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A profitable loose-leaf partnership

Jun 1, 2005 12:00 AM

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As competition for print jobs intensifies, many loose-leaf binder manufacturers are partnering with trade finishers to gain an advantage. It’s common for printers seeking an end-to-end job quote to solicit quotes from several finishing suppliers. Endless calls and quotes can leave printers searching for consistent, reputable sources. Elevating this relationship to a partnership level with quality loose-leaf binder manufacturers, however, can save printers time and production costs as well as allow them to keep profitable manufacturing steps at their own location.

Fuel the supply chain
To protect profitability and retain a larger share of project costs, printers can join the manufacturing process by printing cover materials for turned-edge or clear overlay binders. Printers who can supply copies of cover pieces not only can save time, they can contain costs by producing more work in-house.

By maintaining project control, printers also can safeguard quality, providing a direct benefit to print buyers and their customers. This advantage is most beneficial when the cover or wrap is designed in the same color scheme as the binder contents. Finishers who are contracted to provide this product frequently outsource the printing to a third party with little concept of the project’s overall scope and design. The old saying about too many cooks spoiling the broth might apply to this scenario.

Turn, turn, turn
Binders can be produced from a range of materials and designed in any number of useful and attractive formats ranging from alterations in spine and ring styles to adding easels and wrapped covers. Turned-edge binders—often called casemade binders—are among the most popular because they can be customized easily and manufactured efficiently.

Turned-edge binders take their name from the process of turning the cover material—generally a single sheet of paper, cloth, imitation leather or other product—over the edge of the board that supplies the base of the binder. Using printed paper, this process can create an even, uninterrupted image over the entire piece. Offset, four-color-process printing creates artwork possibilities that are not available in a silkscreen process.

Cover up
Rather than simply ordering binders and submitting artwork, producing the laminated cover pieces and submitting them with the binder contents can greatly reduce costs. Color match and other quality control benefits can decrease costly and time-consuming reprints and provide the printer the creative control necessary to deliver the project as ordered.

Clear overlay binders can be produced in much the same manner. Clear overlay binders feature transparent vinyl sheets on the front cover, spine and back. These covers are open at the top to allow printed sheets to be inserted for a very simple and customizable product. Extras such as pockets and label holders can be applied easily.

Larger binderies have automated "pick-and-place" equipment that can insert cover sheets as binders are produced for efficient inline production, eliminating the need for binder coversheets to be inserted by hand.

Like turned-edge products, producing the printed cover pieces works to the printer’s advantage. Most binderies not only can insert these pieces automatically, the overlay piece can be sealed at the top to hold the coversheet securely in place and produce a cost-effective customized product. Overall time and manpower costs are reduced—the printer can retain those project costs and attach them directly to the bottom line.

Get it in, move it out
Printed products are built from the inside out, and the piece the end-user sees first often is the final step in the manufacturing process. Because binding generally is the final step, many binderies provide assembly, fulfillment and warehousing services. This allows printers the flexibility to control cost and invoicing issues without managing transportation logistics for the project.

The key to this process is logistical management. It doesn’t make sense to incur shipping costs and delivery delays to return product to printers for basic assembly and shipping services. Finishers generally can occupy staff during extended makereadies and other time-consuming processes with the handwork necessary to pull a job together. Additionally, most binders are accustomed to delivering product directly to individual, customer-specified locations. Piggybacking this service creates the ideal workflow, allowing printers to compete on not only price, but speed.

Storing peace of mind
Of course, not every printer needs a job shipped or delivered immediately. Warehousing often is the lynchpin to winning competitive print work, for two major reasons: First, a print buyer with a regular distribution cycle of the same material can print a year’s worth of product in a single run, avoiding piecemeal production that requires time and additional costs for each run; second, knowing a major monthly project is handled in advance eliminates confusion and worry. A bindery’s offer to warehouse material for extended periods might be a deal overworked purchasing managers can’t refuse.

Warehousing requires a few hours from an organized staff member and plenty of space. Teaming with your finisher to offer this service can mean the difference between keeping a customer for a year and losing one forever.

Maintaining profitability requires developing the right solutions and presenting them effectively to customers. One of the best ways to generate growth is to work with a reliable, consistent, quality finisher with the capability to deliver the product knowledge, the commodity, the customer service and the back-end muscle to make it happen.

Barry Franklin is general manager of Vulcan Information Packaging (Vincent, AL). Contact him at (800) 633-4526 or