Because of a photobook’s one-off nature, production success can only be achieved through a highly-efficient workflow, one that’s typically barcode-driven. That’s why the high volume, branded internet-based retailers utilize automated production systems. This allows them to achieve the efficiency that’s needed to profitably produce an exceptionally high volume of one-off products, typically numbering 10,000-20,000 books per day during peak seasons.
For those at entry-level photobook production, migrating to an automated solution requires a significant investment, both financial and technical. However, once you become engaged in high volume production, that can more than justify the move, particularly if the issue of seasonality is mollified. For example, although photobooks’ peak season occurs at year’s end, supplementing that work with yearbook production can be a welcomed opportunity since the sales cycle usually occurs in the first and second quarter.
When should a print provider consider automated production and finishing? It’s really a question of headcount. If you have a host of stand-alone, entry-level machines that do binding, casing-in, and case making, you need to allocate one person to each of these machines. And that person produces at a certain level. If you want to double your output, you need to invest in another work cell. So sooner or later your headcount may become cost-prohibitive and necessitate an automated solution.