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Fast and accurate pharmaceutical folding

Sep 1, 2003 12:00 AM

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While pharmaceutical printing is a niche some printers focus on, pharmaceutical folding is in itself a specialized and growing area of trade binding. It's definitely a specialty of Bindgraphics, a family-owned bindery in Roselle, NJ. Look in any random medicine cabinet, and chances are some of the pharmaceutical literature was produced by the company.

President Eugene Trunzo Sr., who has owned several businesses over the years but has stayed with trade binding since the age of 17, founded Bindgraphics in 1975 with six employees. Bindgraphics started out as a general trade binder, and it still takes on some commercial binding, cutting, folding and stitching work. It currently has about 35 employees.

New opportunities

Listening to customer needs was how Bindgraphics first entered into the pharmaceutical folding niche. One of its customers serviced a pharmaceutical company and approached Bindgraphics several times to supply the folding. The trade binder gradually developed a miniature folding department, purchasing its first pharmaceutical folder seven years ago.

“We were looking for new opportunities and markets in trade binding and did not just want to buy another, bigger folder,” explains Trunzo. “We did a lot of research before we invested in specialized small pharmaceutical folders, and Stahlfolders from Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA) came out on top — not only in productivity, but also in price.” Trunzo also approves of Heidelberg's customer service.

The success of this first installation was followed quickly by additional Stahlfolder installations. Bindgraphics has not looked back since.

Average runs for this type of folding work range anywhere from 250,000 to two million. The bulk of the work is done on two Heidelberg Stahlfolder Ti 36 folders, mostly in sixplate configurations and equipped with miniature horizontal stacker deliveries. More recently, Bindgraphics has relied on newer Ti 55 models with round continuous feeder, which allows for nonstop feeding. The company will soon be installing its fourth Ti 55.

Paired with Ti 36 second and third stations, the folder configurations are said to be extremely flexible and interchangeable. Some stations are equipped with hotmelt systems, for inplate gluing.

Rigorous production rules

In pharmaceutical folding, it is not unusual to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to get a job out. The moment the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, the pharmacological paperwork must be ready to be produced. The literature can't be printed and shelved in advance because of last-minute changes imposed by the FDA. It's the norm in this business, and the manufacturers are basically on standby until approval comes through.

Bindgraphics' specialty within the pharmaceutical folding niche is product introduction, which requires representative samples within six hours of approved files and first shipments only six hours after that. On top of this, the industry requires traceability and rigorous documentation in the manufacturing of pharmacology.

“We provide this level of service any time and every time,” Trunzo says. The exec notes the high level of quality control that is in place, on both a manual and electronic level. The stringent production requirements start at the delivery of the folder with exact counting and manual insertion of marked products. It continues through to a constant checking of fold and glue quality and yet another recount of the finished product before product boxes are shrinkwrapped and sealed for delivery. The sealed shipping boxes carry the signature of the controller.

“Early in the process, we adopted general manufacturing practices and in fact work with our own certified standard operating procedures,” explains Bindgraphics vice president Eugene Trunzo Jr. The department heads established these procedures over the years, and the pharmaceutical client certified the process. “We also have written procedures and training protocols for our employees” to ensure best practices and established quality control, according to Trunzo Jr. Training for new employees tends to run between one week and one month.

Focus on customer service

Bindgraphics intends to continue in this niche, despite the strict guidelines. “We felt it was necessary to look for opportunities,” says Trunzo Jr. “We rely on our Heidelberg small size folder — it's an investment that has paid for itself many times over.” Trunzo Sr. adds that the folder offers very good production with little downtime.

The company recently purchased a new four-color narrow-web press to complement its postpress capabilities. “[The press] lets us keep control over the entire process,” Trunzo Jr. explains. “It is a further commitment to the pharmaceutical industry that makes us even more responsive and competitive.”

In an economy where every printing and bindery job is a sought-after commodity, such responsiveness will allow Bindgraphics to remain competitive. “Of course we have competition,” says Trunzo Sr. “What a trade binder has to realize is that it's not the folding that creates loyalty, but the overall service and quality that is expected as a given in our field of business!”

The Trunzos are convinced this philosopy will secure the future of their bindery business. “We like to grow cautiously, because above all we want — and our customers expect — personal attention to detail and outstanding service,” says Trunzo Jr. According to his father, “We guarantee our customers nothing but the highest quality and service they require.”