Technical service in India: Happy ending or disaster? - The Noel D'cunha Sunday Column

A clamp or a station in the bookbinding machine should quickly accomplish its task without causing any distortion to the spine preparation. It should easily produce books without causing any damage.

03 Oct 2014 | By Noel D'Cunha

Bookbinding is considered a very important operation in the process of book printing. It’s here where the complete book is delivered.

Unless there is perfect synchronisation between the clamps and stations of the bookbinding machines, the quality of final books may be affected. A lot also depends on the skill of the operator. There is too much expense involved in the printing of sheets before it is finally sent for binding, to allow such a possibility.

Welbound Group, the indigenous manufacturer and supplier of bookbinding machinery and adhesive, started providing technical services, under Welbound Technical Services (WTS), in 2011. WTS, a subsidiary of the Group, offers brand-independent, efficiency improvement programmes for the Indian book print and post-press industry. 

But then how is it different from what say, a Muller Martini or a Kolbus did earlier or what TechNova does with plates or Konica Minolta or Xerox does in digital.

“Unlike these companies, we service any machine. We do not sell parts, nor do we sell consumables. The motive is clear: work with the customer and bring down his cost in use,” says Sajith, one of the promoter directors of the Welbound Group.

WTS is a brainchild of Sajith, which is currently headed by Arvind Kalassur, who has more than twenty years experience in managing after sales support to the industry.

Sajith adds, “It is very difficult to sell services as they are intangible. So initially when we discussed programmes for training, most of our customers felt that they are being asked to pay a high price. However, when they saw the effects of our engagement, things changed”.

According to Sajith, WTS addresses gaps and requirements in the industry, be it scarcity of suitably skilled manpower, high rates of attrition, inadequate number of print institutes or absence of any structured, on-job training program. It does so by bridging current skill gaps in the print workforce and address current as well as evolving work process requirements. 

With these defined objectives, WTS has started offering machine audits for existing bookbinding installations, retrofits of value adding equipment, upgrades, training for operators and maintenance engineers. Any existing user of perfect binding machines can call for this audit, irrespective of brand or intentions.

The programmes have found many takers, mainly among the leading book print companies in India. These include Thomson Press, Replika, Nutech Print Services, S Chand & Co, Pitambra Books, SAP Print Services, Manipal Technologies, Brilliant Printers, and Parksons Graphics among others. 

K C Sanjeev, the managing director of the Welbound Group, says, “Our most important, stated objective is to delight our customers – by working with them, to enhance the value that they offer, while reducing their costs. WTS as an organisation has focused on this objective and has been successful.”

Welbound says these programmes are carried out at the bookbinding division on site. “For book printing customers, for example, we conduct course on the basics of bookbinding, operator training, and plant audit. Operators are introduced to standard operating procedures, basic housekeeping, safety, and for checking the quality of products.”

We give commitments that we can reduce the down time, enhance throughputs, deliver better quality and reduce costs,” says Kalassur.  “There were requests for installations of sophisticated bookbinding equipment and we have proved our value by optimising the number of days and spare parts requirements. We do not sell any machines or spare parts and we are probably the only pure services organisation in the print industry, across the world.” 

Currently, the WTS engineers are booked for the next 90 days, installing equipment, upgrading systems, offering training or auditing plants, says Sajith. “This would have seemed impossible two years back. Today, the organisation has built capabilities for plant audits (for safety, productivity, and quality), troubleshooting, and retrofit of sophisticated equipment that enhance value, commissioning of machines and training. WTS also works with the 60+ service engineers from Welbound, engaging them in plant audits and training on Welbound machines.

Welbound has already rolled out similar audit programmes for small and medium book printers. In September, Welbound conducted 30 audits, which looked into concerns of productivity, quality and costs. “Machines start depreciating the day you commission them; on the other hand, a customer, well-served is an ever appreciating asset,” says Sajith, mirroring the thoughts of the management guru, Tom Peters.