Inkjet Press Breaks Bottleneck, Slashes Stress at School In-plant
The bottleneck in the bindery was bad.
“We would have so many pallets of paper that were printed, stacked up everywhere, waiting to be put together,” remarks Derrek Thompson, manager of the Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District’s Janie Scott Print & Production Department. The 12-employee in-plant was producing books up to 120 pages in length, in runs of 10,000, using two offset perfecting presses. Finished pages sat on pallets, waiting to go on the collator. The sight of this looming workload was depressing to employees and created stress.
“We just couldn’t keep up at all,” says Thompson.
As a result, the in-plant was outsourcing $250,000 of work a year. Clearly this could not continue.
In July, the Houston in-plant solved this problem once and for all when it installed a Canon ColorStream 3900 inkjet production press. The black-and-white, continuous-feed digital press can print more than 900 letter-size images per minute.
“That machine runs all day, every day,” enthuses Thompson.
Paper is fed from an in-line Standard Hunkeler unwinder, and printed output is delivered to a Hunkeler CS6-HS cutter equipped with vertical perforation capabilities. Then it goes into a Horizon StitchLiner 6000 saddle stitcher for final finishing.
“It goes from a roll to a book, and they box it up and we send it out,” explains Thompson.
The 120-page books that used to take 54 hours to produce, now take just nine hours, Thompson says.
“Our turnaround time is remarkable,” he says. “It’s a huge difference.”
This has brought a noticeable change in morale in the shop.
“They’re not stressed out because they’ve got all this work that they have to do,” he notes.
The ColorStream 3900 is “pretty simple” for his operators to run, he adds, after just three days of training. And the fact that the in-plant already had a Horizon StitchLiner 5500 made staff very comfortable running the new StitchLiner 6000.
“The StitchLiner’s a really good piece of gear,” he praises.
With $1.8 million in annual sales, the Janie Scott Print & Production Department (named for a long-time employee of the in-plant) prints a variety of pieces for the third largest school district in Texas. These include curriculum materials, test booklets, study guides, and student organizers, as well as posters, banners, note pads, NCR forms, and bookmarks.
In addition to the ColorStream 3900, the shop runs a Xerox Color 1000, three Xerox Nuvera 157s, one Nuvera 120, and a Xerox D110, as well as one- and two-color Heidelberg and Ryobi offset presses. Its wide-format printing is handled by two 42˝ printers — an Epson and an HP DesignJet Z6200.
To justify the inkjet press to school officials, Thompson showed them how costly it was to continue outsourcing the work the in-plant couldn’t handle. He also noted the paper cost savings inkjet would bring.
“The savings on paper from cut-sheet to roll is tremendous,” he affirms.
And the in-plant uses a lot of paper. Thompson says each roll contains seven miles of paper.
“And we will do four to six rolls a day,” he says.
From Sheets to Rolls
Handling those rolls was a new challenge for this previously cut-sheet operation, but Thompson insists it is not difficult. Operators simply roll them over to the press. No special roll-handling equipment was needed to move them.
The in-plant uses the 3900 to print study guides, testing materials, student planners, and other teaching materials in book format. The quality of the inkjet output for these items is just as good as output from a toner device, Thompson insists.
By sending all of these items right to the inkjet press, the shop’s other equipment is free to handle the rest of its workload, and as a result nothing needs to be outsourced any more.
“I don’t have to send things out. Everything’s done in-house,” Thompson says.
So far the in-plant’s inkjet experience has been excellent, with only one service call made in seven months of operation. Thompson advises other in-plants looking into inkjet to look carefully at the specifications and ask a lot of questions — about ceiling height, electrical requirements, exhaust vents, and air and water lines.
“Overall, it’s just awesome for the shop,” he concludes. “It’s a whole lot less stressful.”
Related story: Houston School District Adds Inkjet Press, In-line Finishing
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.