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"Proper Planning Includes Spoilage Allowances"
[Column #45, 9/98]

[Column #45, 9/98]

Proper Planning Includes Spoilage Allowances

What printers give us for spoilage sometimes astonishes me. Spoilage in this article is defined as extra press sheets that are sent to the bindery for setup usage and running spoilage. In just about every operation we do, a certain number of sheets are needed for setup, and once we start running, a certain number of sheets per 1,000 copies are required for "running spoilage." Some printers play so close to the vest that we have to root through our spoilage to make count, and other printers must have stock in I.P. because they provide so many excess sheets to "play with."

I would guess that printers call to ask us for spoilage allowances for only 10% of the jobs we do. Most of the time, it is just an educated guess on our part as to what we might need. Many variables are involved: weight of stock, humidity, static, curl, temperature, and even who is going to run it (we have some operators that can get a job going using hardly anything and others that just can't seem to have enough). One of my favorite stories occurred when we handled a web-folded saddle stitch job where the "lip" on the signature varied from 5/8 to nothing. When we called to complain, we were told an apprentice had run the job and we were lucky it wasn't worse than that! (If we were ever short and gave that excuse to the printers we work with, they would hang us out to dry.)

Another phenomenon we see with spoilage allowances is that we receive uneven quantities of printed material labeled incorrectly. For example, we may be planning to produce 12,000 copies of a perfect bound book, 8 1/2 x 11, as fifteen 16-page signatures and receive fifteen skids of text with load tags that all say 12,650 copies! Some skids are up to four inches shorter than the tallest skid. (Sounds like the pressroom got a memo from the front office to print no more or less than what is called for on the jackets.)

It is also frustrating when we run a large multiple-signature job and come up short just because one signature is 500 copies short. In a 20-signature job, at least 500+ spoilage allowance is left for every other signature a very expensive shortage. Sometimes there isn't time to make up the shortage which means lost revenue for the printer.

When it comes to shortages, we have been blamed for all sorts of problems that didn't start at the bindery. One of my favorites occurs when a customer calls us claiming we used their make-ready sheets in the actual run! Our response: "Why send make-ready sheets at all?" Sometimes we receive six inches of flat sheets that, if the flag (skid tag) stays in during transportation, state "Use for make-ready only." It is not necessary to send six inches of stock for setup (probably 25 to 50 sheets will do). If make-ready sheets are sent, be sure not to pile them on the bottom of the skid and to angle cut the corners so there is no possibility they will be mixed with good printing.

The Printing Industries of Maryland has published a Recommended Spoilage Allowances chart which is a great tool to begin planning for spoilage allowances. (A portion of this chart is shown here.) Remember, however, that the degree of difficulty of a job will greatly influence the recommended allowances. It is merely a guideline and you should consult your bindery to determine what they believe is a safe amount. If you would like a complete copy of the spoilage recommendations published by PIM, please contact them at 1-800-560-3306 or me at 410-362-7200.

"Proper Planning Includes Spoilage Allowances"