Folio Print Finishing has been at the top of the trade finishing game for three decades, initially providing perfect binding and other services to printers in the south west, latterly to a wider audience as the population of printers in the area has shrunk and the number of finishers across the rest of the country has diminished.
This has prompted a move to new premises at Avonmouth which, says founder Andy Bird, is closer to the motorway network, so easier for customers to access for deliveries of work to the business. This covers the range of finishing that is typically sent out: long runs, awkward jobs, fast turnaround work. And this demands a highly responsive, highly skilled, workforce. Few will thank the finisher and the end customer is unlikely to even know; but get it wrong and the finisher bears the blame.
The company has up to 50 staff, most part of the team for a good number of years. “And finishing is still a high skill, labour intensive business. The experience we have is vast; we have huge amount of industry knowledge,” Bird says. He has been joined this summer by the vastly experienced Richard Hughes from Quantum Bookbinding who becomes Folio’s managing director. Already, a Meler PUR unit has been added to improve the ability to produce this type of perfect bound product.
The type of trade work puts a premium on the technology that the company uses. The list of folders includes Stahl and Herzog + Heymann for miniature folding; it is Muller Martini for perfect binding and saddle stitching; Stahl for direct mail folding, wire binding with Renz and James Burn, lamination, full purring and creasing using Polar guillotines, Cylinders and Heidelberg Varimatrix die cutting platen. And a Duplo 600i booklet maker.
If this causes eye brows to lift among customers, it did more than that among staff at the business itself. “I always thought that we could never consider this technology,” says Bird. “But as run lengths are coming down, I went to an open house at the point where we had also just lost one of our skilled sidle stitcher operatives.
Folio could. The installation was followed by a period of settling in as the company got used to a new way of working. There are none of the laps necessary on a folded section for a saddle for example and there was initial suspicion about the robustness and suitability of the machine for trade work. Everything is set from memory or a touch panel.
The initial resistance has now been overcome. “At first the team took some convincing. It’s now one of the more favoured pieces of kit that we have. We use it for collating. We use it as a general folding machine for four up or perhaps section work if everything is being used.” And it is taking on shorter run stitched work, but not only shorter runs. “We have produced 53,000 A5s on 115gsm with a self cover and it will run for five or six hours’ folding and stitching,” he says.
“We can put a 250,000 run of a 28pp product through with a single operator.”
These are hardly the sorts of job that rare generally considered the sweet spot for Duplo equipment and a big endorsement for the technology. The 600i comes with two collating towers, each with ten bins to run non stop. These can be filled with 64-300gsm sheets to 350x508mm or 230x610mm maximum or 105x170mm minimum and will deliver 5,200 stitched books an hour. This covers a wide range of papers and formats including A4 landscape and square products. Separate feeding can extend the range to a 610mm sheet.
The unit can run as a straight collator, straight or section folder as well as delivering into foredge and head and foot trimmer.
“There are so many different facets to it, it has become a really useful addition to what we do,” says Bird. “It is very much part of the set up now, considered in planning meetings like any other piece of production equipment.”
By Gareth Ward