7 Proven Tips on How to Master Any Print Finishing Equipment
Most of us in the printing industry probably remember our first day on the job. I recall wandering through skids of paper, assaulted by the hectic buzz of large, high-speed multi-color presses. Escorted to my new home at the back of the shop, several pieces of old, ugly bindery equipment lay in monstrous wait for me. I had no clue where paper went in or where it came out.
My first job that day had nothing to do with bindery machinery. I had to manually insert a two-page section into a four-page piece of sheet music. That was the day I learned that 10,000 was a huge number, because that’s how many finished pieces there were. It took me forever. That was my first lesson on the importance of fast hand labor, manual dexterity and practice. Slow was frowned upon.
The next day my equipment education began. I was eager, but the process was slow, overwhelming and occasionally frustrating. With the hindsight of many years of both good and bad experience with all kinds of print finishing equipment, I eventually learned a few ways to speed up the learning process and avoid mistakes. Here are a few of the lessons:
1. Read the Manuals
I recall taking a new job at a shop with an assortment of folding machines. By this time, I had several years’ experience on larger machines and the small pile-fed Baumfolder seemed easy enough, so I didn’t bother to look at the manuals.
The folder simply wouldn’t feed well on some jobs no matter what I tried. After struggling for weeks, I picked up the manual and there in a simple diagram was the answer to my feeder problem. There was one pile height adjustment for light stocks and a second one for cover stocks. I was using one setting for both stocks. Duh. Problem solved. From that day on, I never ignored equipment manuals.
If you can’t find the manuals, search online. Or send us an email and if we have one, we’ll send it to you. There are plenty of manufacturer’s resources available online, such as the FAQ’s and Instructions we have on our own site.
2. Take a Class
All the major manufacturers such as Heidelberg, MBO, Muller, Baumfolder and Horizon have training available at their facilities or will send instructors to your shop.
This related story talks about how one printing company boosted productivity on their Stahl B26 up to 80 percent with basic equipment training from the manufacturer. It’s what you don’t know that hurts you!
The training you get from a manufacturer is likely to be more thorough than training you get from co-workers. On-the-job learning is intermittent and probably doesn’t follow any kind of syllabus. It’s still very valuable but it may leave gaps in knowledge. The manufacturer wants to see you succeed with their equipment. I can say from experience that this is not always the case with some co-workers.
The photo to the right shows Matt Loeschorn, (right side) our operations assistant at Technifold USA, at the August 2015 MBO Folding School. Three days of manufacturer training gave him an excellent background on folding equipment that we couldn’t have provided in-house.
3. Talk to a Mechanic
Without a doubt, talking to a bindery equipment mechanic can be one of the most important things you do. A good, trustworthy mechanic will freely share valuable tips, tricks, and suggestions, especially if they do regular work in your shop. They have field experience that you’ll never get and is likely not in any equipment manual, if there is one even available. Keep a running list of machine squawks and questions. Then share them with the mechanic the next time he or she stops by.
If you’re looking for a technician for a particular piece of bindery equipment, send us an email here with equipment details and we’ll send you the name of someone who should be able to help.
4. Get a Part-Time Job on the Equipment You’re Learning
One of the best educational things I ever did was to take a part-time night job working at a trade bindery. It was in the same New York City building where I worked during the day, so logistics were easy. I simply walked upstairs when I clocked out from my day job.
When I started the part-time job, I had a couple years of experience and was starting to feel like I had learned something. My first night on the new job proved otherwise. I was given a simple signature to fold and didn’t have a clue. My night time boss quickly figured out my skill level and was gracious enough to slow down the pace and give me some instruction. I learned a lot, and fast!
5. Ask Questions
Ask questions of colleagues who also work on your equipment. Ask the manufacturer or vendor. As their customer you’re entitled to some level of assistance. (We always welcome any and all questions here at Technifold USA and will work doggedly to get you the right answer. You can ask us anything here.) Ask questions in online forums. Printplanet.com has several forums devoted to various segments of the printing business including postpress and print finishing. Members of Printing Industries of America have several forums available for asking questions. Use your social media connections to find people who might be able to answer your questions.
Don’t forget however, to respect other people’s time when you’re picking their brain. If you’re asking questions of a busy technician or popular consultant, he or she will likely respond. But there could be a fee for extended consultation. Professionals charge for their time, especially if it’s the only product they offer.
6. Be Methodical
In the early stages of learning, a hurried approach won’t get the job done any faster and will increase mistakes. Create a makeready technique or checklist that works for you. You can still be methodical and fast. Speed comes with experience.
7. Subscribe to the Bindery Success Strategies Newsletters
As our name suggests, we’re committed to your print finishing success. We share what we know and our readers do the same. The newsletters are free and you can ask us anything, any time. Go here to sign up with your email or for the print newsletter, or both.
If you’re new to your bindery department, don’t get discouraged. With a little patience and study you’ll quickly pick up what you need to know.
When he’s not busy helping printers become more profitable with unique bindery equipment accessories, Andre Palko writes on the subject of print finishing at the Bindery Success™ Blog. A print industry veteran of 30+ years as well as founder and President of Technifold USA, Inc., his articles are regularly featured in many print and online trade publications. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.