It depends on your workload and quantities, what type of flexibility you need, etc. Here's what I've experienced.
I run a small in-plant (we also service the local community), and took over at a time when the shop was moving from offset/digital with a larger staff - transitioning to a smaller staff and digital-only. For several years we continued to produce booklets with our offline equipment - it worked and most of our quantities are fairly low. I had the opportunity last year to update our color press with an in-line saddle-stitcher (Konica C3080 with the SD-513). This has drastically
changed our workload and turnaround time. We're in a position where we can sacrifice the time to run booklet jobs in-line, and the ease of which we can crank them out is quite nice.
So what did we gain/sacrifice?
- We don't have a collator, so any saddle-stitched books were previously collated by hand. And it was a multi-step process - print, fold, collate, stitch, 3-side trim on the guillotine. We can still do this, but most of our work can be produced in-line now, so we can bypass all that equipment setup and added time, and it doesn't tie up any staff in any of those jobs.
- Turnaround time is vastly reduced (for our workload). Example - this week, the press was down intermittently for 2 days due print issues, and we had a customer who was hot for some booklets by EOD Wednesday. A tech came out and had us back up and running that morning, and we knocked the booklets out with plenty of time to spare - I didn't have to worry about getting them printed and then performing all the post-press processes on top of that. We could tackle other things instead, and the customer was happy. Direct from press to box.
- There's a limit to what any in-line equipment can do. Some jobs you'll need to be creative with, others you'll just have to tackle manually. Example - I have a booklet run coming up that will run on 80# gloss cover. I need to crease every sheet - it's a high-profile piece. The press will print, crease, and perform a top/bottom trim in-line, but we'll have to put them together manually. The stitcher unit is only able to crease the cover sheet when binding - it won't crease any body sheets. There's also a limit to how much you can trim off the sheets, and how small a sheet can be utilized for booklets.
- Once a year we have a run of ~6,500-7,000 booklets. Previously this was a big deal for us (small staff, I'd usually come in one weekend to get covers creased and signatures folded), and I allocated a good chunk of time to get these completed due to hand-assembly and the need to fit in other projects during that time as well. This year was the first that we ran them all in-line, and I was extremely impressed with the speed in which we were able to complete the job.
So for our
needs, an in-line was the right answer. Our Konica unit will crease, fold, place up to 4 staples in a booklet, square bind, and perform a 3-sided trim. We run full-bleed booklets all the time. You can also use the slitters, creaser, and folder for other jobs in limited capacity.