It all started innocently enough. My plan was to do a short video about using alternative folding machine setups to crease and fold paper that is prone to fiber cracking. I had a few problem jobs on hand that I knew would be perfect subjects. It would be fast and simple. Crease and fold a handful of sheets conventionally, using fold plate #1, to illustrate how they cracked. Then run those sheets in fold plate #4 to show how you can eliminate the cracking.
Hah! Four or five hours into the process, I finally admitted that my life-long companion, the bindery gremlin, has a very twisted sense of humor. No matter what I did, short of removing the crease altogether, I couldn’t get these papers to crack on the folding machine. For demo purposes, I wanted things to go wrong with these ‘problem’ jobs but they refused to do anything except come off the end of the machine in beautiful shape. Now why couldn’t I have had such a problems all those years ago as a folder operator?
To add insult to injury, the gremlin decided I should trip ever so slightly over an electrical cord. As I regained my balance, behind my back I could feel a video lighting tripod that was attached to one of those cords, as it breezed past my head and toppled to the floor. The resulting explosive crash spewed thousands of tiny pieces of light bulb glass all over me and anything else within a ten foot radius.
OK, time out. Maybe a coffee with a shot of espresso and a chocolate donut will get me back on track. What did I learn from all this?
Problem-solving in the bindery is difficult. Jim Rohn said, on the subject of problem-solving, “The real problem is usually two or three questions deep. If you want to go after someone’s problem, be aware that most people aren’t going to reveal what the real problem is after the first question.” These “problem” samples I thought were perfect for my video are actually a perfect illustration of this point.
These job samples were first sent to me months ago because the client said they had a problem with creasing. Digging down, it turned out that yes, they were more difficult to crease than the average stock. But there was a folding solution to the problem.
So why would these problem stocks now run effortlessly, in any folding configuration? In this case, the real problem wasn’t creasing, or folding. It was something even deeper.
Why did it take so long for the inks to set? Was humidity a factor? Was it a unique combination of a certain brand of paper with a certain brand of ink? Was fountain solution the culprit?
In this case we’ll never know for sure. It’s the reason paper company technicians can spend days discussing a single paper problem. There is simply too much that is not readily apparent about all the possible chemical reactions taking place between papers, inks, coatings, varnishes, and the environment.
Yet we must continue our bindery equipment troubleshooting efforts to get those jobs out the door. We ask questions and look for solutions to make that happen. But let’s not forget to keep probing with questions. The real solution might be just one level deeper.
Even though our friendly gremlin is always with us, I think there’s also a bindery guardian angel. After all, I still got this article out of the experience, and I will get the other half of the video completed. I just have to go find some really bad paper and get the job done, before the paper turns good.