Me & my... CreaseStream Mini
By Jenny Roper Thursday, 01 November 2012
This machine may be small but on shorter runs, when outsourcing would be too time-consuming, it's delivering some impressive results
Given the opportunity, Connect Design and Print owner Tom Bird would like to try a little experiment, or rather challenge someone to a race. He would like to challenge them to grab a stack of leaflets, jump in the car, battle with 20 minutes-worth of busy Nottingham traffic to reach a trade finisher and get the leaflets creased and out to the customer in a reasonable timeframe.
Meanwhile, back at Connect Design and Print HQ, Bird would be casually creasing an identical set of leaflets, perhaps pausing every so often to take a leisurely sip of coffee or to check his emails mid-job. For Bird is confident he would have completed the job, in some cases, before his rival’s leaflets had even reached the trade finisher’s machinery, and so is very satisfied that his recent investment in a manual Tech-ni-fold CreaseStream Mini, was a good one.
Which is not to say that Bird is in any way dissatisfied with his trade finisher. "They’re a good bunch and we like to send them our work, but by bringing creasing in-house, we can crease, trim and fold a short-run, 100- or 150-piece job within a couple of hours," he explains. "So it’s a matter of hours rather than 24 hours, which means we can get the pieces back to customers for the next day at the latest."
However, while Bird is certainly very happy with the CreaseStream he bought in June, to describe it as the company’s latest investment, might be considered a little misleading inasmuch as it suggests the company has an extensive plant list.
In fact, surprisingly, considering the amount and varied nature of work which Connect processes, the CreaseStream is actually only the third bit of kit the company has invested in, the others being a Xerox 700 printer and a Morgana cutting machine. The rest of the catalogue, brochure, stationery, flyer, promotional and display work that Bird manages is designed by the company and then outsourced to litho printing firms and trade finishers for production.
Connect is, then, effectively a design and print management company. It was established in 1998 when Bird decided to expand his design business to include a print arm by recruiting a print-savvy co-owner, who retired to leave Bird in charge in 2008. Today, the firm serves a wide range of organisations, including a flooring distribution firm, a face paint manufacturer, and several schools, engineers and travel agencies. The vast majority of work is outsourced, but short-run jobs, which account for about 5% of the business, are printed, and often finished, in-house.
Only having a few bits of kit in-house meant that, when it came to deciding what sort of creaser to go for, ease of use was a key factor. "I wanted something that was user-friendly, not just for myself, but for my colleagues," says Bird. "Because we’re chiefly a design house and print management company, people aren’t necessarily trained in operating lots of different types of machinery, so it had to be easy to use."
And this is what Connect got with the CreaseStream Mini, reports Bird. Operating this manual machine is just a case, he explains, of setting the width guides, adjusting the machine to where you want the crease putting on the substrate, adjusting the rubber element of the kit according to the thickness of the substrate, calibrating the machine with a substrate sample, and then pulling the handle down to start creasing.
"We mainly put 300gsm cards through, so we don’t have to change the rubber parts too much, but that’s a very easy process to do and there are instructions on the machine on how to do that," says Bird. "It comes with a good manual as well."
And the other reason for going for the CreaseStream over any of the other creasers on the market, was the quality. "Generally, the mechanics of it just seemed superior," says Bird. "I looked at other creasing machines, but they seemed a little bit awkward to set up and the results weren’t quite what I was expecting. Whereas this gives a really professional, first-class result."
This quality is crucial in view of the sort of job that often gets creased on this kit. A key driver in buying the CreaseStream, reports Bird, was to complete short-run order of service jobs for funerals, which of course by their very nature need to be turned around speedily.
"We did have a situation where we printed an order of service in good faith and delivered the job, and the customer decided that it wasn’t right," says Bird. "She’d done something wrong and we had to reprint the job for the next morning."
"If we’d have had to put the job out that would have been impossible," adds Bird, reporting that as well as order of services, the CreaseStream is also used for leaflet and brochure work.
The CreaseStream’s value to Connect’s business model is then, clear to see. But Bird does have just a couple of small criticisms. While he reports that the machine has never developed any technical problems and that CreaseStream as a company has been very helpful at all times, Bird has just a few suggestions for improving the design of the creaser.
"The guides feeding the paper or card in could be linked because they’re two separate guides at the moment," says Bird of his first suggestion. "Once we’re doing A4 sheets then it’s okay because the guides are set, but I think they could be linked on a ratchet type mechanism so they move out and in together rather than independently. It’s just a bit fiddly at the moment."
CreaseStream has responded positively to this suggestion, reports Bird, saying it will consider this when designing the next version. The vendor has also responded positively to Bird’s second suggestion.
"The other thing that I have suggested is that the hammer finish powder coating on the metal of the kit could be smoother," he says. "It has a nice texture to it and it looks really good, but certainly on the tray that you put the sheets on to guide in, it should be smooth, because I’ve noticed that the guides stick sometimes."
Tech-ni-fold managing director Graham Harris points out that this is an issue that has actually now been resolved on current models of the Mini: "Connect was one of the very first customers to get the machines and all of this first batch of users were contacted to give feedback, with their suggestions taken into account for the next Minis sold."
Of Bird’s suggestion that the feed guides could be connected, Harris adds: "We do offer more sophisticated bits of equipment with that feature, but adding this to the Mini would push the price up so that it was no longer suitable for the market we’re aiming it at."
"Those are small gripes," agrees Bird. "Overall, it’s a good bit of kit, and CreaseStream has been very supportive."
Both in terms of the performance of the kit and its suitability for Connect as a business, the CreaseStream has been a resounding hit. Not only has the creaser allowed Connect to offer its customers tighter turnarounds, it has also just generally saved the company the hassle of sending out small jobs to a trade finisher.
And while there are automatic and semi-automatic versions of the CreaseStream Mini available, Bird is quite happy with the manual machine he’s got, reporting that it can also double-crease or perforate jobs where needed.
"You might say that it’s an expensive piece of equipment for what it is, but I felt it was right for us," he concludes. "It might not be for everybody, but for us the quality is spot on."
Max sheet size 520x520mm
Min sheet size 80x120mm
Stock range 65-350gsm
Contact CreaseStream 01455 554491 www.creasestream.com
Connect Design and Print was established in 1998 when owner Tom Bird teamed up with an associate to pool Bird’s design know-how with his friend’s print expertise to create a design-agency-come-print-management firm. Following his colleague’s retirement in 2008, Bird now runs the company single-handed, which today boasts a Xerox 700 printer, Morgana cutting machine and, as of last June, a CreaseStream Mini for jobs that, because they are short-run, aren’t being outsourced to litho printers. The company services a whole range of sectors, including funeral directors, schools, travel agencies and engineering firms.
Why it was bought...
Bird decided to invest in a CreaseStream Mini so that short-run jobs printed and cut in-house could also be creased without being transported to and from a trade finishers. Shortening turnaround times in this way has been particularly critical to delivering funeral order of services in the required timeframes.
How it has performed...
The creaser has been a great help in saving time on short run jobs, says Bird. The machine has also delivered the kind of quality finish and ease of use that Bird purchased this specific creaser for. "You might say that it’s an expensive piece of equipment for what it is, but I felt it was right for us," he says. "It might not be for everybody, but for us the quality is spot on."
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