miniature doll-house furniture, worked in the furnace rooms of an aluminum manufacturing plant, drove a lumber delivery truck and did warehouse work.
It seems that today, here at Technifold USA, I’ve come full circle. Work isn’t work; its part of the rhythm of life, just as it was on the farm. I would never have guessed that 43 years later I’d be writing fondly about my dishwashing experiences, and that others might actually find value in the story. The best education however, has come from those of you reading and from the thousands of clients with whom we’ve worked with through the years. I’ll share those in future articles. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll even share some more stories of misadventure from my years as a print shop insider.
Have you learned something valuable from a job? Feel free to share your stories below.
Reading bindery equipment instruction manuals (or any manual for that matter!) can be a chore. It’s work to learn something new. For the writer of the manual, it’s often hard to clearly convey a task in the written word. And sometimes as readers, we find ourselves trying to understand pages that might be poorly translated from another language.
So the temptation is to leave the manual in its envelope and dive right in with whatever information the technician imparted. Or we just fire up the machine with our personal experience and knowledge as the only guide. I’m guilty. But as regular Bindery Success readers know, we’re all about getting the most from your bindery equipment and operations. Failure to ‘read the instructions’ can easily result in little glitches or drains in performance that keep you from optimum output.
Through the years I’ve dispensed with reading the manual enough to know that there’s a price to pay! With that in mind, here are a few instruction manual topics you don’t want to overlook. Confessional examples are included.
Computerized Control Systems
I remember the excitement when computerized back gauge controls started to appear as retrofits for old guillotine cutters. We had a Microcut installed on an old, lumbering Lawson guillotine. I didn’t hesitate to read the entire, rather thin, instruction manual and ask all the questions I could think of.
A few years later we installed a Polar 137 EMC Monitor. This was definitely the next generation. (Now even these machines with their CRT displays look antiquated!) No longer an after-thought, the computer control was integral to the operation of the system. The instruction manual was thick so I set it aside and began using the new machine with only some brief training from the mechanic. I’d get to that manual later.
I should have studied that manual the first day. My old habits included quite a bit of manual input of cut numbers and commands. Some months later when I finally got around to reading it, I learned to my dismay that most of the calculation I was doing could be done by the machine…in seconds. Those few hours of study saved me countless hours of setup time from that point on. Lesson learned.
These days it seems that folding machines have taken a similar technological leap with computerized controls and automated setup. To paraphrase what one owner of a new computerized folder said, “It used to be that you made the folder do what you wanted it to do with the paper. Now you tell it what to do!” You don’t want to discard experience and knowledge. But if you neglect what’s new in your state-of-the-art folding machine system, you’re probably not getting the most from it.
There are many types of oils and grease, each designed for particular applications and parameters. Generally, machines with high speed capability or complex mechanical operation will require specific lubricants. Once you get the correct lubricant, you also need to apply the right amount in the right location, with the right frequency, as recommended by the manufacturer.
Lubricants do far more than reduce friction. They can transfer heat, protect from corrosion and prevent dirt from contaminating critical moving parts. The wrong lubricant means that one or more of these functions can be missing or impaired. In the end this results in equipment malfunction or breakdown. According to various engineers, improper lubrication accounts for about 35-50% of bearing failures. Our bindery equipment is loaded with bearings. Another example, as we discussed in a recent article, is that stitcher heads frequently malfunction due to use of the wrong lubricant, the wrong amount, or the wrong frequency.
Setup and Operating Procedures
Unless you’ve got a mind like a steel trap and you remember everything from your initial training, you might miss something if you don’t open the manual for a refresher. For some years I struggled to get consistent feeding on a particular pile-fed folding machine. Then one slow day I read the manual and discovered a little 30-second adjustment for that particular pile feeder which made all the difference. (You can read the related article here.)
Vacuum Pump Filters
Many a feeding problem can be fixed by simply cleaning the vacuum pump filters. Folding machine and saddle stitcher pumps provide both vacuum AND blow air for sheet or signature separation. A dirty filter can seriously degrade performance and decrease the life of that very expensive pump. Do you know how often the filters in each of your pumps should be cleaned or replaced? Have you had feeding problems?
You’ll find assorted hydraulic systems in guillotine cutters and paper drills. It’s usually an out-of-sight, out-of-mind system because they don’t require much maintenance. Yet if you neglect to change the oil when viscosity breaks down, or you replace it with the wrong oil, your cutter or drill performance will suffer.
Troubleshooting can put us in a frazzled state of mind if it goes on too long. That’s when we miss something or overlook the obvious. It’s always a good idea to check the manual to see what we might have missed. We might even learn something new.
Today we have online training, videos and graphical user interfaces on the bindery equipment itself. Learning is a little easier. Yet I’d wager however, that no matter how modern your machine, there is an instruction manual lurking somewhere. We all have slow days or occasional down time. That’s the perfect opportunity to give it a little look. After all, who wants to be the guy who’s told, “I’ve forgotten more than you’ve ever learned.”
As always we welcome your stories, comments and suggestions below. And feel free to share with your colleagues using the tool bar above or at the left.
Usually our work habits guide us smoothly through the day. We know without thinking which way to load the paper in the folder, press or cutter. We know by heart all the make-ready steps for dozens of jobs on numerous pieces of bindery equipment. Yet sometimes these good habits can turn against us. Here are four simple things to try when perplexed by your next post-press problem.
1) Question the Process
Sometimes our intense focus on a particular task prevents us from seeing the solution to a problem. One of my favorite examples was sent to us several years ago by a Bindery Success reader. They initially had problems folding jobs printed on their copy machine. It was discovered that when they changed the order of printing and printed the inside of the folded piece first, the "folding" problem disappeared. The sheet still had curl but static problems were reduced substantially and the copier jobs now folded like a charm.
Sure, we could ask more questions to dig down to the root cause, but it doesn't really matter. Your circumstances could be much different. The point in this case is to look at the whole process, not just the task at hand. Your problem might be originating further up the line.
2) Change the Bindery Equipment Speed
Speed it up or slow it down. It’s easy to forget how much force is at work in all the bindery and printing equipment we run. Just ask anyone (me) who's pinched their finger in a fold roller or smashed their hand under a guillotine cutter clamp.
In Binding, Finishing, and Mailing: The Final Word, the authors give a simple description of the changes at work inside a folding machine. "Folding speed stresses paper at a geometric rate. For example, if the stress on a sheet is 5 when the speed is 5 (these numbers are only relative) doubling the speed to 10 means that the stress jumps from "5" to "25" instead of the linear "10." In this case, doubling production speed translates to a five-fold increase in stress - enough to ruin a project."
Since I behave a bit like a junior high student at times, I’ll use an illustration involving a car that a physics teacher inflicted on me. If I’m driving a car at 10 miles/hour and I hit a tree, my body has 635 lbs. of force acting on it. If I hit the tree at 20 miles/hour, my body has 2542 lbs. of force working on it. Double the speed yet four times the force.
Although a piece of paper is a lot lighter than I am, especially after too much holiday eating, the relative effects of force at work on it are the same. Small changes in velocity have an exponential effect on the resulting forces. Put another way, small changes have a big impact. Big changes in velocity have a huge impact.
Sometimes you just need to slow it down a bit, or a lot, to get rid of a problem. Then there are times you'll need to speed it up to truly force the sheet to do what you want it to do. You might, for instance, need to speed a folder up to get the sheet to register properly in the cross carrier of a right-angle section. Whatever folder, stitcher or binding line you’re working on, it’s usually pretty easy to try a different speed.
3) Turn the paper over, or around, or both.
This applies to both flat sheets and signatures running on any type of press or bindery equipment. I've seen pressmen fix a feeding problem by simply twisting or tumbling the sheet, using the original tail for the gripper.
Having a problem with feeding a curled signature? Sometimes turning it around will do the trick. On an inserter-stitcher it might be harder to open the signature but if it feeds smoothly, it’s worth the extra few minutes of setup time. A curled job on the folding machine might breeze through if you just flip it over so the curl is opposite. Not always, but it’s easy to test.
When faced with problems, it pays to challenge assumptions. Just because it’s always been done a certain way doesn’t mean you’re limited to that.
4) Ask Someone Else for…gasp…Help!
Although I’m better than I used to be, my natural inclination when faced with a problem is to figure it out myself. It’s a bad habit.
As my regular readers know, I managed a bindery department for many years. One time I was struggling long and hard with a folding job. I don’t recall the details, but I do recall the outcome. One of my colleagues on the same shift was new to our folding equipment so I figured, “No point in asking him.” I persisted in the self-help route. In desperation and with deadlines looming I finally decided to ask him. He had a suggestion that instantly fixed the problem. (Thanks Ralph B.; I know you’re probably reading this!)
I was too wrapped up in my own way of doing things. Most of the time my way worked, but in this case, my friend’s lack of ‘experience’ on that particular folder was an asset. He wasn’t constrained by a set way of thinking or operating.
Brainstorming with a group is another good way to stimulate creative problem-solving thoughts. Don’t shy away from involving people who don’t even run bindery equipment. An outside viewpoint can be most valuable since they don’t have any task-related habits to narrow their thinking.
These four tips aren’t exactly rocket science. Well maybe the example on force IS rocket science, but the overall concepts are simple. Stop, step back and try a few easy steps. Most take no more than a few minutes and it might very well solve the bindery problem you’re facing.
As always, please feel free to share your stories and suggestions below. And share with your colleagues by using the tool bar at the top of the article or on the left.
As you increase the speed on a saddle stitcher (or any piece of bindery equipment,) you're likely to see more and more defects as the speed increases. I often quote Kevin Carey from his ABC’s of Diecutting, “Increasing speed exposes weaknesses in methods, in practices, in tools, in technology, in organization, and in knowledge, skill and experience.”
There are many components that make up an automatic inserting, stitching and trimming line, each designed with operating specifications and limits. If any single component is slightly worn or not set correctly it will prevent the machine from running at its maximum designed speed. Lots of little defects and weaknesses can add up to big losses in productivity.
The stitching head is one especially critical area for proper operation of your saddle stitcher at any speed. Even the simplest of newer stitching heads is a complex piece of equipment which if not properly handled, will cause slow downs, poor quality stitched books and machine down time.
I was recently talking with Dave Double of Double Equipment, who specializes in bindery equipment repairs, including servicing of stitcher heads. His service call and stitcher head repair experiences bring to light seven common but costly mistakes that stitcher operators and bindery managers make with their stitcher heads.
1) Using the wrong lubricant. Hohner and Muller heads, for instance, use a one-way bearing in their wire-advance system. Operators often use the wrong grease which at higher speeds results in varying leg lengths in the stitch. This leads to a frustrating troubleshooting expedition where the operator is trying to ‘fix’ a head that simply requires the correct grease.
Also, stitcher manufacturers usually recommend light machine oil and not the automotive oil which is often used. Be sure to use precisely what is recommended.
2) Using the wrong amount of lubricant. I think any stitcher operator who’s been around a while has made this mistake. You put too much oil somewhere on the stitcher head and the next few thousand books are a nightmare! Excess oil makes its way through the head and through the rest of the machine. In extreme cases the only solution is to remove the head for disassembly, cleaning and proper oiling.
All that’s typically required is ONE drop at the proper location and at the proper interval. If it says one drop per 8 hours of running, make sure that it’s not two.
3) Using the wrong wire gauge for the job at hand. Two of the most commonly used wires are 24 and 25 gauge round stitching wire. They are good all-around wires for most commercial bookbinding and print finishing applications. But if you’re stitching a 3/16” thick book, or slightly heavier, the 25 gauge is approaching its limit. Problems can arise when you’re near the limit and running at high speed. If you go beyond the thickness limit, you’re almost certain to encounter new problems.
If you’re stitching an extra heavy or extra thin job, be sure you’re using the best size wire for the job at hand. No, it’s not common to saddle stitch books beyond 1/4” thick, but if you do and you run in to problems, don’t forget to check wire gauge.
4) Using the wrong wire gauge for the stitcher head. Each stitcher head has its own suggested limits on wire gauge. A Deluxe 26D is limited to 21-28 gauge round and 21x25 flat. An 18D will handle 20-28 gauge round and several flat sizes. A Muller head such as a DB45 is designed for 25-28 gauge round.
5) Using cheap wire. Wire quality varies considerably among manufacturers. Some factors that affect stitching wire performance are tensile strength, consistency of wire size, cleanliness, resistance to flaking, type of coating, and type of alloy. Cheaper wire means something had to give in the manufacturing process.
For instance, a cheap galvanized wire may start to flake and/or leave excess wire shavings when being cut inside the stitcher head. This in turn will clog the head and cause premature wear on numerous internal parts. It can also make it difficult to get a properly formed stitch at higher speeds. Cheap wire may not be consistently the same size; that 24 gauge might be a 25 at some points. This will change performance.
Generally speaking a tinned wire or a premium galvanized wire will run better, with less flaking, dust and dirt and a more consistent coating, cleanliness and strength. If you do enough stitching you’ll want to consider the larger 70# spools equipped with a de-reeler. These are not wound as tight as the smaller spools so you get less variation due to changes in the wire curl. On the conventional stitcher heads such as the 26D and 18D you’ll find yourself making far fewer adjustments, which in turn helps stitcher productivity.
As our regular readers know, we believe personally and professionally that “you get what you pay for!” This is one more case where going cheap can be very expensive.
6) Lack of regular service. Stitcher heads need regular maintenance, lubrication and service. If you don’t have someone on staff who is qualified to rebuild and repair your stitcher heads, send them out regularly to someone who can. It is money well spent that will keep your stitcher running.
7) Instruction manuals that never get opened. Each model has its own special requirements and peculiarities. It’s been said you can learn either through wisdom or suffering. My vote is for a little wisdom gleaned from reading the manual. It’s less painful.
One time I transitioned to a different saddle stitcher and needed to install a brand new stitcher head. Without reading anything (I just ‘knew’ how to do it) I fired up the machine and heard a sickening metallic “BAM!” One new head, not a stitch to be had…out for several hundred dollars worth of repairs.
So no matter which stitcher head you’re using, you want to be sure it’s set correctly to give a good cut, consistent wire draw, equal leg lengths, proper clincher and clincher alignment, and correct compression.
I think most bindery equipment operators like to have a performance edge available to them when they need it, especially if we want to go home early! Although running at maximum speed is not always the best way to get maximum yield, it sometimes is both possible and necessary. (You can read a related article here.)
So on those occasions when you must run at maximum speed, it’s nice to be able to do it without gremlins like those mentioned above slowing you down. The good news is that these stitcher head tips are simple to follow.
We welcome your stories, comments and suggestions below!
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This is one of those bindery tricks that folding machine operators might not need often, but when needed can save a lot of setup time. If you’re folding a sheet in thirds and you don’t have a calculator or ruler handy, this technique will mark the sheet precisely in thirds, and you don’t have to convert from decimal to fractions of an inch.
In addition to helping with setup on folders, it’s great when just a few dummies or mock-ups might be needed. Sometimes the bindery guy handles this task and other times it’s an art or pre-press department.
There are a few origami techniques and other ruler and compass techniques that work, but they all end up with the final mark towards the center of the sheet, making it a bit tricky to fold. What I particularly like about this technique is that it marks the sheet at the edge, which is perfect for hand folding your sample.
To do this, you’ll need two sheets of the paper you plan to fold as well as a straight-edge and pencil. A bit of tape might be needed too.
Step One: Carefully fold the sheet exactly in half in one direction. (photo upper left) Then fold it in half in the other direction to locate the center point. Open the sheet so it’s flat.
Step Two: Align the center-mark sheet directly above the second sheet, with the edges lined up perfectly. (two photos at right) It helps to lightly tape the two sheets together to keep them from moving.
Step Three: Use the straight edge to run a line from the center mark of the upper sheet to each corner of the lower sheet. These are the blue lines shown in the photo, lower right. Where the line crosses the lower sheet is your one-third mark (shown at the green arrows.) Make your fold exactly at that point and it will divide the sheet evenly in thirds!
Use care when finding the center point and be sure to locate your straight edge very precisely. If it’s off just a bit, your fold will be off too. Once you get the hang of it you’ll see that it nails the one-third line every time, no matter what size sheet you’re working with.
The reason this works is quite simple. Remember when your seventh grade teacher said you would indeed use geometry and algebra in real life? Well, this is a case in point.
If you’re in to mathematics and the proof behind it, you can see it here at the bottom of the page on instructables.com. I’ll spare you the details, but it has to do with the fact that the ratio between sides of a triangle is the same in similar triangles. There. That should be enough to lift the fog from those long lost junior high school memories.
So if you find that the pressman made off with your calculator or ruler, never fear. You now have the wisdom of the ancients on your side.
If you have your own tip for dividing a sheet, please feel free to share it below. (Allow delay for moderator approval.)
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In the spirit of the new year, here’s a list of the most popular bindery blog articles from the past year. If you’re looking for a particular bindery or post-press subject, don’t forget to use the search box at the very top of every page. We currently have 175 articles on the subject of bindery and printing to choose from!
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, send us your question. We’ll do some research and put together an article on your area of interest. Simply use the Contact Us form.
- Are You Making These 3 Mistakes with Your Guillotine Cutter? Guillotine cutter problems are often blamed on the cutting machine itself. But frequently the problem can be traced to this misunderstood maintenance item.
- Trimming Thick Books on the Saddle Stitcher - a Quick Tip Getting a nicked edge on the spine of your saddle stitched book? Here’s a tip that can get you through the job.
- Guillotine Cutter Operator's Tip for Cutting Skewed Paper Here’s a tip for cutter operators faced with an impossible cutting job…cutting ‘skewed’ paper.
- How to Fix a Crooked Score on your Folding Machine or Scoring Machine Crooked scores and perfs can stump even the most experienced folding machine operators. Here are some troubleshooting guidelines to minimize your frustration.
- Thoughts on Finding Skilled Bindery and Print Shop Staff Recruiting skilled bindery and printing staff is a challenge. Don’t overlook this readily available resource.
- Am I Scoring the Wrong Side of the Paper? For something with just two sides, it’s amazing the hundreds of questions that can arise. Here’s one common scoring question which we try to answer.
- Forgotten Fold Plate Adjustments on the Buckle Folding Machine It’s easy to forget a folding machine adjustment if we don’t use it all the time. Here are two buckle folder adjustments that can help when folding very thin or very thick papers.
- Folding Machine Operators - 5 Tips for Beginners For the new folding machine operator, life in the bindery can become overwhelming…fast. Here are five simple tips that will take some of the mystery out of your new job.
- Guillotine Cutter Productivity Tips - Using the Jogger Board Cutting and jogging small labels or cards can be challenging. Here’s a simple way to use jogger boards to make it a breeze.
- Faster Guillotine Cutting with Simple 2-Step Technique Have a high-volume cutting job to do? This simple two-step technique can double the output on your guillotine cutter.
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As always, we welcome your stories, comments and suggestions below. (Allow a delay for moderator approval.)