Going Green and Finishing First
By Jim Tressler, Director of Marketing and Branch Operations, C.P. Bourg Inc.
Phrases like “green initiatives,” “environmentally friendly” and “sustainable practices” aren’t usually associated with capital equipment used in print manufacturing. And for good reason: The equipment found in the typical print shop consumes a fair amount of electrical energy, requires a lot of paper and ink to produce a printed product, occupies substantial floor space and typically requires a number of people to operate it and keep consumables in fresh supply.
In most correctional industries, the resources in most of these categories are in short supply. Whether you label it environmentalism, sustainable manufacturing or plain old common sense, using those resources wisely is good business, offering a bigger bang for the taxpayers’ buck and helping reduce waste and inefficiency that can free up funds and floor space.
It also can contribute to a work experience that teaches transferable job skills and prepares offenders for post-release employment in the real world.
Whether your facility has a mix of older analog and newer digital equipment or just one type, you may be able to save a substantial sum – and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time – just by operating more efficiently.
Because it played second fiddle to printing for many years, binding and finishing often affords a variety of opportunities for achieving greater efficiencies – including ones that many CI print shops may be missing.
With the growing application of digital technology to the printing industry, the role of binding and finishing is taking on greater importance for saving energy, time, space and materials – and providing fertile ground for new and needed skills.
Saving energy, time and space
Even if your printing operation is at the smaller end of the spectrum, you have at least a couple of presses and a bindery or finishing capability. Larger shops often have several presses, a large bindery and ancillary services like graphic design and pre-press production.
Electrical consumption is a major determinant of carbon footprint and as you might expect, newer and smaller technology is not only more nimble, it also typically wins handily compared with older and bigger equipment.
The average single-color offset press uses about 10,000 watts to print each color (10kW). Multi-color offset presses average about 12kW per color, give or take a few kW. So, a 2-color unit draws about 24kW and a 4-color about 48kW per hour.
Digital presses are relatively thrifty by comparison. Monochrome models consume around 4kW with some as low as 2kW, while 4-color units draw between 8kW and 20kW, give or take – or typically less than half the electricity of their analog counterparts.
The savings in energy consumption of using a digital press in place of an analog/offset process can be huge, even before adding substantial savings in ink, chemistry and paper waste and reduced warehousing requirements associated with the inevitable overages from offset.
Finishing more possibilities
The same is true in the bindery. The newer, smaller, more nimble and more energy efficient booklet makers and perfect binders can out-maneuver and often out-pace their older, monolithic multi-station counterparts, except when producing tens of thousands of the same finished product. Even then, many new-generation binders outshine the old even on long runs of static material, sometimes taking only 30% of the floor space and consuming only 25% of the electricity while achieving up to 90% of the productivity.
Plus, the newer booklet makers often integrate folding and trimming with stitching, eliminating the need to buy separate machines and thereby further helping to reduce equipment cost, kilowatt hours and manufacturing space.
The efficiency of newer finishing equipment available today is all the more impressive given the smaller and newer machines are more versatile. Unlike older multi-station units, newer finishers allow different-size booklets to be quickly stitched, folded and trimmed one after another, on demand, just by pressing a few buttons on the operator’s touchscreen display.
Employing super-efficient workflows
Employing different workflow methods can compound the savings. One of these approaches relies on a high-speed finishing production line to accept workflow from virtually any print production process – whether all digital, all-analog or some hybrid combination.
A near-line finishing system can be outfitted to accommodate the appropriate workflow, using a collator or high-speed sheet feeder as the production gateway for covers and content coupled with a booklet maker to stitch, fold and face-trim finished booklets. This production line may also include a module that can crease and trim both sides of the printed sheet, allowing a digital printing facility to offer more versatile full-bleed print production.
The shop benefits from lower operating costs and floor-space requirements than using bigger monolithic machines, while gaining versatility and increased productivity – without modifying their printing methods.
The near-line approach works particularly well handling the collated output from any number and type of digital presses. However, it can speed up production and add flexibility in digital or hybrid environments by reducing the production load from dedicated finishers and making it possible to produced finished product from multiple digital printing streams. In this way, the near-line production system can operate continuously and at full capacity, unaffected by print job stoppages, maintenance downtime or other reasons, and it can free up one or more digital presses for more varied production.
Applying alternative workflows
Another finishing option calls for replacing less-efficient workflows with a different equipment configuration that can reduce costs, maximize productivity and reduce the shop’s physical and environmental footprint.
For example, using a booklet maker that also flattens the document spine can eliminate the need for tape binding or perfect binding at substantial savings in supplies costs and kilowatt hours. Square-spined booklets have the superior appearance of a perfect bound book, but with the security and thrift of ones with stitched spines. One shop using square-edge booklet making reports saving more than $100,000 annually in supply costs alone compared to their previous workflow methods.
“Zero Waste,” another big opportunity for users of binding and finishing, is being driven by the personalized and variable printing made possible by digital technology. The reason why, is because in a digital environment every set printed can be unique. Couple that with super-fast turnaround times and digital thrives – it’s easy to see how any disruption to the workflow can spell disaster.
To produce saleable finished product in this environment, the bindery can’t waste a single sheet, kilowatt, stitch or ounce of glue. Missing or damaged pages or sheets have to be identified and removed immediately from the production stream, corrected and returned to it without disrupting the flow and sequence.
To accommodate digital methods, newer finishing devices have set integrity features built in. If a set is not complete, the finisher will send it to a reject tray where the operator can correct and re-feed it, eliminating waste from the equation. The finisher communicates directly with the collator or sheet feeder, ensuring the feeder knows what is being sent to the finisher. Using sensors within the device, the finisher acknowledges this information and makes sure that what is stitched, folded and trimmed is the correct set and sequence.
Saving energy, space and manufacturing waste not only contributes to a greener environment and greater sustainability. In today’s CI print shop, “going green” can lead to learning new skills and creating new possibilities.
Jim Tressler can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.