Monday, August 4, 2014

An “A to Z” of Things That Could (Possibly) Go Wrong with Your Order! Part 1 - A To L

The last Blog on printing from a PDF got me thinking about some of the jobs that have gone wrong over the last 30 years and some of the reasons why.  

Fortunately, they are few and far between these days and developments in technology have helped to overcome particular problems.  

Some things that went wrong were due to factors that were totally outside of our control and on other occasions we had to hold our hands up and take the blame and claim responsibility.

So here – to try and cover the wide range of possible problems - is a quick A to Z of just some of the things that have gone wrong or caused us problems in the past.

It is by no means comprehensive but shows the complexities of getting the printing right first time!

A. A is for ARTWORK

Firstly, let me start by saying that with digital printing or document printing this is not as big a factor as with traditional offset lithographic printing. 

It is not quite idiot-proof but these days there is just a big green button to push and if the print settings have been correctly configured you should just have to collect the finished product at the output tray.

See my previous blogs for potential problems with commercial printing problems – issues such as RGB files, no bleed, and low resolution images etc. etc.

Suffice to say that probably 90% or more problems with printing are artwork –related!

B. B is for BINDING

Binding is a relatively straightforward process but we have learnt to concentrate on the quick and easy methods of binding – again see my previous blog on these.

However, problems do arise and experience has taught us to purchase only quality materials.  
Good quality binding really makes a big difference to your final document’s appearance.

When we had to produce over a thousand wire bound books within 24 hours we purchased a batch of cheaper clear acetate covers which turned out to be a false economy.  

It took twice as long to bind - simply to pull each one off the compacted mass and then the static when placed on paper made the job twice as long as it should have taken.

C. C is for CUSTOMS

I have a large number of contenders for C – including Couriers, Christmas Cards and Customers which will all have to be dealt with elsewhere in this alphabetical summary.

However, the Internet has made the world smaller.  And customs clearance is a particular problem when sending printed documents to some parts of the world.  

In Brazil the recipient needs to pay a tax before the parcel is delivered – in an attempt to stop Internet shopping competing unfairly with local suppliers.  As a result we still have parcels awaiting collection because the tax to be paid is worth more than the document enclosed.

Switzerland is outside of the European Union and their Customs seem to delay any imports as a matter of course.  When we sent time-critical documents for a training course – we ended up getting them printed in Geneva.  Even toners for a printer/copier are frequently held back as a potential “suspicious substance” allowing local distributors almost a monopoly position.

D. D is for DRILLING

We have had our problems with manual drilling in the past – including having to reprint a complete set of menus for a Chinese restaurant chain because we drilled the wrong side of the paper.

But when it is online it should be fool-proof!  But one of our old colour printing presses had an online hole- punch that worked well for the first few copies – but for some reason the position of the drilled holes varied during the course of the job.

When the documents were inserted into the lever arch folders the pages were all out of alignment. 

After many tests and replacement parts, we eventually gave up on the process and replaced the machine as soon as possible.


Following on from previous point – make sure you have good printing and finishing equipment. 
Like cars – there doesn’t seem to be a bad piece of equipment these days but investing in quality has always paid dividends for our business.

We had been squeezing the last remaining life out of some pieces of equipment and the quality was not good.

And we now only use manufacturers to service our equipment, dealers seem to have a vested interest in just making a profit from their service contracts.

F. F is for FILES

Refer to my comments in the PDF blog – but we have been sent work with all sorts of file extensions that have not opened or been recognised.
Also files are easily corrupted and we have tried to recover and repair wherever possible with mixed results.

We have also been sent files that have an incredible data size far out of proportion to their contents.  Sometimes we have waited an hour or more for a file to be processed in the printing machine – often when there is a deadline to meet!


Gradation refers to tones and the quality of tinted shades (usually in background).  They used to be the best way of testing the quality of comparable printers.  

The problems associated with our offset press have largely been overcome now we are predominantly a digital printer. But tones could appear banded and streaky when digital printing was first introduced.

But as we have moved from 600dpi to 1200dpi to 2400dpi the quality has improved – so we seem to have cracked this one!

H. H is for HUMIDITY

Paper storage is an important consideration for all forms of printing – paper absorbs moisture in the air and performance can be seriously affected by atmospheric conditions.

We now have a de-humidifier built into our colour press because of the problems caused by humidity.

Machines jammed, there were “blank” spots on copied documents and certain papers curled up, created static or just stuck together when passing through the press.

I. I is for IMAGES

We are often asked to print a file that contains low resolution images.  

These are usually downloaded at screen resolution from the Internet and the client expects them to be enlarged to poster size with amazing results!

When the printing is pixelated it is usually our fault of course!

J. J is for JPEG

Saying that – JPEG’s remain the second best piece of software after a PDF for a printing business.  

They can be very useful and we have even been known to print some pretty good business cards or leaflets from just a JPEG file.

K. K is for KONICA

Originally we were loyal to both Canon and Xerox, we then moved onto Ricoh for reasons of cost but now our Konica Minolta machines offer pretty good print quality and value for money.

We have now moved onto our second generation of Konica machines and the standards have been enhanced with a few more bells & whistle added in the process.

Hope this is not going to change now!


Couriers are often the weakest link in our supply chain.  They probably make up most of the other 10% of our problems after artwork!

There is nothing more frustrating when a customer is awaiting a parcel – the situation can be complicated by factors outside their control – like traffic, accidents, weather problems etc.  But it is wise to always build in a contingency for any urgent order to be really safe!

We can now track most of our consignments online.  We have had to introduce a £10 delivery charge for small value orders and keep to free delivery on orders over £50.  The Royal Mail parcel service is a waste of time and is rarely worth the risk.

It doesn’t happen often but occasionally a consignment is lost or badly damaged in transit.  This is why we place great emphasis on selection of the most reliable courier and good packaging and labelling to minimise the risk of a problem.

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