Part one of two
The latest trends in book manufacturing bring new opportunities to print providers and publishers alike. However, it is not without challenges. For book publishers and printers, growing demand brings with it a reason to evaluate workflows as well as business strategies and make investments accordingly.
Speed to market is a challenge for book printers but quality is also essential. Labor shortages are another consideration.
Bob Flinn, director of business development, Standard Finishing Systems, notes a shortage of operators, both new and experienced, in all phases of production. He says at the same time, greatly reduced print run lengths are increasing the number of short-run jobs produced per shift.
“The labor and supply challenges accelerated and amplified by the pandemic put tremendous pressure on manufacturers, which resulted in increased consolidation,” adds Mike Herold, director, global marketing, Ricoh.
This is why investments in automation are critical. “Reliable, automated solutions reduce manpower requirements while increasing the number of jobs that can efficiently be moved through the plant. Automated set-up and changeovers on-the-fly allow the shop to process more jobs with varying page counts and size formats with fewer touch points and operators required,” explains Flinn.
However, automation should not be limited to the set-up of equipment; it should be a consideration across the entire process including efficient tracking and reporting. “Verification and integrity software can perform sheet, signature, and book block-level tracking as well as cover-to-book block matching. Depending upon the configuration, these systems can reject incomplete book blocks or book blocks with the pages out of order. In this case, the rejected book block is identified and can be used to generate a reprint file. In the case of a mis-matched cover and book block, the binder will alert the operator for correction or ejection,” he says.
Inspection systems are integral in guaranteeing product quality without increasing labor costs. A well-planned digital workflow ensures maximum efficiency while reducing the challenges of short-run book production such as page integrity, cover book block matching, job tracking, and fulfillment. “With greater automation, more efficient workflow management, less waste, and greater flexibility, print service providers have the tools they need to compete in publishing while reducing overall costs and labor,” adds Flinn.
We’re also seeing challenges for book manufacturers in predicting inventory requirements as consumer preferences continue to rapidly evolve, shares Herold.
Bill Troxil, president, industrial and production print, Konica Minolta, agrees, noting that along with labor shortages, paper shortages are a big challenge for book publishers today. “Paper is now a valuable component and limited resource. Eliminating paper waste is more important than ever.”
Binding considerations are another hurdle, especially in the case of short- and ultra-short-run books.
Identifying the necessary investment in a current climate that remains uncertain is a legitimate concern, notes Armen Snkhtchian, marketing manager, C.P. Bourg. He says the two most important factors to consider when it comes to book manufacturing are equipment flexibility and expandability.
“Depending on the pagination, desired finish, and budget, the latest range of wire-stitch binding solutions would offer a suitable product. For higher pagination books, or that more up-market feel, PUR binding is likely to come under consideration,” says Wendy Baker, marketing manager, Plockmatic.
“The demise of the local or regional large scale traditional bookbindery leaves the short- to medium-run hard cover print shops with few choices,” adds Kent Dalzell, president, FastbindUSA. He says without the book bindery, it is difficult to find a resource to produce the custom printed hard cover in short runs, as most print shops with in-house capability want to produce the entire book, but have little or no interest in producing just the cover. “The good news is that low-cost manual and semi-automatic case making equipment is available for those local print shops that want additional, high profit, high margin products and differentiate themselves in their market.”
The addition of perfect binding equipment that support PUR hot melt glues is beneficial to digital book production. Dalzell says its availability has energized the market, giving printers more solutions for printing on substrates where traditional EVA glue is not satisfactory,
Additionally, customers, while not fully understanding the technical differences between the glues, are increasingly asking for PUR, understanding that it is a better glue to use for soft and hard cover perfect binding. “Interestingly, the adaptation of PUR perfect binding machines has lagged market forecasts due to not only the increased cost of the equipment, but also the required changes in the production process, increased overall costs of operation, and finishing delays due to the nature of PUR hot melt glue,” says Dalzell.
Further, imposition and layout preparation software should be brought to speed. “It is obvious that innovations in printing hardware have made it economical to print short runs to minimum one book. But did imposition and layout preparation software keep in pace? Are they capable of calculating and rendering text or 100 times more impositions that are required to keep the modern machines busy?” asks Santosh Mulay, VP, business development, InSoft Automation.
New Solutions, New Processes
Digital book manufacturers embrace digital printing and finishing solutions that support an automated workflow. From books of one to runs in the thousands, the latest equipment is suited to cost effectively handle the latest publishing demands.
In the next installment of this article, we highlight vendors that support the digital book printing and finishing space. For even more on the topic, check out our May issue.
May2022, DPS Magazine