Minimizing Lamination Waste

We have two competing maxims to guide our work habits. “Haste makes waste” competes with “time is money” to determine how we structure our business ethics. There are limited hours in the day. The more work that can be crammed into the prescribed time periods, the larger the perceived profit. However, the faster we try to work, the more potential there is for mistakes and waste. Nowhere is this more true than in the laminating room. Lamination is an art of precision. Trying to rush the process is a recipe for disaster. Here are some practical tips to help you minimize waste during the lamination process.

  • Laminator Maintenance — Manufacturers provide maintenance instructions and intervals, including regular cleaning of all parts. A well maintained laminator today will save money and avoid problems down the road. Shortcuts here can lead to major problems later on.
  • Careful Machine Setup — Each run requires attention to detail with regard to machine setup, and this cannot be overlooked. Spending a few extra minutes to ensure that all settings are perfect, the webbing is flawless and the materials are correct can save a lot of grief and waste in the end.
  • Gang Your Lamination Jobs — Taking the time up front to print and laminate similar jobs together with other projects can save a lot of wasted material. Most RIP software packages have excellent nesting capabilities. This allows for multiple files that are being printed on the same media to be grouped together and printed in a tightly fitting pattern.
  • Plan Smart — Get your print and lamination departments to look at upcoming print schedules and due dates so they can coordinate longer range plans. This type of planning allows large groups of files to be organized to make the best use of space on both the print and lamination media.
  • Hand-Feed When Needed — Sometimes a single project cannot be nested with other jobs (a unique substrate perhaps, or a rush job). The fastest way is to web up the laminator and run the job, but that is also the most wasteful way. A less costly, less wasteful way is to hand-feed the print through the laminator. The print will only need a 3" leader area. Hand-feeding takes a bit of practice but can save a fortune in wasted laminate. 
  • Limit Media/Laminate Choices — Offering too many laminate and print media choices is another problem. My rule of thumb is the more possible permutations and combinations that exist, the less likely they will actually work. Take a careful look at your most commonly used laminates. It should be possible to trim down the inventory and make the lamination process more bottom-line friendly. 
  • The Roll Size Effect — Roll size can play a big factor in eliminating waste as well. Using a 54" roll to laminate a 24" print has an obvious waste problem. Use fewer media types, but stock more sizes of the media. This is one way to solve the size problem. Another way is to use the slitter on the laminator to cut the material down to size as it runs through the laminator. Save the offcut pieces for hand-feeding.