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Cutting Corners, Boosting Profits

Profiting with Finishing

By Thomas Franklin

4 of a 4 Part Series

Many invest in a multifunction router after purchasing an UV flatbed printer and the fearful thought of hand cutting rigid board becomes a reality.

Yet as with any significant capital expenditure, it has as much to do with the bottom line as it does with capability. Routers are not inexpensive, with systems running from $20,000 to $150,000 depending on configuration. You’ll be making a serious investment to enjoy full automation, the ability to cut and rout multiple substrates, and create packaging. Is it worth it?

Unequivocally yes, says Jim Sullivan, president, Brandboxx Display Graphics. He purchased a Kongsberg i -XL22 with MGE’s i-cut vision system and reports that it paid for itself in six months. The router allowed his shop to stop outsourcing jobs it couldn’t handle on older equipment as well as expand into new markets thanks to the system’s cutting flexibility.

New markets have also boosted the bottom line of BIGraphics, Inc., shares Dave Merrick, owner. With his Gerber M-3000 flatbed router, Merrick was able to add contour cutting to his fast growing digital printing business.

Aside from opening new markets, or reducing outsourcing, routers also deliver efficiency gains—reducing personnel hours spent hand cutting or working with older, less automated or less accurate equipment, explains Don Skenderian, direct sales VP, Kongsberg. Greater accuracy also reduces material waste, which results in cost savings, says Marco Azzeratti, director, Graphics Solutions, Gerber Scientific Technology, Inc.

"We see the market expanding, it’s not just large businesses making this investment, we’re selling into shops with $1 million in annual revenue," says Peter Alsten, North American product manager, Zünd. "They want to expand their business without adding labor costs."

When considering a router or multifunction finishing system, how much you cut is less important than what you’re cutting, Alsten shares. Customers can start out with a simple system dedicated to a few core materials and then add additional cutting tools to the system if their needs change, he adds.

"Customers are concerned about routers, but almost every customer has more roll than rigid capability in their printing department," Alsten observes. "When they look at the cutter, they don’t think about roll materials, they think about the rigid substrates. We try to tell them ‘we can do it all’."

Profiting from finishing often requires a mindset shift, argues Al Boese, manager, SGIA-PPMA Alliance. His advice, "Forget everything you know about print finishing. In fact, forget you even read the word ‘finishing.’ If you want to boost the profitability of your print business, forget you’re even in the printing business. "

"People who do digital printing think they’re in the digital printing business but they’re not. They’re in the manufacturing business, whether it’s signs, POP, or tradeshow," continues Boese.

Customers aren’t searching for prints, Boese says, but solutions. "They come with an objective—a tradeshow graphic—delivered to them in a form they can set up. Finishing therefore must be a vital part of the workflow and your cost analysis." It’s not, he stresses, an afterthought.

Indeed, the incorporation of the Post Print Manufacturers Association (PPMA) with SGIA is a reflection on the importance the industry is placing on all forms of finishing—not just mounting and laminating. SGIA will soon begin offering training on these systems to compliment existing courses on mounting and laminating. Those courses may be available as early as later in 2008, but definitely available in 2009. The association will also augment its research to include specific issues related to cutting/routing, says Boese. It is evident that as the print industry grows, finishing systems and their importance continue to grow along with it.

Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, The Final Cut.
Click here to read Part 2 of this exclusive online series, BIGraphics Makes the Cut.
Click here to read Part 3 of this exclusive online series, Variety Cutting.

Feb2008, Digital Output

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