Engaging one of New Zealand’s highly-skilled print finishers from the very outset of a project will deliver invaluable benefits to even the most difficult or technically-challenging print jobs, says Print Finishers Association (PFA) representative Nicole Doherty.
Renowned for attracting skilled staff with expertise to tackle technically-challenging projects that sit outside the square, Doherty says PFA members offer a wide range of services, can manage large print runs and will frequently create the possible out of the impossible.
She says, “When planning a print job, the benefits of getting your finisher involved and seeking their advice right from the start is invaluable. They are able to advise on layups, impositions, stock weights, die forms for die cutting and packaging and any other technical requirements necessary to ensure that the job can be completed effectively and on time.
“Don’t just think of your finishing as the end process; think of it at the start of the job as an integral component. Avoid costly mistakes and utilise the knowledge and experience of your trade finisher to get it done right, first time.”
Given the undoubted worth of this contribution to the print industry, Doherty says members of the PFA have recently raised concerns that the value-added operations of the finishing process are no longer being appropriately recognised within the Pride In Print Awards.
She says, “The quality of the finishing can often mean the difference between a job winning a gold medal or not. Many of the categories in the Pride In Print Awards require a finishing component to achieve a finished article and are not judged solely as ink on paper. Yet the companies who provided the finishing are often not publicly acknowledged.
“This is something that we have raised with the Pride In Print committee and we will continue to work with them over the coming year to try and gain recognition and awareness of the importance of print finishing in the production process.
“The PFA has scheduled its next meeting for March 2019 and we would welcome any other finishers who are interested in joining.”
A specialist group within the industry, for which PrintNZ acts as host association, PFA membership sees each firm specialising in its own area, rather than trying to be huge finishing houses that do absolutely everything under one roof, explains Doherty.
She adds, “Trade houses in New Zealand generally focus on speciality areas, investing capital in equipment not only for efficiency but also for fast production. Because of this specialisation, the depth and wealth of experience in these companies is huge.
“The length of time that many owners or employees have been in the trade also contributes to this. All of the member companies are family-run businesses with many having the second or even third generation coming through now.
“They focus on having qualified, experienced staff and because they deal with such a diverse group of customers and work, have the technical knowledge available to make sure that things go smoothly. There is not much that they haven’t seen over the years.
“Our membership includes companies who specialise in such diverse areas as producing die forms, packaging, die cutting, plastics, laminating, embellishments, folding, binding and restoration work.”
However, in addition to concerns over the declining number of print companies causing a consequent reduction in the potential customer base, another pertinent issue facing the sector is the trend for printers to establish their own in-house binderies.
“In-house binderies handle production of day-to-day projects as an ‘added value’. This focuses on them selling what they can produce to their customers rather than something that could genuinely add value to the customer’s work but would need to be outsourced to a trade house.
“Print companies often like to be seen as a one-stop-shop, so invest in finishing equipment. However, with the capital investment required to establish an in-house bindery, employ skilled staff in a market that is short on skill in this area and the expectation that the bindery will reach 100 per cent utilisation, there are high stakes for the gains expected.
“Profits made from trade houses are generally lower than those made from printing companies and therefore the decision to invest capital in machinery that is not going to have 100 per cent utilisation can prove to be even less profitable. While in-house post-press capabilities can be efficient, there are some projects that require the skill and expertise offered by a trade house.
“Our challenge is to make sure that designers and printers are familiar with the options available through trade houses and the benefits of using them — often the guidance of the trade house ensures the project can be produced on time and within a specified budget.”
 Doherty says an aging workforce and shortage of qualified and experienced print finishers also presents challenges to the sector. She says, “The PFA is active in promoting the benefits of training to our members and they are all supportive of trying to attract new talent to the industry and are committed to investing in training. Many of our members currently have apprentices going through the training system and we also show our support through the sponsorship of the Binding and Finishing Apprentice of the Year.
“Changes in technology and the move towards shorter, digitally-printed runs have also presented a challenge to finishers. Where once we would have been dealing with runs in the tens of thousands, now we may be just as likely to be dealing with runs in the tens.
“The move by printers toward more digital print has presented finishers with the need to adapt their technology and skill set to enable them to handle these shorter runs and the unique challenges that digital print brings over offset print — such as a greater propensity for cracking and paper curling, different toners creating issues with laminates and adhesives, registration maybe not being as accurate and not as many printed copies being available for make-readies.”
Having previously had an elected president and met every second month, the PFA has in more recent times adapted to changing circumstances. She says, “As a direct result of the economic climate, with lower staffing levels and owner/managers taking a more hands-on role in their businesses, members found it increasingly difficult to find the time to attend meetings. They decided to no longer have officers of the association and to meet as and when required.
“However, members have missed the face-to-face catch up and have reinstated regular meetings, deciding to meet twice yearly. Whilst we do not have a president we still have representation by members on the Pride In Print committee, PrintNZ management advisory group and we provide judges for the Pride In Print Awards.”
Doherty appreciates the secretary/treasurer role played by PrintNZ membership co-ordinator Heather Letfus as well as for PrintNZ itself serving as a resource centre for the PFA. Doherty says, “Heather has a huge wealth of knowledge of the print finishing industry and PrintNZ provides easy access to up-to-date information on industrial and legal issues, human resources and compliance. The documentation that is available helps to establish processes to assist member businesses to run smoothly.
“The PFA also works with Competenz to develop workplace training systems that reflect the needs of our sector and also keeps abreast of technology advancement. This helps us to ensure training for our sector is taking the right direction and that appropriate training options are available for the many diverse areas of print finishing.”
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History and membership
Established over 25 years ago to provide a voice for this niche within the wider print industry, the Print Finishers’ Association currently has a membership of 12 companies that operate in quite diverse areas.
Nicole Doherty says the association encourages the adoption of a uniform code of ethics throughout the industry, with members available for mediation in the event of a dispute.
Partnering with Competenz to develop and ensure that training schemes and apprenticeships reflect the needs of the sector, the PFA also sponsors the Binding and Finishing Apprentice of the Year and is a founding host association of the Pride In Print Awards.
Doherty says, “The members of the association provide trade services for the printing and allied industries and recognise the need for those who design, print and buy for these industries to be aware of the processes available through a trade house and especially the benefits that can come through working with a trade house.
“Members currently meet twice a year for discussions around apprenticeship, Pride In Print and print industry reports as well as general market and supplier discussions. There are sometimes guest speakers to provide more information around areas of interest including such things as health and safety, and debt collection.
“The meetings create an environment for the exchange of information and fellowship between members.”
She adds that membership has remained constant over the past few years with a decline in numbers only due to companies merging or exiting the industry.
Current members:
•       Bookbinding Press
•       Boxkraft
•       Custom Cutting Formes
•       Doherty Print Finishers
•       Eamar Plastics
•       GB Petty Diemakers
•       Graphic Lamination & Coatings
•       Multimail Solutions
•       Newton Cutting Formes
•       SI McHarg
•       Sharp Print Finishers
•       Two Stage Cutting Formes

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