When discussing projects with their print service providers, marketers and business managers often focus on factors associated with the printing portion of their jobs. It’s easy to overlook functions such as folding, trimming, bindery, inserting, or sealing. But these finishing steps are critical to project success.
Project managers must budget time and money to account for what happens to material after printing. Fortunately, print service providers can reduce this expense while simultaneously adding value to print projects. Inline finishing is an approach that accomplishes both.
Most print operations have traditionally used offline or nearline finishing methods. After printing, employees would transport the material to the finishing equipment which could be in the same building, on a different floor, in an adjacent structure, or even across town. The time spent moving materials, queuing jobs for equipment, and setting up machinery affected the final cost and project duration.
Sophisticated controlling software and automated equipment now make it possible to eliminate these delays. As Mittera and EarthColor grow together, we can now print and finish materials in a seamless and continuous process. Plain paper goes in one end and finished product comes out the other.
Inline finishing provides benefits in five major areas: labor, variability, integrity, speed, and transportation.
In offline finishing environments, specially trained operators run different pieces of equipment. A pressman may run the printing press, but someone else handles folding, trimming, inserting, etc. In contrast, a single individual may handle multiple operations on an inline finishing production operation. Fewer employee hours spent running jobs translates into lower costs for customers.
Digital printing has increased the need for inline finishing equipment that can run dynamically. Documents with variable content may have different finishing requirements, or pages within a document can vary. In billing applications, for example, the first page of a bill often features a perforated stub but subsequent pages are not perforated. Computer-controlled devices make the adjustments on the fly, perforating only the necessary pages.
With inline finishing, automated workflows download a set of finishing specifications to the production line along with the print job. Because electronics control the finishing equipment, the risk of human error is reduced. Lower material waste reduces cost by lessening the need for print overruns.
Print projects are time sensitive, so efficiency is key. Delays can impact marketing campaigns, regulatory compliance measures, or documents like employee benefit booklets. Inline finishing can shave days from a project’s duration by lessening machine set-ups or productivity bottlenecks.
Transportation of material can be tricky, even within the same facility. Inline finishing eliminates the need to move your project across the building or even across town, ensuring that the end product is exactly what you asked for.
Not every job is fit for inline finishing, but those that do qualify can greatly benefit from the process both by increasing the speed to market and reducing overall costs.
Check with us to learn more about our inline finishing capabilities!