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It Was Almost Time To Say Goodbye
This issue was going to be my last fling at writing Printer's Ink. After 26 years at T-S (Harry Shore and I started the company in 1972) we will both be retiring at the end of the year. Actually, since the end of 1997 we've been working only about half time and haven't really been active in running the company during that time.
In July of last year the company was formerly sold to the employees and we have pretty much just been observing that ownership and management transition ever since. And . . . having just concluded the best financial quarter in the company's history, the transition seems to be going well.
At any rate, as it turns out, this will not be the last issue of PI that I'll write (I was asked if I would like to continue to write Printer's Ink after I "retired". . . and I said yes), it still seems like an appropriate time to comment on what Harry and I hoped to do when we started this company and how it seems to have gone so far.
I believe there were two seminal events that sort of laid the foundation for the style or philosophy that became the backbone of this company.
Sometime prior to 1972 Harry and I both had the benefit of working for a company where success was measured by how well the "executives" made out. To illustrate this, I vividly recall being told by one of these executives (for whom I worked) that as I matured in my work experience I would come to realize that one of the great truths of business is that there are two conflicting forces in every business enterprise . . . workers and management. If you are going to be a part of management you've got to realize that it's your duty to take advantage of the worker . . . because if you don't he or she will take advantage of you.
My reaction to that philosophy was to think (not say), "Man, there's got to be a better way to run a railroad than that".
The second event, also prior to 1972, was equally vivid and meaningful to me. It occurred while I was working in marketing for G.E. and attended a course in decision making. This course, called The Managerial Grid, was developed by Masters and Johnson and, I think, it is still considered to be a good decision making tool even in our current, enlightened world.
The course consisted of a diverse group of people answering a long series of questions individually, then answering them again collectively . . . after discussing the various answers each person had. The result of this exercise . . . after spending two days in a closed, windowless, room discussing the reasons behind your answers, was that (we had 12 separate groups with six people in each group) almost every group came up with better answers than any individual in the group had been able to make. The few groups that did not achieve this collective success were ones where some group members insisted they knew the right answers and they wouldn't accept any ideas from others. A couple fights actually broke out, one person smashed a chair over the table and left the meeting . . . and shortly the company as well. The people who ran the event managed to keep up a very intense pressure on the participants so if you managed to work successfully as a group it was very rewarding. On the other hand, if your group failed, the person or persons responsible should have felt like jerks.
From these two earth shattering revelations came our T-S philosophy which has always been and still is:
All people should have the opportunity to feel they are an important, contributing part of the group and everyone's ideas should be listened to.
So, as a result, we have spent 26 years virtually running this company by committee, badgering people to express their ideas, telling everyone that if we succeed they are individually all responsible for that success and should we fail, we are all responsible for that too, that if we perform better than our competition we won't need salespeople, that every person can and should take pride in their work, that NO job and NO person is unimportant, that everyone can effect what the customer thinks about T-S, and lastly, we should all have the opportunity to share in the profits and ownership of the company that we all, collectively, created.
With a philosophy like that you've got to end up believing that our hearts are pure . . . HOWEVER let me add that it sure as heck isn't easy to run an organization successfully this way. As far as Harry and I are concerned, we've never varied in our beliefs and how we've tried to achieve them but we've not pulled it off as successfully as I believe we should have.
For 26 years we've believed and preached that T-S exists to serve two constituencies . . . our employees and our customers. The shareholders will be taken care of if the employees and customers are well served. If we do enough things right, profit will inevitably result but profit is not the real motivation . . . good individual and team performance and constant striving to improve, are the things we're trying to achieve. They are what should be motivating us.
I believe we have been successful in achieving loyal, dedicated employees as well as loyal, fairly satisfied customers. However, that has not been universally true and I suspect we have both some employees and some customers who would tell me this company is no different or better than all the others who are out there.
I'd like to think that at this point, skepticism is good news. We've got fundamentally sound, good principles and ideas and we've had some success in achieving them. However, regardless of how hard we've tried and how close we have or haven't come there's still a lot of improvement left out there. And that's one of the reasons that it seems the right time for Ned and Harry to step aside and watch what the people can do without us directly involved. The company philosophy will not change. We will still be on the T-S Advisory Board and the Board of Directors and a specific written assignment that the two of us have is to see that the culture of the company does not change but, instead, is carried forward more effectively than ever.
I will continue to write this newsletter and will continue to talk with employees and customers and, hopefully contribute thoughts, observations and suggestions as time goes by. And, hopefully, we'll get to someday see just how much can be achieved by a successful team who's "hearts are pure".
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Thomson-Shore Voted the Outstanding Printing Company in Michigan in 1998
The award, nicknamed a Benny after Benjamin Franklin, is determined annually by a vote of members of different graphic arts groups in Michigan. The groups that vote include the Adcraft Club of Detroit, Printing Industries of Michigan, Women's Advertising Club of Detroit, Graphic Arts Guild, The Detroit Club of Printing House Craftsmen, and the Detroit/Toledo Graphic Communication Institute. As far as we can recall, no other book printer has ever won this award.
Judgement criteria are based primarily around a company's contribution to the printing industry and to its community.
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Here Are Some Problems and Solutions for Providing Cover and Jacket Films
About 10% of our covers and jackets are printed from furnished negatives but that 10% accounts for about half of our problems in that area. Here's a brief run down of the most common problems and some ideas on how you can eliminate them.
Probably the most common problem is negatives that come to us with the wrong allowance for the width of the spine.
This has a simple solution. We have a layout diagram for covers and jackets that you can download from our Web site (it is in the form of a program that asks you questions and then prints out an accurate layout diagram) or call us and we can fax it to you to fill out. This diagram will also help provide accurate allowances for the flaps on a dust jacket
The second most common problem is with trapping allowances. This generally occurs when the service bureau that created the negatives did not have, or at least did not properly use, trapping software.
Whenever you are trapping any two or more elements, a problem is going to arise if the service bureau relies on "butt fitting" instead of trapping. A white line will inevitably result because a butt fit cannot be registered perfectly on the press. You can also go too far with a trap allowance causing dark outlines where the elements trap together.
When properly used, trapping software will solve this problem for both pantone colors or for 4-color process.
The solution is to be sure your service bureau has, and uses, trapping software. This is not always the case.
We can also offer some suggestions for you to pass on to your negative creator. These would include the following:
We recommend a trap allowance of .25 points or .0025 inches as a general rule of thumb. You may want to increase or decrease that amount slightly, depending on the weight of type, density of colors trapping together and overall design.
Metallic inks should be set up with less then the "normal" trap. We recommend .15 points or .0015 inches.
We feel you get better print quality if you DO NOT overprint black on metallic or vice/versa. We would suggest they be trapped instead, always treating the black as the dominant color.
If you have a specific "design" in mind that you feel requires something different from these guidelines, just let us know and if you're sure this is what you want, we'll do it without questioning it.
Aside from trapping problems, another thing to take into account is the allowance for bleeds. We recommend 1/8" or more for cover and jacket bleeds.
A last thing to take into consideration is the 3/8" space needed for the fold of the jacket flap. Everything else may be properly figured but if you miss that 3/8", your flap copy will not appear where you expect it. This problem, like several others, will be eliminated if you use our cover and jacket layout diagram to position your copy.
A final suggestion . . . instead of using a service bureau, send your file to us and we'll create the negatives for you. We will likely be less expensive than a service bureau and we have the advantage of knowing exactly what we need and having the equipment to do it.
If you have any questions about any of this you can call Laurie Briegel at T-S for help.
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We Need Your Shipping Instructions!
I'm sure I speak for all book manufacturers when I write the above headline. Shipping instructions that do not get to your printer until the production cycle is complete are a continuing problem for all of us. This can cause books to be repacked and it takes up space in an area where we have little room.
When I checked yesterday, we had ten jobs sitting on our shipping department floor, finished and packed but being held up because the customer hasn't provided shipping instructions. Two of the ten actually were labeled as rush orders which we finished on time but now we can't ship.
When we get to about the level of ten completed jobs being held up, we will hesitate to bind books on any additional orders where the shipping instructions are missing because we just don't have the space to put the books after they are bound.
If you do not send us shipping instructions when you send your job in we will ask for them when we send the blueline. If they don't come in then, our next step is to call the customer and again remind them after the books are off press. This is followed by still another reminder that your books may not ship on-time if the instructions aren't received in 24 hours.
At any rate, you will make your printer's life easier and forever be a cherished customer if you can let him or her know just where the books are to go . . . as early as possible.
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When we go direct-to-plate for the text copy of a book we send out a digital blueline instead of a conventional blueline. This proof is ripped with the same RIP that will RIP the plate so it is very accurate and it can print on the same color paper the book will print on since the output is done on a HP duplicating laser printer.
The digital blueline (DBL) is folded into signatures that show the books final trim marks but they are not trimmed to the final page size because the backup of the two sided laserwriter that printed them isn't that precise. However, since the actual printed page back up is done by a computer, the final page backup is extremely precise. We send a letter of explanation out each time we send out a DBL and it should answer any questions you might have about the bluelines.
At the moment about 10% of our new work is going direct-to-plate and it is proving to be from one to three days faster in getting to the proof stage.
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In the last couple issues of Printer's Ink I mentioned that I hoped to have a pair of swans on the lake beside our home in Arizona. PI was even responsible for helping me locate a place to obtain the swans when a reader called me with that information. Alas, however, after six months of planning this, reading up on swans and figuring just how to do it I think the idea is now dead.
While most people who commented on the idea were positive, a local Ann Arbor company (Domino's Farms which is part of Domino's Pizza) that has swans on their lake, told me they are great birds as long as you have them on a lake that is fenced in. While I don't think their experience is necessarily typical, they maintain a swan is apt to attack anything that comes near it and that's more of a risk than I care to take.
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With regard to qualifying for our $.30/page discount for text copy that comes in on a file instead of as camera ready copy, we have tentative plans to require that the files be in either PostScript on PDF form, and not application files. We will likely make this official sometime in the first quarter of 1999 and will announce the time before we put it into effect.
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Right now paper prices can be described a being a bit "soft". In August there was a drop of about 4% in white text stock prices and our feeling is that both white and natural are apt to decline a bit more around the end of the year. Currently natural text stock is about 25% higher priced than white.
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When a customer requests mechanical binding (wire-o, spiral wire, GBC, plastic and plastic coil) we take the production through folding and gathering then outsource the actual binding. In relationship to perfect or notch binding, our additional price for mechanical binding of a book will be approximately (depending on the bulk and the quantity of copies) $.34/copy, $.48/copy, $.44/copy or $.48/copy for spiral wire, wire-o, plastic comb or plastic coil, respectively. Mechanical binding will also add from one to two weeks to the production schedule.
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As a point of interest, for a 6x9" book of approximately 1/2" bulk (the above mechanical binding costs were based on a 3/8" bulk which is fairly typical for that kind of binding so are a bit less than shown in the following example), here are approximate, comparative binding prices for various binding styles.
|B.Case Bound In a Jacket||$2090||$3480|
|C.SmythSewn Soft Bound||$950||$1430|
If there is no dust jacket the case bound prices would come down about $.10 a copy.
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When you send T-S electronic files for covers and jackets, or for text copy, be sure to include a filled out T-S Electronic Data Sheet. We have one form for covers and jackets and a second one for text pages. If you don't have our EP Datasheets, you can obtain them via fax from us or download them from our Website at www.tshore.com. We won't proceed with a job unless we have the forms so filling them out and sending them in with your job will save time.
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Keeping Up With Changes in Electronic Prepress
Here are some brief comments on things that are evolving in Electronic Prepress:
PDF Files: As you may have read in some graphic arts magazines PDF is not turning out to be a file format that is immediately solving all of the short comings that created some frustrations with PostScript work flows. However, it seems to us that PDF is still evolving very quickly and there is so much impetus behind it that it appears it will inevitably replace PostScript in the near future.
One of the areas where it is coming on quickest and seems to be the most successful is in black and white work such as books. We are already getting 20% . . . and this number is rising steadily . . . of our new, incoming work on PDF files. We frequently get both PDF and PostScript files on the same job and we will use the PDF file when we have this choice. As is the case with PostScript, for any halftones that go in your text copy we encourage you to send in the photo in advance, we'll make the scan and send you the high resolution file so you may include it in your PDF or PostScript file. We cannot open a PostScript or PDF file up and add anything to it but if you prefer not to add a halftone scan to your PostScript file yourself, then we can always manually strip the halftone negative into the page negative after it is output from your file.
There is an entire software industry springing up around PDF to develop preflight checks, data extraction, enhanced editing capabilities, easy copying of text and graphics, automatic correction of various problems (and identification of other problems that it detects but can't correct), data translation, enhanced viewing, file merging . . . and much, much more.
All of this effort is going to propel PDF forward until it completely dominates graphic file creation.
The benefits you will realize if you use PDF include a file size from 1/10 to 1/100 that of PostScript, all fonts and graphics contained in a single file, a file that's fully and completely viewable on a screen with everything in place, a format that is platform independent (it can run on PC, Mac or Unix and it can cross platforms), and a file that is less complex than PostScript.
Our PDF guidelines are available now via fax or they can be downloaded from our website. Call us if you have any questions about PDF or would like more information.
OPI Halftones: We have installed new equipment that allows us to make our own CD's. This, in turn, allows us to send the customer both low and high res scans of halftones back to them on a CD. This way they can view the high res scan and then place either the low res in their file (which we would then swap for the high res scan when the file, and the CD, is returned to us). Or, if the customer wants, they can put the high res scan directly into the file. The advantage of being able to do this is the customer can see the page with the halftone in its final form and, if they want, they can retouch the high res image before putting it in place. The disadvantage would be that the file size will be larger and this may not be convenient.
The advantage to us of sending both high and low res scans to the customer is also significant. Once the customer has the CD and says the halftones are fine, we can dump them from our server and save vast amounts of storage.
We have created new guidelines for this OPI process and they are available via fax or on the Website. They are also burned into the CD in PDF format so you'll see them when you view the CD.
We are now handling most of our halftones via OPI, whether or not the customer receives the CD, and we feel this is absolutely the best way to reproduce and position photos.
Dot Gain: For several years now, T-S has developed and used a system of printing dot density bars on all of our printing plates and dot gain scales on all of our plates containing halftones or screens. These techniques were unique with us and I suspect we are still the only book printer who has ever done this.
The purpose of the dot density bar is to eliminate the chance for light and dark printing on text pages. By automatically reading the bars with a densitometer, we can accurately identify and control variation in page density inking.
The dot gain scale provides a similar check for observing the density of screens and halftones.
Dot gain is an offset printing phenomenon that, because of improper packing, too much ink, and just the natural process of paper absorbing ink, causes virtually all screened images to print a bit darker especially in the shadow ends. This is a particular problem that will many times be extreme enough to make the halftone "fill in" and look very dark. It is something that was a severe problem in letterpress printing because of ink squeezeout and is still a problem in offset printing if the press person isn't extremely careful.
If you can accurately measure dot gain, so you realize when it is occurring, you can take steps on the press to significantly reduce it.
While dot gain is not directly related to EP, with the increasing use of direct to plate, dot gain has moved into the EP world.
In an effort to measure and control dot gain, T-S has long burned dot gain bars into all plates that contain halftones or flat screens so we can determine exactly how much dot gain we have and take steps to control it.
The dot gain scale is provided by GATF (Graphic Arts Technical Foundation) and we normally strip it directly into the center of all our plates (same as for the dot density bars), in an area that will be trimmed off the text page. This allows us to keep halftones clean and within the controlled standards of dot gain for any given press.
With direct to plate, we couldn't strip in the dot gain scale because there was no negative to strip it into. However, now GATF is supplying us with small files that we can encapsulate into our imposition software so on DTP jobs, we can now utilize this quality enhancing technique.
This has probably never been a problem for other book printers because, as far as we know, no one else has ever worried enough about dot gain (or light and dark pages for that matter) to take steps to eliminate it.
I suspect these procedures are one of the reasons we have very good results with black and white printing. They also continually remind our people that good printing is a high priority and worth taking extra steps to achieve.
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Printer's Ink is a quarterly newsletter written by Ned Thomson, president of Thomson-Shore, Inc. A hardcopy version is sent out to approximately 20,000 addresses, world-wide. If you are interested in being added to our mailing list please contact us one of the following ways:
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