When it comes to change, humans are an odd lot, and not just in the printing and bindery industry. Who among us has not, at some point in our lives, resisted a personal or professional change that was imposed upon us? Yet we know full well that the world, especially technology, is constantly and rapidly changing, mostly for the better.
History shows us too that resistance to change is negative. The Middle Ages is an example of institutionalized resistance. Guilds, trade associations, churches and the feudal system enforced the status quo and suppressed the standard of living for nearly a thousand years, making progress and education nearly impossible. It wasn’t until the Renaissance revitalized lost knowledge and the Industrial Revolution of the 1700’s changed manufacturing processes that the overall standard of living began to rise.
It’s also odd that we think of good economic times as stable and ‘certain’ while a tough economy means things are unstable and ‘uncertain’. The reality is that things are always uncertain. Think about it. Do you know what is going to happen five minutes from now? You might have a reasonable expectation but it is far from certain. You never really know. As you’ll see in a minute, if you have the right attitude about change, you’ll no longer fear uncertainty.
In a Harvard Business Review article, How to Deal With Resistance to Change author Paul Lawrence says “Actually, what employees resist is usually not technical change but social change—the change in their human relationships that generally accompanies technical change.” The problem, according to Lawrence and other sources, is that most companies focus primarily on the process or technology rather than on the people. The issue at the personal level goes back to our instinct for survival. Any major change is disruptive and it feels as is our livelihood, our very survival, is threatened.
But let’s get to a specific, micro example. We see resistance to change almost every day in our business. Some years ago I named it ‘operator resistance’ in response to the tiny percentage of product returns we got with our one year money-back guarantee. In those early years nearly all the returns were because of individual operators’ resistance to change. It was a new product and many individuals are resistant to anything new.
But in fact such resistance can come from the individual, from a team of individuals, or the organization (management) itself. For instance, our Spine Creaser creases book covers inline on saddle stitcher cover feeders. If a bindery creases those covers in a separate operation, such as press, scoring machine or letterpress, then adding a Spine Creaser eliminates those operations. Plus those machines are now free for productive, profitable work. The savings can be huge. Here’s how resistance to change plays out, even in the face of evidence that a company can save tens of thousands of dollars.
The Individual Resistor could be a crusty veteran who simply says the product doesn’t work or stubbornly refuses to use it. He feels his job just got harder. He may have to spend a few minutes more on his setup routine and do a bit of extra thinking. The truth is that while the organization has benefited dramatically, the operator feels he has suffered a loss. Prior to installation of the Spine Creaser he could just drop the covers in the cover feeder and run. If there was a problem with the cover, it was someone else’s fault. But now he feels the responsibility lies a bit more heavily on his shoulders and he is not willing or able to accept that change.
The Group Resistor might be a team of cylinder letterpress operators who feel threatened because easy work (scoring book covers) is being taken away from them. It doesn’t matter that the organization benefits and that more value is delivered to the customer. “What’s in it for me” still rules.
The Organizational Resistor is often an owner or manager who says something like “I don’t want to upset my stitcher operator. He’ll quit if I make him try something new and it’s not easy to hire a replacement.” Or “I have a team of pressman on the die-cutters and I need to keep them busy.” He’s resistant because such change upsets his smoothly running management machine.
Guess what? His competitor down the street welcomes this change and is able to deliver more value to his client. Then another competitor makes the change. Pretty soon the Resistors are left wondering what happened as all their competitors deliver more value to their clients faster and for less money. Market forces are indiscriminate in enforcing change and the market always wins.
Clearly, ‘resistance is futile’ to borrow the old Star Trek phrase. This does not mean that every change coming down the pike should be embraced. In the bestseller Who Moved My Cheese? Dr. Spencer Johnson says that what matters most about change is the attitude we have towards it. We should accept the fact that change is normal and keep an open mind to it.
Even better, be pro-active about change. Lean manufacturing practice revolves around the constant elimination of anything that does not provide value to the customer. Continuous questioning and ongoing improvements are essential. In other words change is central to the daily life of the individual within a lean organization. Problems and uncertainty are really opportunities. They generate questions that lead to making your business more productive, thus delivering more value to your customer.
Never fear, you don’t have to overhaul your entire printing business to deal with resistance to change. It can all start with you, on a personal level. Next week we’ll look at some ways to conquer resistance to change, whether you are a bindery equipment operator, manager or owner.
In the meantime, feel free to step out of your comfort zone and share your stories of change below!
The blessing and the curse for folding machine and bindery equipment operators is that there is always something new to learn. It’s great when you learn something new and you can do a job faster or better. But you can’t rest on your laurels because on this new plateau of performance there are even more things to learn, more questions and more is expected of you. There is a Chinese proverb that sums it up: “Learning is like rowing upstream. Not to advance is to drop back.”
It’s no surprise that we’re always learning new things since papers, printing processes and coatings are constantly evolving. We’re grateful that so many Technifold USA customers are willing to experiment with us to get the most from every piece of bindery equipment and every accessory. Here are a few tips and suggestions based on your feedback and on countless conversations about scoring and folding paper.
The Masking Tape Trick. I’ll wager that in 100 years there will still be masking tape, duct tape and rubber bands readily available in all binderies, whatever form the bindery of the future takes. And they will still be used frequently.
The masking tape solution came in response to a problem with toner flaking off the inside of scored sheets. It’s not actually a fiber cracking issue, but rather an issue with toner not adhering to the sheet under the stresses of creasing. Typically it looks like a fine line along either side of the inside bead of the crease. The lower half of the photo at right (red X) shows a recent example.
Over the years several veteran bindery operators didn’t hesitate to try masking tape and sure enough, they shared with us that it works. Of course I had to try it for myself and I get positive results too. (See the green check in photo at right.) The solution is to simply wrap a piece of masking tape once around the female component of the Tri-Creaser. (photo left)
You will probably have to use a wider channel than the one you are currently using once the tape is on. For instance if you are using a blue rib in a blue 2-dot channel, use the blue rib in the yellow 1-dot or 2-dot channel. Or in the event that you are already at the widest channel (yellow rib in yellow 3-dot channel) first add the masking tape. Then back off the pressure. If that doesn’t work you can substitute a blue rib running in the same yellow 3-dot channel.
As a vendor of a precision product it pains me to have to add masking tape. As an operator focused on results, I didn’t think twice. Many years ago I was a folder operator in a shop that had just taken delivery of a new folding machine direct from Germany. The installer and trainer also came direct from the manufacturer. He was a good teacher, very meticulous, efficient and thorough and spent a week with us.
On day two he arrived and found me running a job with the delivery wheels removed. In their place was an ugly contraption made up of waste sheets of paper, folded, taped and clamped to the delivery. He was visibly annoyed with me. Hey, it was a bulky piece and it was the only way I could get it to work at high speed. (You can see my technique here.)
In an effort to show me that his brand new machine could indeed do it all, he pulled off my contraption and re-installed his gear. Some time later he conceded defeat and I put my ugly kit back on to finish the job. In later years they came out with delivery wheels to help with bulky brochures but in the meantime, ugly saved the day many times. And yes, I’m working on a masking tape substitute but in the mean time, give the masking tape a shot if you run into this problem. It’s not perfect, and you'll have to replace the tape periodically, but it IS a big improvement. Sometimes we just have to get ugly!
Check out the FAQ page here. We answer a lot of frequently asked questions about all three models of the Tri-Creaser. Also included are instruction and tip sheets for the various models. If you or one of your operators is new to the product, take some time to review them. If you don’t see an answer, be sure to email us your question using our Contact form.
Use the Tri-Creaser to score brochures and signatures. Yes, the Tri-Creaser was originally designed to eliminate fiber cracking by creasing single sheets of paper. However, the various creasing ribs and multiple female channels give you quite a bit of flexibility in forming an ideal score for brochure and signature work. With the Tri-Creaser it’s very easy to change the depth and width of the score to perfectly suit the paper being folded. So feel free to experiment. Last weeks’ related article, Am I Scoring the Wrong Side of the Paper is also a good one to read regarding this type of work.
Use nylon ribs for paper that isn’t prone to cracking. We recently developed a nylon rib that fits the more popular EZ-Fit and Fast Fit Tri-Creasers. It’s much harder than our normal rubber rib and will last longer than the rubber rib. Although originally designed for creasing laminated papers, it’s also great for brochure and signature folding as mentioned above, where fiber cracking is not usually an issue. It’s also OK to use on cover stocks that don’t have a fiber cracking issue. (Email us if you have questions about nylon rib availability for your creasing tool.)
As always, if you’ve got a new technique, suggestion, or story, please feel free to share below.
For something with just two sides to it, it’s amazing the hundreds of questions that can arise. We are of course, referring to paper. There’s a good chance that some of what you’ve found to be true about printing and finishing paper is counter-intuitive. For instance, the simple question, ‘Which side of the paper should I score on my folding machine?’ falls into that camp.
The good news is you have a 50% chance of guessing right! Yet if you guess wrong, you can end up struggling needlessly. The real answer is a more down to earth and practical, “It depends.” But there is an easy way to figure out what to do when faced with a folding job that requires scoring.
Start by focusing on the result. What is it that you are trying to accomplish? Then you work backwards to determine which machines and procedures are best suited for that purpose. I’ll explain by reviewing the two most common scoring and folding scenarios you’re likely to encounter in your bindery department.
Scenario #1 - Folding without fiber cracking. If this is the result you are after, then you will need to do three things:
- Use a creasing tool on your folding or scoring machine or cover feeder (or do it offline)
- Run the male side of the tool on the outside of the folded piece
- Crease one sheet at a time.
A creasing tool, such as our Tri-Creaser, will compress the paper into a female channel as shown. Simply put, this de-laminates the sheet internally (diagram at right) and creates a paperboard hinge. The delamination relieves the internal pressures of folding and thus eliminates the fiber cracking that would normally occur. You can read more detail about creasing paper versus scoring paper here in a previous Bindery Success Blog article.
Of course there are exceptions to these guidelines which I’ll cover below.
Scenario #2 - Folding where fiber cracking is not an issue. Typically this is brochure and signature work, consisting of multi-panel right angle work. In these cases you are trying to make two or more sheets of paper fold consistently where you want it to. This is done by scoring, which we define as any technique that weakens the paper along the fold line to assist in folding. It includes all types of rotary mechanical devices as well as wet-scoring, in which a needle applies a thin line of liquid along the fold line.
Mechanical scoring tools will normally have the male running on the inside of the folded piece for jobs like this. Fiber cracking is usually not an issue for this type of work. The bigger issue is getting the brochure to fold consistently and accurately. This is accomplished by fine tuning the score for the stock and sequence of folds.
Note: creasing tools can be used for both creasing and scoring. Many scoring tools, however, such as those without female channels, are not capable of producing a true crease. One popular example (drawing) is the steel score blade pushing the sheet between two steel collars or against a rubber counterpart. It can produce a great score but it can’t crease. The paper will not de-laminate internally and thus will probably not eliminate a fiber cracking problem.
Scenario #3 - The Exceptions. Naturally the real world likes to mix things up a bit, especially if we think we have something figured out. Conventional creasing wisdom dictates that creasing only works on a single sheet of paper, with the male hitting the outside of the fold.
We discovered in practice, however, that with some 8pp and 12 pp right-angle signatures it was indeed possible to eliminate fiber cracking while “creasing” 2 or 3 sheets simultaneously. I’m referring to the type of signature with one or two folds in the main parallel section, a score on the spine and the final fold in the right angle.
Technically, it’s not exactly a “crease” when you do a creasing operation on two or more sheets because the paper isn’t always de-laminated in true creasing fashion. And you won’t get the bead you normally see on the inside of a real crease. But the end result is that fiber cracking can indeed disappear on the spine of the signature.
It’s usually limited to about 6pt paper and typically the male will be hitting the outside of the fold. Having said that, I still urge you to experiment with the male on both sides of the sheet. You may find that the conventional score with the male on the inside will work just fine.
If fiber cracking remains after trying this, the best solution is to separate an 8 pager into two 4’s or a 12 pager into a 4 page and an 8 page signature. Then crease the cover sheet as described above (male into the outside) and score the 8 pager.
To sum up our answer to the question of which side of the paper to score:
- If fiber cracking is an issue, use a creasing tool with the male on the outside.
- If fiber cracking is not an issue on brochure or signature work, score with the male on the inside.
- For light signature work on 8’s and 12’s, experiment both ways and then run as separate signatures if needed.
In the bindery we’re all about fast results so if you have something that works for you, stick with it! If on the other hand you are struggling, you might find relief by simply trying the other side of the sheet.
Hundreds of bindery operators have shared countless variations with me on the creasing and scoring themes mentioned here. What I’ve learned from these conversations is there is almost never one single right or wrong answer to any given problem. It all depends…even when you have a 50-50 chance.
As always we welcome your stories, comments and suggestions below.
Last week we looked at the challenges and some misconceptions about shipping packages in a single-parcel shipping environment. Basically, an individual parcel is subject to huge stress during transit and we discussed several ways to increase its survival odds. (Go Here for the related article.)
Another way to minimize transit damage is to ‘unitize’ your shipment for transport with the carefully planned use of corrugated boxes stacked on pallets and wrapped. In a sense you are turning many individual parcels into one giant parcel. Generally this method is less prone to damage than the small parcel.
The Fiber Box Association is dedicated to the corrugated box industry and in their manual they disclose some surprising statistics regarding factors that significantly affect the strength of your palletized (or unitized) shipments. (There are other methods of unitizing but we’re not covering them here since we don’t normally use them in the printing industry.) I’ve packed a lot of pallets in my time and even though I did what I thought was a good job, I was surprised to learn I made more than my share of basic mistakes.
Storage time under load. Did you know, for instance, that palletized boxes sitting in storage for 10 days can lose up to 37% of their compression strength? At 180 days, it’s 50%.
Relative Humidity (RH). At 50% RH there is no loss of strength. At 100% RH there is an 85% loss. So a shipment that was fine in last week’s good weather may be damaged this week because it spent time in a high-humidity environment. The boxes failed even though the load on them was identical.
Pallet Patterns. The popular interlocked stacking pattern can cause a 40-60% loss of strength whereas the columnar aligned pattern has a 0-8% loss.
Pallet Overhang. If the boxes hang over the edge of the pallet, even as little as 1/2”, you can expect a 20-40% loss of strength.
Pallet Deck Board Gap. Gaps in the pallet deck can cause 10-25% loss of strength. Those gaps mean there is no support underneath that part of the box.
Excessive Handling. You can lose up to 40% here. Simply put, the more you handle the pallets the weaker the boxes become.
I’m also sure that a combination of two or more of the above factors is a surefire way to guarantee failure. There are, however several simple things to watch for to ensure your palletized shipments arrive intact. Although the fixes aren’t exactly rocket science, packaging engineers spent a lot of research time studying and testing to arrive at these recommendations.
- Avoid platform overhang. Stacking boxes with an edge hanging over the side of the pallet is a sure-fire way to cause damage. The strongest parts of the box are the four corners and when 2 are unsupported in an overhang situation, you will almost certainly get carton failure.
- Use the full pallet. If the stack of boxes on the pallet doesn’t use all the pallet deck space available, the stack is more prone to shifting. Shifting causes misalignment of the stack which increases the odds of failure. So maximize your space usage and also be sure to cover any gaps on the pallet deck with a slip sheet made of fiberboard or corrugated.
- Use stretch wrap or other unitizing aids. These are great at keeping the load fixed in place on the pallet. It also prevents moisture and humidity damage. Corner boards, strapping and adhesive can also be used with stretch wrap to stabilize and bullet-proof your pallet.
- Use corrugated inserts or partitions within the box to increase compression strength. Or as we mentioned in last week’s article, pack a box within a box for the ultimate in protection.
- Try changing the box weight or product orientation. You don’t necessarily have to change the box. Change the quantity or the way it’s packaged so that you get maximum pallet coverage and ideal stacking.
- Use Columnar Stacking. Many of us in the bindery were taught that it is stronger to stack boxes in an interlocked fashion. (photo right) Well, that’s not quite accurate. An interlocked stack does indeed help to hold the boxes together but that advantage is offset by the far greater potential for box failure.
It is better instead to use columnar stacking (photo lower right) combined with a slip sheet between each layer, or unitizing adhesive to hold the boxes together. This special adhesive glues each box to the box below. It prevents side-to-side shear but lets you easily unstack the boxes without much effort. An alternative is to use columnar stacking on the bottom units with interlocked boxes on the top layer. Obviously, don’t forget to do a good job of strapping and stretch wrapping to prevent the load from shifting.
Attention to a few small details in packaging and shipping is the last detail in a long line of details for what might be a complicated printing and binding project. If it arrives scattered all over the back of the truck, you’ll be getting photos and a phone call from your customer. Worse, you’ll be marked as unprofessional and you could face significant reprint and re-bind costs.
If you’re having problems with palletized shipments, take a few minutes to review. The answer could be as simple as those listed above. As always, we welcome your comments, suggestions and stories below!
There is nothing more frustrating and costly in the bindery than finishing up a beautiful job and having it rejected due to transit damage. This type of damage refers to those scratches, smudges, tears, offset pages, bent corners, dented edges or soiled product that happens during shipping. There are two popular misconceptions about packaging printed materials which when understood, will help you avoid costly damage to high-value printed material.
The first mistaken belief has to do with that little circle or square on the bottom of corrugated boxes known as the Box Manufacturer's Certificates (BMC.) It guarantees that the National Motor Freight Classification Standards (NMFC) construction requirements have been met in the making of the corrugated.
Looking at the certificate shown, if your box is within size limits (length + girth) and the gross weight of box plus contents is within limits, you probably would think it safe to ship. The reality is that if it’s anywhere near those limits and you ship it via any popular parcel service, it’s almost certain that the box and or contents will be damaged.
The purpose of the BMC is to protect the carrier and insurance companies, not necessarily to guarantee protection of your products. According to the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) they are used by freight carriers and their insurance companies as an “enforcement tool in assessing damage claims”.
If a damaged box lacks a BMC, there is no liability for damage. If it has a BMC which meets the National Motor Freight Classification Standards known as “Item 222” then it will continue with a claims process. This requirement simply means the size and weight are within limits for the strength of corrugated used and that the BMC actually appears on all boxes. If it doesn’t meet this standard, a claim could be denied. These days it would be hard to find an off-the-shelf box without this certification.
The problem with this standard is that it is not a specification to help you select a box for single-parcel shipment. The NMFC standards are really designed for cartons which are to be palletized, strapped and wrapped. These trucking standards date back to railroad days when corrugated was first introduced to replace the wooden crates required in rail shipping. In reality they are of little use in predicting how a box will fare shipping via Fedex, UPS or the USPS parcel services. In fact the Institute of Packaging Professionals (iopp.org) recommends limiting the shipping weight to 50% of the allowable weight listed on the BMC.
You may not know this, but Fedex and UPS each have their own packaging standards regarding printed material. According to UPS packing guidelines, "Maximum size limit specified on the Box Maker's Certificate and the box strength guidelines chart is NOT the same as the UPS combined length and girth measurement." Their suggested packing might surprise you if you haven’t done much single-parcel shipping.
Fedex, for instance, recommends that printed matter be shipped in double-wall, full overlap or telescopic corrugated boxes at weights much lighter than the certifications might lead you to believe. Single-wall corrugated, gift boxes, banker boxes or bulk paper supply boxes are not recommended.
UPS has similar recommendations on their UPS Packaging Advisor page. Having been the recipient of numerous boxes of printed materials, shipped in single-wall corrugated and weighing 50-70 lbs, I can attest to the fact that their recommendations have a lot of merit! The only boxes we’ve ever received in that category without damage were all double boxed.
The second misconception about packaging and shipping printed material is that most of us think of printed sheets as rather solid. A stack of flat sheets, neatly jogged and packed in a tight-fitting box seems very solid, does it not? According to one study at the ISTA, it is not. Paper stacked in a box is a “flowable solid” in much the same way that a box full of nuts and bolts would be. If a stack of paper is jostled within a box, it can exert an outward pressure on the wall of the box. As soon as that wall is bowed outward, it loses significant strength and is prone to failure.
One major finding according to the study is that "packages that were designed with corrugated board specifications in [MNFC Item 222]...did not provide protection to flowable contents for the single parcel shipments. The failure ranged from tape failure, tears and edges, to container 'blow-out.'” The tests in this study used two items: sheets of flat, stacked paper and nuts and bolts. Contrary to what you might think, package damage was similar for each. Take a 50# single wall corrugated box of nuts and bolts and drop it 3’ or so. It will probably break and spill everywhere. A box of paper will do the same thing.
A package going through any of the popular parcel systems is subject to repeated drops from significant heights, as well as to compression from stacking, to mechanical damage, vibration, humidity and temperature changes. The opportunity for damage is high. The tests in this study used both single and double-wall corrugated with burst strengths up to 350psi and all of them failed during real-world shipping.
Although the study is from 2001, it’s still relevant today, judging by the scant attention paid by so many companies to the importance of shipping. Self-imposed standards by box manufacturers and single-parcel carriers have changed since the study but the shipping practices of many of their customers have not.
So is it hopeless? No. There are a few simple preventive measures you can take to avoid damaging printed material during shipping without breaking the bank.
- Use shrink wrap, strapping, paper banding or stationery boxes to pack and restrain the printed material within the shipping box. This prevents the ‘flow’ problem and maintains the integrity of the shipping box.
- Use smaller boxes and stay within the generally recommended limit of 50% of the maximum weight listed on the BMC.
- Use stronger corrugated and/or double-wall corrugated. Yes it’s more expensive but a few bucks more to ship a carton or two of an expensive job could easily prevent a far more costly re-print.
- Fill all voids within the box so there is no internal movement. (Here’s a related Bindery Success article on How to Pack a Box.)
- Seal all the seams on the box with a strong packaging tape.
- Change the orientation of the material within the box or use a different box to get a different, more effective orientation.
- Use only new corrugated boxes. Boxes weaken substantially when used only once. They also weaken with age. A box that’s been sitting in the warehouse for years will have just a fraction of the strength of a new one.
- Pack a box within a box. Both UPS and Fedex highlight this as the safest way to ship individual parcels.
- Test. If, for example, you’re doing an extensive drop shipment for your customer it’s a good idea to send some test packages first. Never shy away from testing. It’s the only way to find out how the package will truly fare.
Although it’s hard to protect against all possible damage, a little research, common sense and good practices will significantly increase the probability that your next valuable printed job will survive the grueling trip to your customer. Feel free to share your shipping experiences and wisdom below!
Even the simplest bindery department can be a complicated operation with a mix of post-press machinery, procedures and materials. No matter how well-trained an operator or manager, it's easy to miss something that leads to a mistake. I recall more than once getting that “uh-oh” feeling after finishing a job. I’d open a box to double-check that I had folded something the right way or kept various lots of a saddle stitched book separate.
In The Checklist Manifesto, by surgeon Atul Gawande, he tells the story of how a doctor created a basic checklist in an attempt to prevent infections in the intensive care unit of his hospital. Of course all doctors know full well the required procedures, including basic items such as washing their hands with soap and wearing masks. He asked the nurses in ICU to observe the doctors for a month to record how often they completed each required yet basic step. In more than a third of patients, these highly experienced critical care doctors skipped at least one basic step.
A checklist procedure was then implemented at this hospital, with startling results. The infection rate they were monitoring went from 11% to zero. The author goes on to talk about similar results in various medical facilities around the world.
Checklists work. The first thing Captain Sullenberger did when two engines failed on his “Miracle on the Hudson” flight was to pull out the checklist. He successfully landed the crippled plane in the Hudson River. The goal of a checklist is to prevent mistakes from happening, often in the face of pressure or complexity. But the mistakes themselves are usually very basic steps and they are often the same ones made repeatedly.
Here are six ways that checklists can work for your bindery or printing operation.
It’s a safety net for training. Repetition reinforces proper setup technique and equipment operation without requiring a supervisor to shadow an operator after training. Checklists, however, should not be a substitute for training. You wouldn't want your surgeon operating on you or your pilot flying based solely on a checklist. Some training is required! The purpose of the checklist is to keep the user on track, doing exactly what they were carefully trained to do.
Even experienced bindery equipment operators can benefit from checklists when learning a new piece of equipment. Old habits from a previous piece of equipment might prove dangerous or counter-productive on a newer piece of equipment. A checklist will keep the old habits from kicking in.
Quality Assurance. It ensures job specs are followed from beginning to end. Customer requests can be numerous and complicated and a checklist ensures they are adhered to.
Improving Efficiency. When you create a checklist, follow it and modify it, you might soon find there are better ways to do certain things. For instance, I now use a checklist to prepare a mailing list for our Bindery Success print newsletter. It's simple, basic work for which a checklist didn't seem necessary. Prior to using the checklist it would take me 45 minutes or more to prepare the list and I'd frequently have to re-do something because I had missed a step. After using the checklist a few times and revising it to fit the workflow, I found it takes me less than 10 minutes.
Improving Communication. Dr. Gawande says checklists can improve communications with items like this: “If X happens, speak to Y.”
Improving Safety. Modern bindery equipment has all sorts of built-in safety features, usually required by OSHA. Despite this, people still get hurt and killed in the printing industry. Where the possibility for injury exists, there should be a required checklist to prevent those mistakes from happening.
Making Decisions. Many decisions can be made in advance. This can be especially helpful in multiple shift operations when managers or customers aren’t available for questions in the middle of the night. A checklist with “If X, then Y” scenarios can keep things moving without those dreaded late night phone calls.
It takes work, but checklists can be created for each machine in the department and for each procedure. They should not be too long or too complicated or else no one will use them. One page is an ideal length. They should also fit the work flow in a sensible way. This simply means you need to create a checklist, use it and revise it until it works smoothly.
In the spirit of things, Dr. Gawande has created his own Checklist for Checklists, courtesy of projectcheck.org, which you can download below. It’s a simple 3-step checklist to guide development, drafting and validation of your own unique checklists. You can easily create your own in Word or Excel or even use a simple online app such as http://printablechecklist.org/.
Have a story about a time you wished you had a checklist? Feel free to share it below.
It’s no surprise that letterpress printing seems to be on the rise. Paper still has power. There’s an undeniable appeal to the look, texture and feel of metal type and engravings imprinted on old fashioned or even homemade paper. Even the latest all-digital companies acknowledge that paper just might have its place. The online invitation company Evite recently began offering… gasp …paper invitations through Evite Ink.
No matter how much printing and finishing sophistication we invest in the printed piece, there will still be a client with an opinion, holding that finished piece of paper in his hands.
Will it move him?
Will it make him take action?
Will he show it to his friends or co-workers?
Will he open the cover to see what’s inside?
This is why bindery and post-press operations can still be one of the most powerful tools for your printing operation. In the end, the question comes down to “What are you going to do with that piece of paper once it’s printed?”
The wide range of new bindery equipment today allows printers to handle a tremendous variety of work even in small quantities. It’s not uncommon for a single shop to offer in-house basics in folding, stitching, perfect binding, comb and coil binding, laminating, coating, die cutting and hand assembly. And any of these will likely include a mix of creasing, perforating or cutting operations. That means the client has amazing, readily available choices to match their needs in an impressive way.
But if you really want your clients to stand out, which in turn makes your company stand out, get creative with your basic finishing capabilities. Here are five resources which will get your creative juices flowing when you reach a dead end. Some include technical articles and tips to help the bindery operators and managers who actually produce all this creative stuff. Some will help you or your graphic artist creatively solve a customer problem with a unique design twist.
1 - Trish Witkowski of foldfactory.com is well known for her popular Fold of the Week video series. (You can sign up for free on the site.) For inspiration, check out the expansive archive of folded brochures here, ranging from conventional to unusual specialty folds. I dare say that if you watch a handful of these very short videos, it’s impossible to leave without an idea.
To keep the inspired designs flowing smoothly through production, check out Foldfactory's template building software, FOLDRite. This software "was developed to make file creation for folded materials easy, repeatable and standardized." It automatically helps designers compensate for folding compensation in all types of folded pieces, thus preventing countless possible errors in design and production.
2 - Sabine Lenz founded PaperSpecs, www.paperspecs.com, as "the first online paper database specifically developed for the design and print industries." Equally as valuable, if not more so, is the level of inspiration available for FREE in her Weekly Paper Inspiration videos, Gallery of Projects and various paper resources such as this nifty paper weight conversion tool. There is too much to list here.
3 - The Binding Industries Association (BIA), www.printing.org/bia, is a professional resource of the Printing Industries of America. For inspiration, go no further than the archive of their Product of Excellence awards. The BIA also has an extensive list of training manuals, books and webinars available for bindery workers and their instructors.
You can also subscribe to The Binding Edge, the official publication of the BIA. It’s geared toward trade binderies, commercial printers with in-house binding and finishing, book production facilities and manufacturers of loose leaf products. The Binding Edge website has several years of post-press related articles available on their website here.
4 - The Foil & Specialty Effects Association, www.fsea.com is another post-press association with much to offer in the way of inspiration. There are tons of design and production tips here and here about how to work with foil stamping, embossing, coatings, laminations, laser cutting and foil fusing on laser toner. Included on their site are links to an extensive archive of articles on these topics here.
You can also subscribe to their InsideFinishing Magazine. If you are searching for a company to finish your special project, use the FSEA’s affiliated site, finisherfinder.com. You can narrow your search by including sheet size, services required and US region. Members also get access to additional resources in addition to the free ones listed above.
5 - One of the most valuable resources for inspiration could be as close as your local trade bindery or finishing company. Many owners of these companies have been living and breathing creative post-press work for decades. You might even find yourself drawing on the experience of more than one generation in a family-owned bindery.
Pick up the phone and schedule a visit and bring along your latest creative challenge. Ask them, “What would you do with this job?” As an annoying old-timer might say, ‘some of these guys have forgotten more than you’ve learned.’ Well, maybe they used to just say that to me…
The power of paper. Use it. Get creative. Long after the battery is dead on your iPad, that award-winning printed piece sitting on your shelf will still amaze and delight clients and colleagues. So get busy, get inspired, get out there and produce it!
This is by no means a definitive listing so if you would like to suggest more, use the Contact Us form and we’ll include it in a future update. As always we welcome your comments and suggestions below.
Generally speaking, folding book weight stocks is a relatively easy folding machine task. Yet a new operator, upon encountering paper that is lighter than he is accustomed to, might find himself scratching his head wondering why fold consistency is suddenly a problem.
Folding light weight paper has an extra dimension of difficulty because of the thickness of the stock itself. A 40-60# coated or uncoated book paper can be less than .003” thick with varying degrees of stiffness. These types of stock are typically found in web press shops and in binderies that do work for web printers.
The thinner a stock is, the easier it is for it to buckle and distort in various spots as it moves through the folder. The friction of moving into a fold plate can be enough to buckle or collapse the sheet in ways that make it look like the fold itself is actually varying. (The diagram upper right illustrates the concept.) Registering the sheet on the infeed table also gets trickier as the stock gets thinner.
Here are seven simple tips to overcome these and other minor problems associated with folding thin paper.
1) Decrease the buckle plate gap and the buckle space to compensate for the thinner paper. Most new machines have an easy way to do both while many older machines only have an adjustment for the buckle space. Basically the buckle space adjustment is a way to move the lower portion of the plate away from or towards the fold rollers, thus changing the amount of space available for the sheet to buckle. The diagram above shows a plate gap and a buckle space that are too big for the paper being run.
The buckle plate gap should be adjusted to the minimum gap for very light papers. Sometimes you can cheat on the old folders by taping sheets of cover stock to the inside bottom of the fold plates to change this gap. It’s a little tricky to accomplish but if you’re careful, it can help a lot. (We might show this in a future article.)
2) Be sure the moisture content is correct. Higher moisture content adds stiffness to paper, which in turn aids accuracy in folding. This is more of a preventive measure in that you want the paper you are running to be acclimated correctly before, during and after printing. It should be run in an environment within the temperature and relative humidity range recommended by the paper manufacturer. Doing this ensures optimum moisture content by the time it reaches you at the folding machine.
If the paper is dry, it’s possible to increase the moisture content of paper by storing it in a moister environment for a time. The downside is that if the sheets are flat, you might create another problem such as wavy edges. (On the other hand, if your sheets already have tight edges [curl] doing this will actually reduce the tight edges.)
3) Lay out the job so the fold is against the grain. This puts the grain running the long direction of the sheet and provides a little extra stiffness to prevent it from buckling inside the plate.
4) Add stiffness to the sheet by lightly hand creasing the leading edge of each lift as you load the machine. If there is already a curl in the sheet, crease away from the curl so it also flattens out the sheet. The crease should be just strong enough to give the sheet extra stiffness without showing up in the final folded piece.
Small sheets may only need a couple of creases. Add more for larger sheets. Crossing the creases (diagram lower right) is helpful on larger sheets or very limp sheets.
5) Use the lightest and fewest number of side guide marbles possible. Too much weight on the sheet can cause it to buckle up within the side guide which in turn causes folding and wrinkling problems.
6) Run the folder slower than you would with heavier weight papers. In many cases this is all you really have to do, especially if you’re only moving to a slightly thinner stock, such as from a 60# to a 50#.
7) Be sure the fold rollers are precisely adjusted according to your folder manufacturer's directions. Folding problems will appear more often on the lighter papers when the machine isn’t quite up to par or if you’ve gotten a little careless in your setup routine.
The good news is that once you have the first fold out of the first fold plate, you’re now working with a much thicker sheet. Folding should now be relatively normal as you move through the subsequent fold plates and right angle sections. With experience, you might even find that you prefer to fold light weight papers.
Here are two related blog articles that also talk a little about folding light weight papers.
Forgotten Fold Plate Adjustments
Scoring Text Weight Papers
Feel free to share your experiences, comments and suggestions about folding light weight papers below.
You can count on human nature being the same today as it was 100 or 1000 years ago, even in the printing industry. That’s why some of the oldest advice out there is still the best. Here’s a commentary on the problem of rush jobs in the printing industry that is funny and true. Well, maybe we have a strange sense of humor here at Technifold. We think that Gina, who runs Technifold’s sales office, speaks the way this fellow writes. That makes it funny. If you don’t believe me, you’ll just have to give her a call to buy something.
The piece was written by George V. Oremus in The Practical Printer…a print industry trade publication from 1910.
* * * * * * * * * *
“The question of handling rush jobs is a very serious one, yet very few printers give it any attention whatever, seeming to overlook the fact that only a small percentage of this class of work pays at all. Indeed, it is a losing proposition every time unless it’s charged for a little above the regular schedule. And how many printers charge their little twenty per cent additional, or even a paltry ten per cent toll?
We all know that in the printing industry the rush job is ever with us; still the printer is largely to blame for this condition; and instead of trying to minimize the evil, the great majority of them seem to encourage the idea. The rush job can be classified under the beading of "Undesirable Business," and it is the experience of the writer this class of business is not to be encouraged, no more so than the use of the proverbial dutchman*, as they both go hand in hand toward the woeful destruction of material and the degeneration of the skillful workman.
This statement is not overdrawn; one has but to look about him to notice the specimens of modern printing constantly circulated to verify the assertion; and yet the printer seems to glory in telling the customer that "We can handle every thing on shortest notice."
Let us look at the question from another standpoint, and see if we cannot discover some of the leaks in the printer's profits: The composing room has long been the subject of controversy, and the average printer looks upon it as a necessary evil, yet heaps all kinds of obstacles in its pathway and endeavors to keep it permanently so, instead of trying to put it on the profit side of the ledger. The compositor who usually takes pride in his work is forced to turn out the rush job in record time, and not only slaps it together, but dumps a very poor specimen of the printer's art upon the stone.
Next, the pressman must degenerate himself; because the job is promised sure at such and such a time, which will not permit of even a thought of make-ready, so the job is "squeezed up," in pressroom parlance. This treatment of material soon tells; and in the course of a few years the establishment loses its prestige for fine job printing.
By catering to the rush element, the workman who takes pride in his work and who is anxious to advance, sees no future but his connection with a sloppy dump, and thus the shop is continually changing hands and the proprietors raise a howl that they cannot obtain competent printers, and their work is rapidly falling down both in quality and quantity, and they start in to figure on the cost of production. Many a sloppy shop owes its downfall to the rush job, and as long as printers will encourage this kind of business they must eventually bow to the inevitable — degeneration; and degeneration is a twin brother to stagnation, and we all know the relation the latter bears to the ever-ready sheriff.
The reason why so many printers will try to cut their own throats is a mystery. It can be remedied very easily, but not until the printer places a value on his work the same as the butcher or the groceryman does.
One writer says that the printer is the most generous man on earth, and I agree with him— in some respects. The rush job cannot possibly be a model of typography, and combined with poor presswork, the result spells ruin.
Perhaps some will raise the cry that the rush job cannot be entirely abolished, which it probably true; but it depends on how you educate your customers, Mr. Printer. Observe how the barber handles his customers; there is no rush or preference given; the customer must await his turn, unless he is so fortunate as to bribe some other customer, in which case he generally must pay for the privilege, or else do the work himself.
And here is where the printer still has the advantage; the customer cannot do his own printing under similar circumstances. True, he can take it to your competitor, which ought to tickle you to death, as nothing will serve to put him out of business more speedily than to handle the job under rush orders, or at a lower price than you figured; and in any event the best way to kill a competitor is to let him kill himself. As the age of the poorly printed job is rapidly falling to the rear, so the man that does the right kind of work at the right price is the one who will survive.”
[* Dutchman probably refers to an old slang usage describing something used to conceal faulty construction.]
Hear, hear! If you care to “degenerate” yourself (or us) with comments below, we welcome them.
Although this tip might raise more questions than it answers, the real value lies in the fact that it reinforces creative thinking in the face of an unusual bindery problem. So while we might never be faced with this exact problem, it could inspire a solution for whatever post-press problem you’re facing today.
Thanks to Nathan McCollim, operator of a Muller Martini Star Plus perfect binding system, for submitting this interesting tip. The shop he works for produces books for schools, and many of these books have perforated pages so that students can tear them out and easily work on the single page.
But it’s not so easy for the younger children to tear out the pages. Also, distributing and collecting an entire book is more cumbersome for teachers than working with individual sheets.
Faced with this alternative demand for the same product but in a different format, the shop started trimming the spines from books in inventory. (illustration at left)The trimmed books are then shrink wrapped and shipped as collated sets to the teachers. Other customers prefer to receive spiral bound books of the same content. In those cases the spines are trimmed so the pages can be hole-punched and spiral bound.
Spine trimming solved the customer demand problem for this particular company. But a new problem surfaced during the trimming operation.
Initially, McCollim says, they ran the books into the trimmer with the open face at the leading edge. (Illustration at right) Normally the spine leads the way so reversing the direction to trim the opposite side makes sense at first glance. But this travel direction meant that pages would occasionally flare open and jam the trimmer. It also caused a waste removal problem. The stiff, glued spines that were being trimmed off didn’t easily fall into the waste collection funnel.
Paper jams were frequent enough that they stationed a worker at the Muller Star Plus whose sole job was to remove jams and keep the waste flowing. The machine shutdowns from jams wasted a huge amount of production time and also ruined as much as 10% of the job.
His solution was simple. Rotate the book 90 degrees to feed into the trimmer foot or head first. (Illustration, right) Then use the side knife instead of the face trim knife to remove the spine. The glued spine prevented pages from flaring as frequently and made handling easier. The new position of the spine also meant the trim waste was oriented in such a way that it didn’t jam at the waste collection funnel.
McCollim also kept records on both methods to track spoilage. The results:
Using the ‘conventional’ method of feeding the book face-first into the trimmer:
Job 1- 6,000 books spine cut with 500 books lost
Job 2- 6,000 books spine cut with 600 books lost
Using new method, feeding at a right angle:
Job 1- 5,240 books spine cut with 33 books lost
Job 2- 611 books spine cut with 15 books lost
Job 3- 2,311 books spine cut with 63 books lost
Job 4- 60,000 books spine cut with 200 books lost
As you can see, this new technique reduced spoilage from 10% to an average of 1.5%. This is significant, especially when you consider that the spoilage in this case is actually finished product, with tremendous value already built in. Put another way, a wasted book costs far more than a wasted signature. Since his initial experiment, they have trimmed the spines of another couple of hundred thousand books, with similarly low spoilage rates.
Will you face this problem in your shop? My guess is probably not. But there are plenty of other possible bindery challenges that could come your way. When that happens, take a breather and try looking at the problem from a new perspective. A little brainstorming and lots of “What if…” questions can go a long way!
Thanks Nathan for your tip! Remember, if you have a tip to share, you can earn $100 for a basic tip up to $250 for a tip with videos and/or photos. Use the Contact Us form to email your idea. If we haven’t used it and it’s a good fit for our readers, we’ll feature it here.
As always, we welcome your experiences, suggestions and comments below.