By Melissa Donovan
Today’s publishers look for high-quality print jobs in low runs to satisfy an on demand distribution model coupled with minimal inventory. Inkjet presses address these needs. To remain relevant, book printers devote resources to learning and implementing digital printing and finishing technologies.
Above: With the VarioPrint i300 up and running and contributing to roughly eight percent of McNaughton & Gunn’s annual sales, the company averages two million 11×17-inch or 12.5×18-inch sheets and 6.4 million pages per month.
A Standout Business
In 1975, Bob McNaughton and four other partners founded McNaughton & Gunn with ten employees out of Ann Arbor, MI. Three years into the business, the company moved locations to Saline, MI, where it resides today out of a 90,000 square foot space that staffs 163 employees. Its primary market is trade publishers, but it also services educational, religious, and self-publishers.
To standout in a saturated book publishing market, McNaughton & Gunn differentiates itself through its service and quality. “You will always be able to talk to someone. And we guarantee our product to our customers, if we have not met their specifications, then we guarantee to fix the problem with the book,” explains James Clark, director of operations, McNaughton & Gunn.
Primarily an analog printer—92 percent of the company’s annual sales remains printed with offset—it bought into the digital revolution with the purchase of an Océ VarioPrint i300 from Canon Solutions America. From a job perspective, almost 30 percent of the orders the company produces in a year are run on digital.
Identifying digital as a growing market and aware of its capabilities since the late 1990s, the company initially sought out the technology because of its ability to print short runs from 25 to 300. “Our goals were simple, it was a way to economically provide a means for these short-run projects for our customers while working to expand ourselves further into the self-publishing markets,” says Clark.
About two years ago the company was looking to replace its toner-based printers. Through its research, McNaughton & Gunn learned about the VarioPrint i300. A friendly competitor, Bookmasters, recently installed a few of the cutsheet inkjet devices and members of the McNaughton & Gunn staff were invited to visit the production facility.
Seeing inkjet run live on the floor got them thinking. The VarioPrint i300 could replace its B&W toner printers and handle the volume of book interiors previously run on the four-color toner device. Used for only for book covers, the four-color toner device’s life would be preserved.
“We went through a full justification process, with the concept of growth in mind. That growth was focused on four-color text pages. Our sales team told us that short-run, four-color text was one of their largest requests for a quote—so we used that as part of our cost justification,” explains Clark.
Other considerations focused on the fact that the business’ top ten customers in digital were part of its top 20 customers in offset. With the overlap, customers wanted similar or exact substrate offerings across technologies. The VarioPrint i300 supplies that capability.
Uncoated papers are frequently run at McNaughton & Gunn, including 70 lb. matte and enamel. “Our toner device runs the same substrates as our offset press, so when we found out the VarioPrint i300 could too, we were ecstatic,” shares Clark.
Aiding in the ability to run the same substrates is Color Grip Technology from Canon Solutions America. ColorGrip is a conditioning fluid that enhances ink adhesion on either standard coated or uncoated offset papers. McNaughton & Gunn run ColorGrip on every job through the VarioPrint i300.
Since the VarioPrint i300 is a cutsheet device, it also enables operators to change substrates and basic sizes quickly. Powered by Océ PRISMA workflow, the press moves from one format to another, between paper types on the fly.
McNaughton & Gunn installed the VarioPrint i300 in November 2017. Clark admits that the team ramped up production fairly quickly, but still had a lot to learn. “This is no different than putting a large offset press on your shop floor. There is a lot to learn with an inkjet press and the first few months will not be as productive as the following six months.”
The VarioPrint i300 contributes to roughly eight percent of McNaughton & Gunn’s annual sales, the company averages two million 11×17-inch or 12.5×18-inch sheets and 6.4 million pages per month. Short-run cookbooks, textbooks, and travel guides are common job requests.
It successfully identified its sweet spot in terms of digital. 25 to 900 copies and 32 to 296 pages, with a four-color cover on 10 or 12 pt., matte or gloss lamination, and perfect bound. “We look at jobs going into digital as a total number of sheets through our digital presses and through our digital binders,” explains Clark.
With a full year of production behind them, Clark says that while the VarioPrint i300 has produced at levels that exceeded the company’s expectations, there is still about 20 percent unused capacity on the press. The goal is to fill that time with more four-color text pages—one of the primary reasons the VarioPrint i300 was added in the first place.
“Publishers have learned that color sells, and more short-run books include color pages. We regained the business of some of our customers who were already doing four-color text pages—just not with us,” admits Clark.
The press’ highlight color capabilities are also beneficial. For example, allowing customers to add color to the first big letter of a chapter opener.
Clark says the company has since experienced interest from its existing client base, it hasn’t had time to add new customers. Keeping busy, he believes the press will pay for itself in two-and-a-half years of owning it.
In lieu of adding another machine to expand its digital printing options, McNaughton & Gunn is looking to improve its perfect binding capabilities. With the VarioPrint i300 running consistently, finishing is now the production bottleneck. 2019 includes plans to upgrade its perfect binding in digital. In doing so, the company will increase its output of books by 30 percent per day.
Wave of Change
Inkjet technology like the VarioPrint i300 is part of a wave of change in the book publishing industry. With the capability to print on paper stock used in both offset and digital presses, many of the smaller run jobs that once ate up time on an analog press can be moved over to digital. The technology is efficient and cost effective. McNaughton & Gunn realized this with the purchase of its VarioPrint i300 and continues to look forward.
Jul2019, DPS Magazine