From Trade Bindery to Full On-Demand Book Production

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Jan 26, 2015

In the past few years we have heard an awful lot about the printers adding additional services to stay competitive in their respective markets. So it was particularly interesting when Bridgeport National Bindery in Agawam, MA, a trade binder at heart, took the opposite course and added digital printing as a service. For most of the company’s history its sales representatives traveled throughout the Northeastern United States convincing print shops to send them their printed material for binding and distribution. This meant shipping and storing printed pages, having extra printed pages on hand in case of errors, and finally distributing completed work or shipping it back to the printer. It’s easy to see how that business process could be streamlined, and since 2005 Bridgeport National has been active in the print-on-demand market (POD). Their origins as a trade bindery, however, left them in an advantageous position when it comes to POD book printing due to the wide variety of applications and experience they have gained.

Last month Bridgeport National Bindery hosted an HP “Print your Future” event at their facility. Current and potential HP customers from all corners of North America attended with the intention of seeing the recently installed T230 inkjet web press alongside the cut-sheet Indigo 7600 & W7250. Prior to the facility tour a number of HP representatives took to the podium to discuss the evolution of their Ink Jet Web Press and Indigo product families along with the workflow solutions enabling them. Attendees also heard from executives of Bridgeport National and one of their customers,, who discussed how some of the recent technological advances in the POD book market have affected their businesses.

HP T230 at Bridgeport National Bindery

While the bindery is integral to this partnership, HP’s printing technology is equally important. Lulu has partnered with Bridgeport National since 2005 for print fulfillment, but in 2013 when Lulu became interested in the potential of high-speed inkjet technology the partnership was extended at the recommendation of HP. Bridgeport National’s investment in HP Ink Jet Web Press technology has enabled them to publish cost-effective books on demand at a higher rate of productivity (up to 22,000 orders a day) that hadn’t been possible until then.Partnering with publishers, such as the on-demand self-publisher, has allowed their transition from a bindery into a full-fledged book printing house. Bridgeport National has made strategic investments in electrophotographic and roll-fed inkjet technologies, to support businesses with a similar model as Lulu – book publishing down to quantities of one. Senior VP of Lulu, Kathy Hensgen, explained during her keynote at the event that Lulu currently offers 70 different printed and e-book formats to the more than 2 million authors who leverage the service. Bridgeport National, through years of experience and bindery investments, allows them to produce this variety of finished book sizes and in the desired quantities. The variability of formats permits authors to create and distribute their printed books in any way that they please.

Work waiting to be bound

A critical tool for Bridgeport National to process such a high number of low quantity custom jobs is HP’s SmartStream Production Center. Even the simplest book consists of a minimum of two parts – the text block and the cover. This solution collects information from integrated order management systems and drops jobs into an operator’s job queue. Once there the various components are split into predetermined workflows where resources are gathered to build each component independently then output in parallel on separate devices. The workflow is designed to produce the various components efficiently based on job specifications, device capabilities, and press availability. All of this ensures that the components will be available simultaneously when they reach the bindery, thus eliminating a common bottleneck in the book publishing process. The system also takes into account that errors can happen at any stage of the workflow, such as incorrectly cutting a book cover. Issues like this, which can disrupt the bindery operation, can now be addressed more quickly. The cutter operator can report the error in the system which notifies the press operator to give the reprint a higher priority in the press queue. While this type of automation is a nice feature for any print shop, it is critical for print-on-demand/just-in-time manufacturing operations that are producing books in quantities as low as one with tight turnaround times.

Even with this high level of automation, it was very interesting to see how much hand work is still necessary in finishing operations, even for a bindery with the capabilities and expertise of Bridgeport National. This also underscores the importance of investing in finishing automation. This type of investment is something that we at InfoTrends believe many printers should be exploring in 2015. In fact, we feel so strongly that we highlighted this topic as one of our top trends in our recently published 2015 Production Workflow Roadmap.


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