But for one of printer ABC Imaging's construction firm clients, bidding for a contract with Chester Zoo, this was just the result they were after.
The firm had decided, you see, to give ABC Imaging full creative reign with the pack, agreeing to the London printer’s inspired idea of using a substrate made from recycled elephant dung for the front cover. And this creativity paid off. This unusual substrate, along with the pack’s laser-cut cutaway panels, differentiated it from the more run-of-the-mill wire-bound proposals being pitched and helped secure the contract for the construction firm, and of course future business for ABC.
For ABC Imaging, then, thinking outside the box has been the key to surviving in competitive times. And crucial to this was expanding its commercial print offering to include hardback books and cases four years ago, with investment in an Elite XT perfect binder and a Casematic XT casemaker, and then a Casematic H46 Pro in November 2010.
"Using the Fastbind equipment, we are able to offer customers something quite different, that is creative, looks professional and is secure," says UK director Andy Julian. "These machines have kept us alive in this competitive market by opening new doors."
And it’s not only ABC’s core customer base of architect, building and construction firms who have been quick to seize the opportunity to create more exciting presentation packs than your standard white binder with plastic envelopes. ABC has also been attracting presentation binder and box work from PR and advertising agencies, designers, private and public companies, local authorities and students wanting their theses bound.
This latter type of customer, particularly, is attracted by ABC’s ability to make affordable one-off items, says Julian.
"Before, when we were outsourcing binders, people had to order significant amounts," he explains. "Now, because the Fastbind machines are so efficient and cost-effective, you can order just one. Clients like that, because for most bids, you only need three or four sets."
Clients are also attracted by ABC’s ability to offer a wide range of formats, says Julian. "All of the binding is bespoke so we don’t just stick to A4 portrait, A4 landscape, A3 and so forth," he says. "We say to customers ‘you give us an idea of what you want and we’ll see if it’s possible.’"
The most recent addition to the printer’s Fastbind line-up, the Casematic H46 Pro, is crucial to offering true flexibility, says Julian, as the original Casematic XT machine isn’t big enough to create A3 landscape binders.
Handy and reliable
"Before we bought the H46, for an A3 landscape piece we could use the Casematic just to line up the card, but then we had to take it off the machine and fold it by hand," he says. "That was time consuming and didn’t give the same nice finish," he adds, explaining that the Casematic is essentially a big, metal table with a roller that "folds the board nice and flat."
But far from being a drawback in any way, this simplicity is what makes the Casematic XT and H46 such handy and reliable pieces of kit, says Julian.
"We’ve had no problems whatsoever with the Fastbind equipment," he says, adding that he is confident that supplier Ashgate would sort any issues out very quickly if they were to arise.
"The support is ongoing, so Ashgate is down here within hours if we have any queries," he reports, saying this was the case when the company experienced problems with curled pages on products coming off the Elite XT perfect binder, and Ashgate was happy to advise that this was due to paper grain direction.
The simplicity of the Casematic tables also means that training doesn’t need to be extensive, reports Julian.
"It’s normally half a day’s training to get to grips with the machine, and Ashgate is very good at providing this," he says.
He adds, however, that it takes a lot longer to become really skilled at producing binders and cases on the kit.
"It’s perfecting the skill that takes the time; the more you do the better you get," he says. "So we’ve got one specialist who does all the binders, boxes and slip cases and two other people who can work under his supervision."
Crucial to making the Casematic work for any business then, says Julian, is retaining an operator well versed in using it, and involving them at the preliminary creative, brainstorming stages of a job.
"I take our expert to all the meetings I can," says Julian. "Because he comes up with the creative solutions and knows what works and what doesn’t. He knows when I, as a salesman, am being unrealistic when I promise that we can turn a case round in two days. So having him there irons out many potential problems from the start."
And with such a knowledgeable casemaking whiz in-house, the company isn’t worried, reports Julian, by the fact that more and more commercial printers are turning to in-house binding and casemaking to boost their offering.
"Lots of people are offering these kinds of services at the moment but not many people are up to our standards," he says. "They’re going through the pain barrier of learning different methods of what works and what doesn’t; what’s going to stick, stay down the longest and what’s going to look good with the board."
And by the time the competition catches up with ABC, says Julian, the company will have added another service to its portfolio. "John at Ashgate knows that if there’s anything new, I want to know about it," he says, adding that, as with the Casematic H46, Ashgate is now ABC’s first and often only port of call for new finishing kit.
Julian would be particularly interested, he says, in investing in the next version of the Casematic table when it comes out, not because there is anything lacking in his current line-up, but because he is hoping it might allow the company to add A1 binding and casemaking to its offering.
ABC is also looking at purchasing a Fastbind FotoMount binder from Ashgate, which will allow the company to lay down images on to card more easily for the creation of photobooks. "We’re just building our web-to-print services which will be launched in another month or two," reports Julian. "So the FotoMount binder will be key to supporting this."
So, with more Fastbind plans in the pipeline, ABC Imaging is certainly one happy customer.
"There is no doubt that the Fastbind equipment has paid for itself many times over and will continue to do so," confirms Julian. "They’ve been superbinvestments."
Maximum print size 1,080x530mm
Maximum finished case size, opened 1,040x490mm
Maximum folding length 1,040mm
Thickness of the cardboard up to 5mm
Voltage (V) / Frequency (Hz) 220–240V / 50–60Hz
Max current 1 A
Machine dimensions (WxL xH) 1,130x684x200mm
Net weight 45 kg
Contact Ashgate 01865 891904 www.ashgate.co.uk
ABC Imaging started life as Media Sure in 2000 and changed name when 50% of the business was sold to ABC Imaging US in 2008. The company’s offering has remained largely unchanged over the years, however, including long-run printing of brochures and business cards, canvas printing, exhibition graphics, and company stationery.
Why it was bought
The company purchased a tabletop Fastbind Elite XT perfect binder and a Fastbind Casematic XT casemaker four years ago so that it could start producing hardback books and display cases in-house, giving itself an edge over other commercial printers. The latest Casematic machine, the Casematic H46 Pro followed in November 2010, to enable the company to construct high-quality cases and hardback books in a landscape format.
How it has performed
UK director at ABC Imaging Andy Julian reports that the new Casematic H46 Pro has performed perfectly since its installation. "The machine itself is fairly basic but does exactly what we need it to do," he says, explaining that the company has always been impressed by the service support offered by supplier of the Elite XT and Casematics, Ashgate.