January 2010

In This Issue:
• China Printing Quality Assurance
 — Choose Your Suppliers Wisely
 — Use Quality and Service Level Agreements
 — China Printing Solutions’ Quality Process
• Case Study: LJG Brochure
• Benny Award Announcement
• Meet the staff: Cindy Zhang
• Upcoming Events


  China Printing Solutions: A Resource for Quality Printing in China

China Printing Quality Assurance
(Expert Advice for Quality Printing in China)


The economic advantages of China print production are well known, but horror stories still abound when it comes to quality. In the China camp, every supplier states it can provide “excellent quality” and many display ISO 9000 ratings and other ersatz quality indicators. In the anti-China camp, there are those who denigrate the Made in China label uniformly and would have you believe it impossible to produce quality results outside of domestic borders. As usual, the reality lies somewhere in between. Printing in China today, you can achieve quality as high as the highest of Western benchmarks, and sometimes—due to the freedom of material and process selection afforded by lower costs—higher. For most cases, however, these results do not come without prudent forethought and action. In this month’s newsletter, we take a look at some of the do’s and don’t’s of Printing Quality and Deadline Assurance in China.

Choose Your Suppliers Wisely:

First and foremost, choosing the right supplier according to the specific needs of your project and objectively validating the supplier’s ability and suitability for the job is key. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the process:

ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS:

In China “Yes” means “Yes” (except when it means “No” or “Maybe” or “I’ll try”)…
4000 years of history dominated by Confucian and Daoist thinking has resulted in an entirely different set of ideals, reasoning and communication styles than Greek influenced Western thinking. Perfectly black-and-white expectations provided by Western buyers are frequently interpreted as flexible goals subject to current conditions by Chinese counterparts, while promises made by Chinese suppliers intended merely to express good intention are commonly (and erroneously) accepted as solid commitments by Western buyers. Needless to say, conflict is inevitable if you don’t have a partner accustomed to communicating and performing according to your standards.

GET REFERENCES:

Aim to receive at least three references—at least one in your industry for a similar product to that you intend to produce, at least one corresponding to a quality sample the supplier provides you and at least one that has been consistently working with the supplier for several years. Beyond personal testimonials, be sure to see at least 2-3 samples of projects the supplier has executed before using highly similar materials and techniques as your current work.

KNOW THE FACTORY FACTS:
Most print suppliers are highly invested in equipment, staff overhead and other infrastructure that may or may not be suitable for your job. Validating that the supplier is a good match is your responsibility match is your job. What kind of machinery will be used to produce the job? What’s the printing machine speed? How current is the machinery and what are its key tolerance specifications? How many units can be produced per day? What’s the maximum binding size? Does this supplier have the right equipment and people to do the job? If environmental or process certifications are applicable, request documentary proof. Ask questions up front so you won’t have to ask “What went wrong?” later down the line.

DON’T BUY ONLY ON PRICE:

This just cannot be stressed enough. If a supplier is offering a price lower than the competition, be skeptical. If the price is MUCH lower than the competition, be VERY skeptical. There is ALWAYS a way to reduce printing cost, most of which results in diminished quality or hidden up-charges. Buying on cost alone may bear fruit in the short term, but sooner or later this practice is certain to come back and haunt you. When you compare quotations, be sure to compare paper brands and specifications, machinery, adhesives, process details, and the most important factor of all—people. If your China Printing supplier can not or will not offer expert consultation on materials and process, product engineering support, a detailed timeline, clear and straightforward communication and other client service accommodations, then you’re probably betting on the wrong horse. Your willingness to pay a little bit more for quality results and a quality supplier relationship WILL pay off in the end. Remember, there is a cost to low cost!

Use Quality and Service Level Agreements:

That mythical creature known as the “perfect” printing job resides in an elusive realm alongside Sasquatch and the Easter Bunny. Printing problems are not only an unfortunate fact of life, they are also rarely of the cut-and-dried variety where printer and buyer fully agree on both cause and culpability. 'Good quality' is a highly subjective concept. Your supplier may have wrongly believed they were doing you a favor by choosing a cheaper execution method, while you may have wrongly presumed they were meeting a certain minimum standard. To avoid disputes and delays, Quality and Service Level Agreements are recommended. Here’s a starter kit for what belongs in your QLA/SLA instructions:

• Deadline (and, if applicable, reasonable sanctions for failure
_to meet deadlines)
• Clarification of samples and approvals process required.
• Definition of common defects and tolerance levels for Critical,
_Major and Minor Defects
• Specification of color accuracy requirements, targets and tolerances
• Provision of clear requirements for Carton strength, pallet construction _and labeling
• Stipulation of environmental standards to be used
• Prescription of post production compliance and testing

It’s OK to provide demanding QLA/SLA requirements, but do be reasonable. Setting inappropriately high requirements or creating too many requirements will call into question the sincerity of your intentions, diminish respect for the document and set the stage for an acrimonious buyer-supplier relationship. Be sure to express flexibility where it exists and stringency where it is an imperative.

Keeping an eye on the job:

TIMELINES: A good supplier will provide a detailed and credible job timeline with all key milestones. China Printing Solutions provides our clients with a detailed schedule for every job, and we touch base as milestones are passed.

IN PROCESS QUALITY CONTROL (IPQC):
It is presumed that you will rarely be able to do press checks yourself, but is someone doing them? What criteria are they looking for? China Printing Solutions scrutinizes each job for not less than 52 key inspection criteria such as paper correctness, color match, registration, density, cleanliness, coating effect, folding and trimming precision, and other key print attributes.

SAMPLES: Unless your schedule absolutely forbids it, you should ask to see at least the following samples for every job:

Sample
Description
Primary Functions
White Book
An unprinted dummy prototype using the real paper to be used in production.
• Confirm paper smoothness and whiteness
• Consider general look and feel
• Confirm Spine Width/Dimensions/Weight and other physical attributes
Pre-Press Proofs
Digital Proofs
• Confirm page order, file fidelity and general accuracy
• Confirm process color accurately, Confirm Pantone Colors generally
Wet Proofs
• Confirm page order, file fidelity and general accuracy
• Evaluate Paper opacity
• Inspect Pantone Colors accurately, Confirm process colors generally
Firstbound
Production Samples
Printed Signatures,
roughly folded and bound
• Confirm general quality and color results
• Evaluate coating, folding, trimming effect
• Identify any needed corrections before binding

TESTS AND INSPECTIONS:
Once a job is completed and you have been sent advance copies, there are any number of tests that you may wish to conduct depending upon the type of product and quality requirements. For purposes of simplicity, in this newsletter let’s just have a look at some tests for books, catalogs and the like:

Test
Description
Function
Page Pull test
Page is lifted away from spine with consistent force at a 90° angle from spine until page releases from binding.
Tests binding efficacy.
Page Peel Test
Page is lifted away with force from spine at a 15-60° angle from spine until page releases from binding.
Tests binding efficacy under conditions more similar to real use.
Page Flex test
Page is turned again and again by machine very quickly.
Tests the durability and strength of the binding under pressures similar to page turning.
Subway test
Book is opened and folded so front and back cover are touching, much like one would do when riding the subway train.
Tests the binding strength, designed for use with softback books.
Drop Test
Packed Carton is dropped from a specified height .
Tests the protective effect of the packing method.
Transportation Test
Simulation of vibration forces incurred on packed goods during transport, either by road testing or vibration machine.
Tests the likelihood of shifting or breakage during transportation.

China Printing Solutions' Quality Process
The below 7 stage process synopsizes China Printing Solutions' Quality management method. Additional or different methods may be used according to the special needs of your project.

1. White books, Prototypes, Test sheets and Certifications—
Before nearly every job is commenced, an unprinted white book prototype is made using the real paper selected for execution. This not only allows closer confirmation of estimated weight and volume, but often turns up product design or material changes that must be made in production. In addition, projects may call for doing short run print tests, obtaining lab certificates or other measures to ensure the right decisions are made in production. CPS endeavors to provide these services at little or no charge, as part of our commitment to quality partnership with our clients.

2. Project Summary Meeting/Quality Management Advisory—

At the beginning of each job, Sales, Production, Client Service, Pre-Press, Management meet to discuss the needs of the job and potential trouble spots, leveraging team knowledge and our own reference tools like tools like “101 Steps to the perfect print job.” From this meeting, we create our Quality Management Advisory, taking into account potential pitfalls, developing Critical to Quality (CTQ) parameters and setting measures to ensure superior execution.

3. Preflight Checks—
Manual AND digital flight checks to ensure the files are not only technically correct (resolution, color space, bleed, etc.) but also substantially correct (Country of origin, UPC code, Spine width, correct size and page order, etc.) and optimally built (considering color trapping, image density and saturation, free from design faults).

4. Pre-Press review—
Once proofs have been made, we build a mock-up and review page by page for any errors—whether substantial, minor, or faults of the proofing process only. Our Pre-press review report points this out to clients clearly with our recommendations on how to proceed.

5. Press checks and 52 point+ In process Quality Control (IPQC)—
Our 52+ point Quality Control method, along with tools like calibrated color proofs and a digital spectrophotometer are used for on-site inspections for every important part of every job we run. We refer to our customized Quality Management Advisory for job-specific needs and scrutinize paper correctness, color, registration, density, cleanliness, coating effect, folding and trimming precision, and other key print attributes.

6. First Bound Samples and Production Review—
Once the job is printed, we fold/trim/bind a small portion of “First Bound samples” for evaluation before finishing. Again we review for problems whether substantial, minor, or faults of the proofing process only. Our Production Samples review report points this out to clients clearly with our recommendations on how to proceed.

7. Final Inspection—
Once the job is complete, we conduct product-appropriate quality or laboratory tests and execute a final count and inspection according to AQL standard, wherein we document completion and correctness of the job, as well as any defects that are found. After sign off, this report is provided to our clients with our recommendations on how to proceed.



Premier Print Awards Announcement

China Printing Solutions International has been awarded two 2009 Premier Print Awards, for outstanding achievement in the production of “Art Books (4 or more colors)”. The graphic arts industry’s largest and most prestigious worldwide printing competition, hosted by Printing Industries of America, the Premier Print Awards recognizes those responsible for the creation and production of outstanding print communications.

For more information, please click here!

Case Study:
LJG Brochure


Client: LJG Partners Brochure

Project Name: Boxed Promotion Kit

Description:
LJG Partners develops high end multimedia communications solutions for its Fortune 500 client base. In order to educate both existing and prospective customers on its range of services, the company chose to design a premium promotional kit including a loose leaf hardbound brochure and a textured gift box. In order to tailor its communications individually to each recipient, the text pages of the brochure were produced loose, so that the firm could select which pages it wished to include for each mailing.

Key Challenges: Because the number of text pages included in any particular assembly of the brochure would never be the same, the screw and post used to bind each book had to provide for a range of thicknesses from the fewest to the largest possible number of pages. This meant literally searching the market in three different cities (Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shanghai) to find the correct size, color and style of screw.

Techniques Used: Offset Printing, Hot Foil Stamping, Case Bound Adhesive Technique, Screw-and-Post Binding, 5th color (Metallic), Film Lamination, Hole Punching, Hand Assembly, Polybagging.

Meet the Staff:
Cindy Zhang | Administrative Associate

If there is one person who is responsible for keeping the wheels turning in our Shanghai office, that person is Cindy Zhang. As our Admin Associate, she handles reception, manages product samples, makes travel arrangements and executes a plethora of other important daily tasks....but with a degree in Graphic Arts and an ample command of popular graphic design and Flash software, she is frequently called on to jump in on design and production projects. Suffice it to say that Cindy is no stranger to the art of communication. Her talents further include painting, saxophone and guitar and photography. She speaks English, Mandarin and Shanghai dialect.







Cindy can be reached at cindy(at)chinaprintingsolutions.com.

Upcoming Events
Jan-April, 2010

SPECIAL NOTICE: LUNAR NEW YEAR FEBRUARY 13-28
China Printing Solutions, like most other businesses, will be closed from February 13 to February 28 in observance of the Lunar New Year Holiday. Happy Year of the Tiger!

March 02: Sign China Expo


March 09: Printing South China


March 09-11: Sino-Pack 2010



IN THE NEXT ISSUE:
Managing Leadtime for Overseas Production

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