Thursday, April 3, 2014

Peripherals or Perennials?

I spoke with a customer who was about to purchase a press. He told me that after the press was installed that he would look into peripherals. Now I know that a press is the heart of any print shop but consider this: Look around your shop and tell me what the oldest machine on your floor. It is likely to be a piece of bindery equipment, a cutter, a drill, etc.

About twenty years ago a bindery in Florida purchased a Sterling Punchmaster from us for $40,000. He was so enamored with the machine that, about five years later, he purchased a used Punchmaster, sight unseen, at an auction for $18,000. The machine, at that time, was ten years old. He has been running each machine ever since. They recently purchased another Punchmaster from us and used the machine purchased at that auction as a trade in. I am now going to rebuild that twenty-five year old Punchmaster.

Is there any press that you would be able to trade in after 25 years? In that time, how many digital engines and software packages will you go through?

This is why purchasing bindery equipment is a different process than purchasing a press. It will be around longer, so choose your equipment carefully and make sure that it is something you can grow into. I have seen, time and time again, printers who purchase inferior machinery that can barely handle the work they have now and end up having to replace their machines later. A press is like a girlfriend but a piece of bindery equipment is like your wife.  If you purchase bindery equipment based solely on price, you may be heading for a divorce.

Friday, October 25, 2013

On Demand Printing at a Museum Near You

I was recently in Spain and visited The Prado Museum in Madrid. In the gift shop I found something surprising. You could order a “high quality” digital reproduction from The Prado and have it printed there while you wait.

A touch screen computer displays the images. You then get a choice of the following: Matte Paper, Canvas, Canvas on a Stretcher, and Canvas Stretched and Framed. Prices ranged from 10 Euros to 100 Euros.

This is a brave new world. I understand that The National Gallery in London has a similar set up. 

How long will it be before all museums start printing on demand? Is this good or bad for the printing industry? Please comment.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Show, an Open House, and a Concert

It was hurricane season here at Spiel Associates. First The PRINT Show, which was a phenomenal success, and then our open house a few weeks later. Customers flipped over our automatic Rilecart B-599 in Chicago with the world’s first automatic cover flipper. We sold the show machine and have an order for another one.

At our open house, we touted that Spiel Associates is a 50 year old company: 50 years and still punching. Rocky was on the big screen as customers saw demonstrations of our Sterling Digipunch, Coilmaster Jr. and the new Sterling Digibinder Plus. Also on hand was the full line of Graphic Whizard creasers, folders, and UV coaters. We also demonstrated their new SCC Slitter, Cutter, Creaser.

Paul McCartney was giving a concert that day, ten blocks from our office at my kids’ school: The Frank Sinatra School For The Performing Arts. I missed it but my kids loved the show. Perhaps some of you will be able to attend our next open house in the spring.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Buying Used Equipment

Some of you out there are great at buying used machinery while others of you are not so skilled. My father had a customer named Ronnie Ridgeway who ran Specialties Bindery in Maryland, both now defunct. He used to buy machines from my Dad, sell them back, and buy them again. Sometimes maybe three or four times. He didn’t care that he lost money on the machines so long as he made more money on the jobs. That’s the problem with binderies—They hang on to their machinery as if they were family heirlooms. That’s why so many binderies look like museums.

Sometimes buying on price is the best way to go, especially if you have an employee with mechanical ability. If you do not, it pays to purchase machines that are rebuilt or reconditioned. What’s the difference? “As is” means exactly that, like at an auction. “Good running” means the machine works but it doesn’t mean that it works perfectly. “Reconditioned” should mean that it works perfectly and also carries a warranty. “Rebuilt” means that it should run like a new machine, the machine gets stripped down and rebuilt with good or new parts.

Also there are some machines that are better to buy used than others. A good machine to buy used would be a drill or a punch. A bad one to buy used would be a shrink wrap machine. Recently I called a prospect who was mad as hell. He had purchased an index tabbing machine, as is, from a dealer in Idaho. He complained that it didn’t work right and he couldn’t get anyone to fix it. When I told him I would fix it, he declined. Some people ought to stay away from used equipment all together.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Greetings and best wishes to all of you who were, and are, caught up in the storm. If you don’t know where we are located, we are in Long Island City, two miles from Manhattan.

I can’t remember the last time Spiel Associates closed for the day but we did so last Monday. The next day we were back at work, without phone service but with internet. We were all using our mobile phones and the internet to communicate. Ten years ago this would have been even more of a disaster. On Wednesday we could make outgoing calls and on Thursday we had full phone and internet.

Many of our customers were not so lucky. Those in New Jersey and in Lower Manhattan got hit pretty hard and at the time of this writing, many are still without electricity. They have our sympathy. The printing industry has been hit pretty hard lately and this is the last thing we needed.

Our open house, scheduled for November 7th and 8th is still on, and has been extended to November 15th for all of you who want to come, but can’t get away just yet.  So New York and New Jersey, let’s show the rest of the country how we can bounce back.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Saul Spiel gave the following seminar at The BIA Convention, June 5th, 2012:

Welcome Binders.

There are very few crafts that were around in the sixteenth century that are still around today. In those days there were wheelwrights, blacksmiths, coopers, harpoon makers, and book binders.

Well I have good news and bad news. You have survived. Look around and give each other a nod of approval. In the past five years half of the printers in the US went under, but you are still around.

Now for the bad news: How many of you will be around five years from now? How can you maximize the odds that you will be?

The question is as it has always been. How do you balance the need for labor with the investment in automatic machinery? I will stick to two key areas: Collating and mechanical binding.

How many of you have a tower collator? How many of you are on their second or third tower collator? How many of you have multiple tower collators?

These machines are sleek, pretty, and have all the bells and whistles that you can ask for. However they are labor intensive, pricey, and have a short life span.  Consider this: These machines, on average, cost $100,000. You can purchase a used, heavy duty collator for $50,000 to $100,000. A rebuilt Sterling, Didde, or Ehlermann/Colley will last you over 20 years. These machines have deep, top-load, bottom feed pockets and never need to stop to be re-loaded.(VIDEO IS BEING SHOWN)

Of course, many of you own a floor model collator. But some of you don’t. I know a bindery that has four tower collators and collates special stock by hand. Why spend six figures for a machine that will only last five years when you can purchase a machine that will last longer, use less labor, and be able to collate a greater variety of stock? If your stitch/fold/trim work is growing, I guess it makes sense. If you want to be flexible, and do specialty work, a floor model collator is the way to go.

About 15 years ago we developed the first automatic coil binder and then we introduced the very first one with an in-line former: The Sterling Coilmaster. How many of you own an automatic coil binder? Of all of you, can any of you bind books thicker than 20mm on these machines? Our machine can bind up to 50mm. Here is a live job of 38mm books (VIDEO IS BEING SHOWN). The customer had a 300,000 run and averaged over  400 books per hour. When he was doing the job by hand he was averaging 20 books per hour per person. Not a pretty sight. Does it look familiar?

We all know that binding thick books is more time consuming than thin books. So why buy a coil binder that can only bind thin books? Here we are binding 50mm books on the Sterling Coilmaster. Can you imagine how long this would take by hand? We sold this machine to a customer who is thrilled to be binding 250, 50mm books per hour on his Sterling Coilmaster.

Also those of you who bind 100,000 books per year and are not forming your own coil are wasting your money. Firstly, when you have a job that requires 2,000 18mm coils, how long does it take you just to find the coil and make sure that you have enough? How often is that coil twisted and deformed, while still in the box? What do you pay for shipping when you have to get coil sent to you next day? The savings from buying plastic filament rather than coil on forming 200,000 coils per year, is more than it would cost to lease a coil forming machine. Most of the coil you purchase in this country is made on our machine: The Sterling Coilmaker. If your coil supplier can make money forming coil, so can you.

I once told a bindery owner in California that if he made his own plastic coil he would save $100,000 per year and the machine at that time only cost $28,000. His reply to me was; “I’m not so much interested in saving money as making money.” FYI, he’s out of business. Perhaps he never heard of the saying by the most famous printer ever, Ben Franklin, who said; “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

How many of you own a semi-automatic wire binder that can bind up to 1,000 books an hour? How many of you have two of them? How many of you have even more?

How do you guys pick what to automate? I walked into a shop about fifteen years ago. It was a bindery in Massachusetts. The owner showed me his gorgeous Muller perfect binder.  It was a 5,000 per hour machine. He told me he was about to upgrade to a 6,000 per hour machine at the cost of three or four hundred thousand dollars. So he was only going to raise his productivity by 20%. After all, look at the screen (VIDEO IS BEING SHOWN). How can you bind books faster than this?

This bindery did an equal amount of perfect binding and mechanical binding. He then showed me his mechanical binding department which looked like a museum. I suggested that he purchase an automatic wire binder that would bind up to 4,000 books per hour. He laughed. I then explained that this would raise his productivity by over 400% for a cost of about $150,000. He opted for the perfect binder. FYI, he’s not here either. He closed his doors years before the recession.

We sell the Rilecart line of wire binders, which is the broadest line in the world. Rilecart calls us the TP-480 guys. Why? The Rilecart TP-480 is an entry level machine. It competes with James Burn, Renz, GBC—all of which can bind up to 1,000 books per hour. This machine, like the others, costs about $30,000. Rilecart makes other models that bind 1,500, 3,000, and 4,000 books per hour. This is what they mostly sell in Europe. Europeans are very labor conscious. (VIDEO IS BEING SHOWN)

Most bindery owners usually opt for the slowest, most economical wire binders. They just figure they’ll throw labor at it or add another shift. It is not unusual to see ten or twelve people working six wire binders when  four or five operators could bind up to 4,000 books per hour on Rilecart’s fastest machine How much money would you save if you saved the labor costs of six workers at $10 per hour? The savings is $125,000. This doesn’t count taxes, health insurance, workman’s comp, or overhead. If we add 50% then we come to roughly $190,000, the yearly cost, which is also the one time cost of a brand new Rilecart B-599, capable of binding up to 4,000 books per hour. Add to that the six wire binders that cost $30,000 a piece at $180,000 and the savings are substantial.

I don’t understand why so many owners fail to do the math. I refuse to believe that Europeans are better businessmen than we are. So what’s the disconnect? (VIDEO IS BEING SHOWN)

I know what you are thinking. Runs are shorter now. But those large runs that are being shipped to China are now starting to come back. Besides, isn’t a 30 minute set up time worth being able to wire bind the same job in the same amount of time with less than half of the employees, or coil bind the same job in the same amount of time with a quarter of the employees?

We deal with binderies that don’t own an automatic punching machine, even though automatic punching is 10 – 20 times faster than punching by hand. We know a bindery that farms out their coil binding to a company that we once called a copy shop. How can you compete in the marketplace if printers have equipment that is just as automated, or even more automated than your own?

Don’t let this happen to you. If ever there was a time to think out of the box-- it is now. If you want to re-capture those jobs that are being shipped overseas, you’re not going to do it with the same manual equipment that can be found at the copy shop down the street, or across the pacific.

Thank you for your attention. I hope to see you all at our booth at Graph Expo in the fall.

Friday, March 23, 2012


A few months ago I was given a very thick, fancy art book.

I have a nice collection of art books, most of which are case bound. I paged through this book quickly and then set it on my book stand so that I could read it more thoroughly. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the sheets were starting to separate. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the cheese cloth, to which the sewn signatures are bound, was old, cracked and falling apart. Also, the threads from the sewing have loosened and are fraying. It is just a matter of time before the book falls apart. I also doubt that I am the only one experiencing this problem. Perhaps the glue was old or the cheese cloth was of inferior quality. This is a heavy book and at over $100, somewhat expensive.

Shouldn’t they have used a better case binding process? What do you think caused this?

Please e-mail me with your ideas on this.