Quality control in book printing is a big subject. There is no way I can cover all the aspects of it in a short article like this. There are as many different quality control methods as there are book printers. Regardless of what quality control process you use, don’t forget that it takes key people to assume responsibility to make it happen. In my business, I found the two most important people for catching quality mistakes were the lead graphic artist and the perfect binder operator.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the quality of the finished book is vital to the publisher. When we were first working with a publisher, we had to overcome the perception of poor quality because we were new to book printing. After working with us on a few projects, however, this perception disappeared.
One may think, as I did, that quality control is the responsibility of the Production Manager. While the Production Manager ultimately must be accountable, quality is really everyone’s responsibility.
In my business, quality control relied on the lead graphic artist to get the project started correctly. Our graphic artists were not “artists” in the truest sense. They were production artists. That is, they made sure the computerized book files were arranged to run optimally on our printing and bindery equipment. Our lead graphic artist was our first quality control check point in the process. He made sure the files worked first time, every time.
One of his biggest challenges the graphic artists faced was verifying the spine size on the books. Often times the publisher’s cover designer created a spine that did not fit the book, despite our best efforts to give correct measurements during the design process. Our lead artist checked for proper spine wrapping. He also checked for bleeds and proper centering of the book title and publisher’s logo on the spine.
The graphic artists were also responsible for producing the proof copies of the book. They created the text pages and sample covers. They trimmed and scored the covers to fit the book block. The only thing they did not do was coating the cover and gluing it to the book block. Our publishers liked the loose pages because it made proofing the book easier.
The other critical person in quality control was the perfect binder operator. In my business, this person was a woman. She was responsible for coating the book covers and for binding them. She was able to identify issues with the cover fitting the book blocks after the run had been printed. She took it upon herself to inspect the quality of the book blocks and the printed covers before they came to her. If there was a problem, she caught it early in the bindery process. She saved many embarrassing situations with publishers because she caught problems before the customer did.
Sometimes the lead graphic artist and the bindery person would work together on a book before we began printing. They teamed up to ensure that the book was set up correctly, would run properly and finish smoothly. For me, this teamwork was an indicator that the quality control system worked because all departments were cooperating to produce the best product possible.
Spend time developing a fluid quality control system in your business. Train key people to be responsible and let them be the check points for quality. It improves profitability by reducing rework to a minimum.