I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Rodrigo Castellanos of Offset Universal, a printing company with an extensive perfect binding and saddle stitching operation. Although his company focuses on publishing and printing books for direct clients, their bindery equipment capabilities led them to do trade bindery work for numerous printing companies throughout Mexico. He offers insight on ways to stay productive and competitive in our ever-changing industry especially with regard to the perfect binding aspect of the business.
Andre: Could you give us a little background on Offset Universal before we get in to details of your operation?
Rodrigo: Offset Universal has been in business since 1967. My father got involved in 1980 and it became something of a family business where he worked along with his brother for 20 years. My mother began working there in 2000 and I’ve been there about 11 years.
Today we have 53 employees. We operate 6 days a week, 12 hours a day and produce nearly 3 million perfect bound books each year along with plenty of saddle stitched books and a variety of other bindery and commercial printing work.
Andre: What type of equipment are you running?
Rodrigo: In the printing operation we have three Heidelberg sheet-fed presses up to 40”. In the bindery we have several Baum and MBO folders, Polar guillotine cutters and 2 Muller saddle stitchers. Our perfect binding lines include 2 Muller Martini RB-5’s and 1 Normbinder.
Andre: You and your family have been around the industry for some time now. What mistakes have you seen or made that you would tell other bindery owners to avoid?
Rodrigo: Don’t assume you have to buy a new machine to improve production speed or quality. The types of perfect binding and stitching machines we run are built to last. It’s a matter of oil, proper maintenance and good operating practices.
Most importantly, you can update these machines with retro-fit technology that can often get you the same results as investing in a brand new machine. Some of the things we’ve invested in over the years include signature recognition systems for the gathering or inserting stations, bigger pumps for improved vacuum and air control, and of course Technifold’s creasing systems for all of our cover feeders.
Depending on your particular needs, there are plenty of other upgrades that come to mind. Waste removal systems, stackers, inkjet addressing and labeling, strapping machines, 3-hole punches, and more.
I’ve learned that productivity often has less to do with the actual equipment itself and more to do with operating practices. Two important things come to mind.
One: run the machines at a constant, non-stop speed. I’ve found that our productivity is better when we run at the best possible non-stop speed. The trick is to find that maximum, non-stop speed for each particular job. Every job is different. This is one of the best productivity tips I can share.
This brings me to my second point. It’s worth investing in a good operator, preferably one with mechanical skills and talent. Those mechanical skills will keep your binding lines running and get them back up quickly when something breaks.
The operator should also know how to use all the accessories and adjustments on the machine if you want to get the most from your bindery equipment. It’s also important to support the operators by having all the tools, accessories and parts immediately available, well organized and easily accessible.
Andre: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced with your perfect binding operation?
Rodrigo: For years we struggled when running books with thin spines less than 4mm and/or light weight covers. The OEM scoring tools would leave us with unsightly rounded spines (photo at right) instead of a nice, square cover and the hinge scores on certain stocks simply didn’t perform like they should. We also had problems with fiber cracking on thick, UV coated covers.
All this in turn led me to try your Spine-Hinge creaser on one of our perfect binder cover feeders. Now we have them on all our perfect binding lines as well as the Technifold Spine Creasers on our saddle stitchers. That’s taken care of these problems. (photo lower right)
Andre: How much money and time would you calculate you’ve saved by retro-fitting your equipment with the various upgrades?
Rodrigo: I don’t have a dollar figure to give but I can say with certainty that all these small investments have returned many, many times their original cost. It’s truly invaluable.
Our operators are able to set up the machines faster than ever, on every single job. We run jobs with fewer errors and with a higher average hourly production. Quality is higher and our customers are happy. Over the years we’ve definitely prevented quite a few rejected or re-worked jobs which in turn boosted our customer retention.
And of course my experience with Technifold products led me to become a dealer for them, but that’s another chapter in my life and a story for another day!
Andre: Thanks, Rodrigo, for taking time to share your experiences with us. It’s always good to hear how bindery operators are staying competitive and how they are getting more from the equipment already on their floor. As always, if any of our readers have questions, comments or stories of their own, please feel free to share them below. If you’ve got a question for Rodrigo, I’m sure he’d be happy to answer those as well. Ask away in the comment box below!