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Jun 1, 1997 12:00 AM

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If you think that the finishing process is a staid technology with little room for innovation or growth, you haven't been to the Riverside Group (Rochester, NY) lately. You'll find this trade bindery just 10 minutes from the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). It's a textbook example of how to successfully combine innovative management ideas with the latest bindery techniques.

"Riverside has been most generous in introducing our printing management and science undergraduate and graduate students to their bindery," notes RIT instructor Werner Rebsamen. "Their equipment is up-to-date, particularly the computerized management systems. Some of our graduate students say that it's far more sophisticated than anything they've seen in the prepress and press areas."

Peter Pape, president and principal officer, is pleased to be of service. "Students really need to know what a bindery is all about before they go out into the workforce. We've had some students work on their internships here and a couple have come on board. The payoff is that these students are the future of the graphics arts industry-anytime I can show them my plant we all come out winners."

Pape notes another Riverside connection to RIT-his brother Chris, executive vice president, is an RIT graduate.

With sales of over $12 million a year and approximately 170 employees, the Riverside Group ranks among the top 10 trade binderies in North America. The company has had considerable success providing a cost-effective alternative to double-loop, spiral-wire or plastic-comb bindings. Other services include cutting, diecutting, embossing, foil stamping, folding, indexing, laminating, mechanical binding and saddlestitching.

Pape acknowledges that many printers' in-house finishing equipment is adequate for simple applications such as saddlestitching or basic perfect binding with hot melts. Therefore, the Riverside Group targets jobs that demand cutting-edge technology.

"We specialize in Otabind, a lay-flat adhesive binding process developed in Finland," explains Pape. "Although the process is similar in some respects to perfect binding, the result is a perfect-bound book that stays open to whatever page the user wants. It's used for music books, computer manuals and cookbooks- we do lots of cookbooks."

Riverside recently used the Otabind process to bind 1.5 million rate books for United Parcel Service. Because the sheets in the rate books must flex 180 degrees at the binding edge, it was impossible to use a conventional binding process to adhesive bind the coated-paper stock in a lay-flat format. The only other option, a mechanical binding, would have doubled the binding cost per book. By using the Otabind process, however, Riverside was able to hold costs down.

Pape credits much of the company's success with Otabind to the versatility of its Muller Martini StarPlus perfect binder. The binder, equipped with a Nordson PUR application system, features multiple gluing units for spine and the sides, hot melt or cold emulsion, one- or two-shots. Special gadgets, such as a lining station and other accessories furnished by Muller Martini, permit the binder to produce the lay-flat bindings.

Although the Riverside Group invested in new bindery equipment in 1993, the company has added more capacity to keep pace with customer demands. Pape estimates that the company has committed $3 million to the upgrade, which includes the purchase of new equipment as well as a new building.

"We needed the flexibility," notes Pape. "We make a custom product on demand, so when customers approach us, we have to be able to meet their timetable. It used to be that our customers were scheduled out two weeks in advance-now it's two to three days. That's why we installed new equipment-we don't want to say no."

Riverside features a comprehensive array of Muller Martini equipment. At the heart of the operation is the StarPlus Perfect binder connected to a computer-controlled VBF hardcover line. Adhesive and sewn books are processed in-line from gathering folded signatures to finished, cased-in hardcover books.

The model 3690 24-pocket gathering line is equipped with ASAC automatic self-adjusting calipers that reduce set-up time by automatically checking the thickness of each signature as it is fed into the gathering track. The feeding tables are equipped with ASIR automatic signature image recognition system that detects incorrectly loaded signatures.

A downstream copy control system provides sequential start-up and run-out as well as instant access to relevant production and quality control data. The system features "the highest reliability of any other system we investigated," according to Chris Pape. Pape adds that the quality assurance system has been instrumental in winning business from annual report customers.

The gatherer also features two blow-in card feeders. Drop-in cards are controlled with a unique static charge device. In addition, the company has ordered a NB-SC perfect binder with a 3690 gatherer, a Merit three-knife book trimmer and a BTG Group "doctor" automatic palletizer.

The Pape brothers are proud of their company's customer service. Although they offer a wide variety of bindings, each client draws individualized attention. "We act as a consultant for our clients," says Chris Pape. "We show them how to design their job to get the maximum efficiency from our equipment. Aiding in the planning lets us design a cost-effective manufacturing process."

Advances in prepress and press technology have raised customers' expectations for finishing operations, too. "Everything's done on computers at lighting speed now," relates Peter Pape. "But after a piece is printed, there's only so fast you can go in folding, diecutting, wirebinding, perfect binding and so on. But we keep trying to push that envelope so we can get turnaround times down."