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"With Planning, you can turn your Finisher into a Dream Partner"
[Column #17, 5/96]

It's called R.E.M. (rapid eye movement) sleep in some circles. Most of us call it dreaming: A relaxing, deep sleep that's the perfect end to a perfect day. Everything has gone smoothly at work. You've been congratulated by a client for a job well done, your production team is performing supremely well, and all those sales training sessions are paying off with expanded business from existing clients and big new clients you never thought you'd land.

Unfortunately, for most of us in the graphic arts, this really is a dream. Once the alarm goes off, we hit the floor ready to tackle a new day of nightmare-making crises and putting out fires.

Here are some tips to make sure finishing house a dream partner (not a villain in your nightmares), one that shoulders responsibility and takes an active role in the success of your clients' projects.

Early planning makes for a good night's sleep. Here's a little fact to wake you up: According to Werner Rebsamen in a recent article in American Printer . . . "ISO 9000 experts estimate that approximately 70 percent of all quality problems in the graphic arts industry can be traced to mistakes made in the planning stages." We all know why. Designers and publishers have taken on the manufacturer's mantle and many simply are not properly trained.

The good news is a lot of them are beginning to recognize this. Every year, my company sponsors an all-day class in bindery methods. This year, the response was overwhelming, with six times our usual number of respondents, from print sales reps, CSRs and estimators to publishers and designers. We're holding five sessions this year, not one.

Persuade your clients to meet before they begin a project, and certainly before they begin preparing their files for print production. And, when needed, include your finisher in these early planning and design meetings. It's amazing how often clients fail to consider binding in their planning, which can turn your bindery into a wastepaper graveyard instead of a production partner.

We can be very valuable to you in these sessions, helping you head off production problems and working with you and your clients to trim costs and choose the right stock, coating, foil, type of die, etc. that works best for their project and budget. We all know clients hate surprises, even more than paying extra dollars for services they value. By working as a team at the outset of projects, we qualify ourselves as resources, not just vendors. In addition, this early involvement ensures none of us have those nasty surprises. We're able to accurately estimate jobs, based on a thorough understanding of what is entailed.

Good communication helps the ZZZZs. In the same above-mentioned article, Rebsamen goes on, " . . . it's safe to say the industry is missing the most important link to planning a successful product . . . effective communication." Unfortunately, involvement at the design stage is often impossible for both printer and finisher: Jobs come to you pre-designed, with stock, varnish and bindery method already chosen. This shouldn't preclude our early participation on projects.

Clients increasingly expect vendors to take the lead in making sure their project is failure-proof. If there's a problem and we don't catch it when we get the job, you can be sure we're going to be blamed when it goes off the tracks, particularly if the error impacts deadline and dollars.

Your finishing house can be a great resource for you when these predetermined jobs come in. We can spot-check the job to make sure the choices the client made are the right ones before it goes into production.

Our early involvement also protects against miscommunication between us, printer and finisher. For example, quality expectations in the high-tech arena are all over the map. There are clients who require designer-level quality, while others are less demanding. Requirements for overs and unders, also, can vary from client to client, which can greatly impact pricing, spoilage amounts and responsibilities between multiple-party manufacturers. Decisions about the number of pieces to be shipped per carton and whose cartons are to be used in final delivery are minor issues that can become major obstacles to meeting a deadline, if they haven't previously been agreed upon.

Dreams are in the details. Provide your finisher with as much detail as possible about the job, as far in advance as possible. This enables us to begin our processing of the job before it arrives. Include the estimate and/or purchase order and number, the number of sheets you'll be delivering for finishing, press check requirements, packing and shipping instructions.

Your finishing house should prepare a dummy book to simulate binding to make sure the designer has properly laid the book out in the electronic file. Discrepancies in margin height and gutter width are much easier to see catch in a mockup than in bluelines. Other problems, such as drilling or punching into type, are also quickly discovered when dummies are built.

When you deliver the job, make sure you've allowed adequate overs to cover spoilage and you've included support materials, such as artboards, bluelines, sample and a dummy book for jobs involving collation and trimming of multiple signatures. While some finishers ask for makeready sheets, we've found is to be a dangerous practice. If not adquately identified, these are apt to get mixed in with good product. Also, since it's impossible to determine the exact number of sheets we'll need in makeready, we prefer our customers supply us with overs which we can estimate before the job is printed.

If you can, include crop, gripper and guide marks on the sheets you submit to us. This allows us to immediately determine if adequate allowances have been made before we put the job on our equipment.

Give us accurate counts of the number of sheets or signatures you actually ship for finishing. This allows us determine right away if there are any discrepancies between the starting count and the number of finished pieces to be delivered.

Properly prepare your material for shipment; damaged sheets or signatures cannot be bound. Often, finishing is the middle link in a series of post-press operations that may include bindery, packaging, fulfillment and distribution. Shoddy packing at one end can seriously compromise the next partner's production in the chain and your client's deadline.

On time delivery, a prescription for sweet slumber. Stick to your delivery date or, if that's impossible, immediately notify your finisher of a change in scheduling. Most trade finishers bid jobs competitively, which means that scheduling jobs on equipment is on a first-come, first-served basis. Delayed delivery may mean missed deadlines, a bad dream in this age of ever-shorter turnarounds.

If there's a change in schedule or work-order, immediately notify your other manufacturing partners. On-going communication on projects is very important. This is especially true, if you are in a sole-source vendor relationship with the client, since these relationships are generally founded on being able to meet extremely fast turnarounds. The earlier we're informed of scheduling delays and production changes, the more likely we'll be able to adjust our production calendars to meet your deadline.

This is the stuff dreams are made of.

"With Planning, you can turn your Finisher into a Dream Partner"
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