Thinking Outside the Box May Be Key for Finishers and Binderies

We are several weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic. As I write this in the first part of May, many communities are beginning to reopen and hopefully will begin to “restart” our economy. We can all hope and pray this is the case. As we begin to get back to some type of normal activity, our FSEA members and others in the graphic arts industry will need to be innovative and clever with how they move forward with their businesses.

Coming out of a situation like this, much like back in 2008 and 2009, our FSEA members and others need to take a close look at their businesses and decide where some cost cutting can be implemented. This may include running more lean with employees, but it also might just be looking carefully at what is happening on your shop floor with jobs and evaluating where costs can be saved there. You might think that it’s not the best time to invest into new or updated equipment, but if doing so could save 50% of set-up time for a particular job – or actually save enough of an employee’s time to allow them to possibly run two machines instead of one, the investment may be well worth it.

As we ease out of the pandemic, many of your customers – mostly printers – may not bring back a full set of employees right away. With many printers having finishing and bindery processes in-house, it may provide an opportunity to help them in the short-term with these processes as they ease back into full employment. So services such as diecutting, folding/gluing, saddlestitching, perfect binding and others may be outsourced to keep up with growing demand. It might be worthwhile to provide discounts in the short-term to help your printing customers out as they return to normal business activity.

It also is time to watch for new opportunities. I have seen emails and have talked to some of our FSEA members who have gotten involved with the production of face shields. Both MCD Incorporated and DataGraphic have developed processes in-house to produce face shields for our healthcare workers and others on the front line. There may be a demand for face shields for quite some time, and the way our lives may change can provide other opportunities as well. Film laminating may increase in usage because menus and other printed materials are going to be subject to being wiped and cleaned more often. So, lamination or even UV coatings can help make the cleaning process easier and more effective.

Lastly, something I would most definitely advocate is to use this time when it may be slower to work on putting together samples and designs to promote your finishing work. This is especially important for those offering foil and embossing. Having samples to show potential customers and how these processes can change the presentation of a printed piece can make all the difference in the world. I would suggest starting a program that you stick to, perhaps coming out with a new sample piece to give to customers on a regular schedule. Quarterly is probably plenty, but a schedule will help keep it going.

We all know that there will be a “new normal” as the pandemic continues to impact our lives. It will be important for our entire graphic arts industry to adjust as well. I am confident we can and we will. No other large industry has had to adjust to a changing climate more than printing, and it certainly isn’t time to stop now.

Jeff Peterson
FSEA Executive Director