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Oct 1, 2012 12:00 AM

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QUALITY CONTROL ENSURES YOU ALWAYS DELIVER EXACTLY WHAT THE CUSTOMER EXPECTS. While there are many systems and products for managing quality control in the prepress and press departments, quality control in the bindery is usu­ally left to the machine operator. But all is not lost: Take a page from the big-time QC systems and improve your existing system. Here are three simple things you can do:


Figure out how to measure or quan­tify these items. Make it part of your production process, with feedback and accountability. Talk to the customers about their expectations. What’s the first thing the client will look at? Since our focus is bindery and finishing, your list of answers could include but is certainly not limited to folding register, scratches, scuffing, fiber cracking, cutting register, batch counts, unauthorized overages or shortages, overweight cartons, broken cartons, bad collating sequence, missing pages, wrinkles, wrong size, size variations, poor trim­ming, malformed spines and so on.


For instance, if folding register is a hot button, then you need to find out what is acceptable to your client. A job with +/- 1/16" tolerance for folding on a bleed might be acceptable to one client but cause for rejection by an­other. You also need to be perfectly clear about what it is you are mea­suring. Are you supplying printed and perfed sheets that run through clients’ copiers? If so, perf strength will probably top their lists of critical items. Minimum acceptable burst strength will need to be determined, documented and sampled through­out the production run.


Critical information, once it has been gleaned from the client, should then be available to all who need to know, and it should be part of the job specs and workflow. Let’s return to our folding example. When the job hits the folding machine, there should be a system in place to ensure that the job is being inspected and that it falls within the client’s expectations. For example, most binderies require a supervisor to sign off on a job once the operator has samples and is ready to run (accountability). As the op­erator runs the job, he or she might sample production pieces based on time intervals, such as every half hour, or quantity intervals, such as every 10,000 pieces. Most good operators will look at nearly every batch they pick up, or in the more automated systems, they’ll check a folded piece every few minutes. If a batch is outside the acceptable limits written in the specs, the job is stopped and decisions are made. (This is a very basic form of statisti­cal sampling.)


With these three simple steps we are, in effect, using the Pareto principle of the vital few and trivial many (the 80-20 rule). There are a vital few hot buttons for your clients. Document them with a simple system and you are likely to eliminate 80% of your bindery quality control problems.


If you’re ready for an in-depth quality management overhaul, then consider one of the popular systems, such as ISO certification, Six Sigma or Deming’s Total Quality Management (TQM). There’s an entire industry devoted to the subject. In the mean­time, even the simplest of steps you take toward improving customer satisfaction by meeting their primary expectations will pay big dividends.

Andre Palko is President of Technifold USA. Talk to Andre at