Finishing Is Not An Afterthought

AccuLink’s Engineered Workflow Leverages Standard Finishing’s Automated Finishing Solutions
by Sean O’Leary

When long time trade printer AccuLink got the recommendation from Dscoop, Tom O’Brien understood right away it was going to be a game changer.

One of the world’s largest digital print and design communities, the Dscoop organization links HP digital PSPs with designers, creatives and users. So when a major personalized print products company was looking for an east coast manufacturing partner, the organization tapped AccuLink as a contender.

The good news was that the client would be bringing a formidable new revenue stream, but as Operations Manager, Tom O’Brien also knew that AccuLink would have to up their game.

“We could foresee this adding huge volumes to our business,” said O’Brien. “The scenario they presented, and the numbers they predicted were scary, but my brother Paul, our IT guru, and I were up for the challenge.”

The O’Briens determined that the chance to grow would require nothing short of a total operational review. The first step was to engineer a workflow that could take the job stream sent by the customer and automate it to the fullest extent possible. The challenge was to process an extremely wide range of job types streaming into the shop 24/7 and sort out the applications. That would include anything from business cards and invitations to dye sublimation jobs and books. The new workflow aggregates similar products and imposes jobs according to target press, substrate and other key parameters.

Within a month, the company had determined that the new workflow scenario could handle the job in terms of print production. Deploying the updated solution, AccuLink had no problem keeping up with the print production, quality control, pick-and-pack and fulfillment. But the finishing operation was a different story. While the automated workflow cranked out all kinds of jobs smoothly and on schedule, at the end of the line the technology ran smack into an analog bottleneck.

”We had four people working 10 to 15 hours per day operating two 45” cutters and we still couldn’t keep up,” said O’Brien.

But with the stakes this high, the brothers were determined that finishing would not be an afterthought.

AccuLink’s chose to acquire a Standard Horizon SmartStacker to handle business cards, invitations and other types of cut cards. According to O’Brien, the new addition fit seamlessly into the workflow. Integrated into HP’s Direct-to-Finish solution, the printer places a barcode on the cover sheet for each job, which automatically sets up the SmartStacker.” Skids of printed product move directly from digital printers to the SmartStacker, where the operator simply presses Start.

Although AccuLink is now producing 150,000 to 200,000 cards per day, the SmartStacker is estimated to be running at only 25% capacity. Along with the SmartStacker, Acculink deploys a number of other automated finishing solutions from Standard. For example, an Indigo 10000 feeds a CRF-362 Creaser/Folder.

“We couldn’t turn that work around quickly enough on our previous equipment,” said O’Brien. “We had to crease first and fold second, and that simply took too much time in the fast-turn, short-run world we operate in. The CRF-362 is also a ‘set it and forget it’ device.”

The company also uses a Standard Horizon RD-4055 Rotary Die Cutter, BQ-160 and BQ-270 Perfect Binders, and a bookletmaker and folder to support the pumped up finishing operation.

“We are a trade shop. We need to have everything in-house so we can quickly turn jobs around without the associated delays when work has to be outsourced for finishing. Our customers just want to send the work, and have us drop ship it back or white label direct to their customer, with no fuss or muss.”

Founded in 1980, AccuLink produces high value-added solutions for marketing campaigns, fundraising programs, employee benefit initiatives, self-publications and packaging solutions, primarily serving the trade. The company operates an 80,000 square foot facility on a 12-acre campus in Greenville, NC, and has clients in all 50 states, as well as overseas.

Standard will be featuring its finishing products at Booth 1629 at Print ’18, with a range of equipment set up for live demonstrations in die-cutting, perfect binding and trimming, slitting and creasing, folding, saddlestitching, inspection systems, and roll-fed print solutions. The latest Horizon and Hunkeler models will be featured, highlighting advanced automation and new technology. Also look for a demonstration of Hunkeler’s Generation 8 keeping pace with the newest and fastest inkjet presses.

Canon Research

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