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A Win-Win for Printer and Finisher? It’s In the Details

By:                   Bob Windler, President, Diecrafters, Inc.

Published In::    Printing Views, March 2003 issue


The old saying “the devil is in the details” has particular relevance for the graphic arts industry. The entire printing process – from design to post press – involves dozens of minute details that need to be effectively communicated if the job is to be produced properly and efficiently. This holds especially true for jobs that require finishing work. It’s quite common for printers to simply send along a previously printed sample with the instructions to “match this piece.” It’s also common for finishers to take these instructions literally and produce the piece to the customer’s specifications. After all, printers are experts at what they do, and finishers have no reason to doubt their competence.


It doesn’t do the printer or finisher any good, however, to match that previously printed piece and be done with it. A printer can win a lot of coveted jobs by allowing their finishing partner to suggest innovative solutions, and not just quote the job “as is.” This means that the first thing a finisher should do when receiving a quote is gather as many details about the piece as possible – even if it is a repeat of a project completed just last month. Very often, there’s a solution to be found that saves both time and money for the printer, and greatly improves their chances of winning the job. Here are a couple examples of how our company did just that for some of our clients.


A printer customer of ours wanted us to finish a “take-one” display holder project they were about to print. Their intended design was very specific: the grommeted holder would be mounted to an easel made of thick corrugated board. The pocket on the holder would need to hold material an inch thick, which led our customer to specify such heavy-duty construction.


We asked a few questions, however, and the information we gleaned in response allowed us to come up with a better solution. We proposed a design that involved only automatic production processes such as cutting, folding and gluing, and in doing so eliminated the grommeting and handwork that was previously required. This significantly lowered the finishing costs and production time of the piece, improving the customer’s chances to secure the job.


The original design also called for the piece to be shipped fully-prepared to retail store destinations. After consulting with our customer, we settled on a design that could be flat-packed and assembled at those destinations in a matter of seconds. This enabled us to reduce the number of skids from more than 20 to just two, slashing the shipping costs.


Another client came to us with a capacity folder project that would include a saddlestitched book. This is a piece that we produce on occasion, and it can be a challenge. The typical design for this piece calls for the capacity folder to be formed around the saddlestitched book, which requires a fair amount of handwork. Our customer asked us if we could provide a more cost effective solution that wouldn’t compromise the look or functionality of the piece.


We came up with a solution that fully automated the production of the piece. By oversizing the piece slightly, it receives a head and face trim and the stitching in a single pass. In addition, the piece can be automatically glued.


Communicate now, avoid problems later

These examples are indicative of how a finisher can lower costs and production times for their customers by simply asking a few questions. By communicating the little details at the beginning of the production cycle, you can avoid big problems down the road. Here are some additional communication tips to keep in mind regarding specific production processes:


  • Microperfed sheets going to subsequent processes? Test it first – Many direct mail piece designs call for microperfing to create a business reply card on one end of the sheet. If the piece will then move to a laser printer for personalization, paper selection is critical. Microperfing can weaken the sheet, and certain stocks (such as card and cover stocks) may separate at the perf when placed under stress. Avoid this scenario by sending your finisher sample sheets on a variety of stocks you’re considering to make sure you select one that will make it through each process.


  • Send properly-prepared die line files – A quality finisher will accept electronic files that represent the die lines necessary to complete any diecutting, foil stamping or embossing the job requires. These files need to be properly prepared, however, in order for your finisher to use them. Be sure to strip the file of all print-related information, such as screens, masks, filters, and color information. The file should be created in a format compatible with your finisher’s CAD software, which reads the file to produce the die. At Diecrafters, we accept several die files in several formats. Consult your finisher before you send a file to be sure it’s compatible with their specific equipment.


  • Even the simplest jobs have unique needs – Products that have common, straightforward designs, such as pocket folders, can still benefit from an improved design. Though the product itself may seem simple, every application is unique. Communicate the details of every piece to your finisher to see if there is a cost effective, alternative design.

Finishers can work together with designers and printers to win jobs that may not otherwise come their way. Providing customers with solutions that save time and money makes a finisher a valuable production partner. Likewise, printers and designers that pass these solutions on to their customers will end up winning additional – and more lucrative – work.


Bob Windler is president of Diecrafters, Inc., a leading Midwestern finishing company.  Diecrafters offers complete post press planning and finishing services including: Die cutting, foil stamping, embossing, folding, gluing, binding, mounting, fulfillment and warehousing.  Bob can be reached at 708-656-3336 x112 or rwindler@diecrafters.com.