Remember that production axiom—“Quality, turnaround, price: choose any two”? That has been debunked by Hong Kong print manufacturers, whose collective expertise and business savvy deliver proven quality at the required budget on schedule. Now, these suppliers are upping the ante by adding another dimension to the production challenge: digital, as in digital products or digital printing. (And yes, you can have all four.)
The publishing industry, in general, has been quick to move into digital by creating apps at a dizzying pace, says executive chairman Matthew Yum of Hung Hing. “However, given the crowded market, only the best can thrive and profit, so publishers have become more wary about new technologies. In that sense, acceptance of new ideas has slowed, and bigger publishing houses have instituted a more diligent process in assessing every new idea involving nonpaper products. But that means that interesting and promising ideas may get passed over.”
Yum believes that merging the physical product with apps is the future. “In Hung Hing, we call this Apps Plus, and our team currently has two such technologies that we branded as Bridging Book and TouchCode. Both make the content come alive by utilizing digital apps that go beyond what a conventional book can offer. Interactive elements, games, videos, animation, virtual reality, you name it.” The Little Musician series (see sidebar, p. 26), for instance, applies the TouchCode technology, while patent-pending Bridging Book, launched at the 2013 Frankfurt Book Fair, allows a seamless flow of content and artworks between book and screen, where flipping a book page will simultaneously refresh the screen on the app. The first few Bridging Book titles are expected to be out later this year.
Over at Leo Paper Group, its associate company MotherApp augments its print and digital businesses to offer both to clients. “StoryMate, our latest project, is a concept connecting physical books with an app. It synchronizes with the physical book and interacts with the reader based on the content of the physical storybook page,” says director Alvin Lai. “It effectively turns traditional reading on a printed book into a totally digital and interactive reading experience.”
Offering Hybrid Printing Solutions
Now that content has mostly been digitized and books disaggregated into chunks of information, the printing model needs to evolve as well. Hong Kong print suppliers are not standing idle. Most have added digital printing presses to their production lineup so as to offer hybrid offset/digital solutions that give clients the best features of both worlds.
Regal Printing, for instance, has been offering digital printing since 2006. “We have Fuji-Xerox C800 and C1000 for four-color printing, and one Xerox Nuvera for black-and-white projects. These presses are supported by a slew of machineries that cater specifically for digital printing. So we can handle virtually all types of binding regardless of the printing method,” says managing director Maurice Kwan, adding that his company’s digital printing services have been extended to cater to exhibition and convention needs with quantities as low as 10 copies. “Urgent tender document printing is another area that we serve, and we find that digital printing provides the greatest flexibility and speed in turning around such projects.”
Small print runs is another area using digital printing at Regal. “Clients from the educational market may print 10 or 20 copies to test the market, and then order more if the project gets the green light,” Kwan says. “Or they can opt for offset printing if the quantity is high enough to make it viable. On the other hand, we have overseas clients who used to do offset printing with us, but now have to turn to digital printing due to a drop in market demand or production budget. In such cases, we help them to switch to digital printing even though the cover may still be printed using offset. So we offer a hybrid manufacturing model that utilizes the best of both methods to help publishers meet their price points and quality standards.” In 2013, Regal won a Benny Award in digital printing for Moet & Chandon Champagne Cookbook and Fuji-Xerox’s Top Growth in Print Volume Award.
Over at the print brokerage firm Jade Productions, digital printing is rarely used as “clients invariably get better pricing from their on-shore digital printing suppliers. Sometimes, clients do require a small quantity of sales materials or samples for test marketing, and we would go for HP Indigo digital process. However, we classify such projects as prepress works instead of actual orders,” says managing director Ken Kong.
But it is a totally different game for CTPS with its HP inkjet web and Indigo presses. The past two years (since its first inkjet web press was unveiled) have clearly documented the scope of acceptance—and adoption—of digital printing in a region long recognized for its offset printing expertise. “Presently, we are seeing digital applications across all book segments with most of the orders for customization and personalization of book covers. Higher-ed publishers, specifically, are following their U.S. and European counterparts in creating regional ‘flavors’ in a bid to further differentiate their titles from the competition,” says global business director John Currie, adding that the next step “is the customization of text pages, where digital printing with its variable data capabilities will shine. This is where e-learning initiatives with customized textbooks come in, and publishers need to quickly understand—and seize—this market potential.”
Publishers in Asia Pacific, adds Currie, are beginning to grasp the digital print model and are more open to explore digital applications that fit their specific segment. “Instead of looking purely at unit cost per book, these managers are now factoring in the total cost, which covers inventory and warehousing and the whole supply chain. Those focused on reducing inventory by doing short runs are seeing the financial benefits of digital book production.”
STM and trade publishers have also started using CTPS’s digital printing services to provide print on-demand. The orders from these two segments have been steady, says Currie, and the application takes advantage of the company’s fulfillment and logistical support within the region. Later this year, these clients will be able to access CTPS’s new digital printing platform for auto-ordering and stock replenishment.
Belaboring the Labor Topic
Print manufacturing has always been labor intensive, especially in the handwork/assembly segment. Even the most efficient offset production floor requires at least a dozen skilled operators to work a line from paper-trimming to binding. This poses a major problem in the Pearl River Delta print manufacturing hub, where the labor market remains tight even as minimum wage spikes to the highest ever. For many, automation is a way out of this situation.
Leo Paper Group, one of the biggest employers in town, has embarked on a $37.8 million production automation strategy to circumvent the issue. “This strategy is key to our customer service pledge, where we strive to find ways to reduce reliance on manpower while working on enhancing our production efficiencies,” says managing director Kelly Fok, pointing out that automation is currently applied to secondary processes (such as foil-stamping, silk-screening, and die-cutting) to improve production quality, speed, and efficiency. “For handwork assembly, we are using robotic arms, and mechanical and electronic tools that are either sourced from suppliers or designed in-house to accommodate our workflow needs.” There are also automatic lines for casing-in and perfect binding, and five new HUV offset printing presses to help replace manual labor in bulk production.
Last year Leo Paper Group reorganized its OEM business down to two pillars—business and manufacturing—with relevant supporting units. “Simplifying our company structure has improved manpower planning and management, enhanced operational efficiencies and effectiveness, and streamlined the overall workflow to minimize overlapping departmental functions.”
Adds director Alvin Lai: “We have reduced labor by 16% in the past 12 months, with our total staff holding at around 12,000. That is really amazing when you consider that we once had 25,000 people in our Heshan production plant.” His team has also been implementing value stream mapping to analyze and design the flow of material and information while ripping out in-process manufacturing waste. “This lean manufacturing method helps to eliminate non-value-added activities to drive down costs, increase capacity and shorten the production lead time. All these strategies benefit both Leo Paper and its clients.”
Thinking Back and Ahead
While the overall economy seems to be better than that of the previous year, growth in the major economies has been rather erratic. According to Yum of Hung Hing: “The first quarter of this year saw extreme cold weather in the U.S. affecting consumer patterns, and that effectively slowed down new order placement. Numerous retailers also cut back on inventory cycles, further affecting order quantities. Retailers continue to be cautious on overstocking and will reduce orders suddenly to match demand. I think the major challenges this year—and in the foreseeable future—are going to be more shorter runs, quicker deliveries, and a much more pronounced spike in the peak season.”
Dealing with the above difficulties is definitely on every print supplier’s to-do list. PW sits down with several major export printers to find out what they have been doing and how they plan to move ahead.
C&C Offset Printing
“Our core business of book printing continues to do well, especially in the U.K. and U.S. markets,” says assistant general manager Kit Wong, adding that while the global purchasing strategy adopted by the big publishing groups does exert some pricing pressures, “it does help to ensure stable business throughout the year once the agreement is in place. Naturally, volume does sometimes come at the expense of higher profit margin, but in the longer run, it all works out well.”
Meanwhile, Wong and her team are committed to continuous improvement in productivity and efficiency. “Our mission is to work hand in hand with our clients and help them cope with the demands and changes in a highly competitive market. Creating more value for our customers has always been our belief, and we have been putting a lot of effort into various technical developments that cover not just printing but also advanced IT technology.” In March, for instance, the C&C team showcased an augmented children’s book with multimedia content for enhanced reading and learning experience during a vocational training council exhibition. Adds Wong: “John Tsang, the financial secretary of Hong Kong, who attended the exhibition, was shown the innovative product, and he later wrote in his blog expressing his belief that the wizarding newspaper in the popular Harry Potter series will become a reality soon.”
Meanwhile, C&C’s own stationery line is gaining a strong foothold in the domestic Hong Kong and China markets. “Aside from offering stationery items through different distribution channels in the mainland, we have also created an online portal to help stationery vendors sell their products. Over in Hong Kong, our focus is on paper crafts that are popular with the locals such as otegami, origami, and washi tape. We launched several products at the recent Hong Kong Book Fair, and they became some of the most sought-after items when their photos went viral on Facebook and Instagram,” says Wong, whose team works with local artists to ensure local touch and flavors in the design. “All these products are sold at our sister company Sino United Publishing’s bookshops throughout Hong Kong.”
Next year, C&C Offset’s parent company, C&C Joint Printing, will celebrate its 35th anniversary, with numerous events throughout the months. For Wong, this celebration comes with high hopes “of continuing to create value-added products and tip-top services to our clients for the next 35 years and counting.”
Convincing offset “supporters” to try ink-jet production is not an easy feat in a region populated by well-known print suppliers armed with the latest Heidelberg, Komori, and MAN Roland offset technology. “Creating the appropriate cost structure to suit regional publishers was one of the strategies we employed, and this has driven an adoption uptake,” says global business director John Currie. “Overall, our digital business went up right after the 2013 Frankfurt Book Fair, and the volume since then has far exceeded what we had in the past two years combined. So, yes, we are seeing multinational publishers operating in this region coming onboard, and we really like the year-on-year trajectory.” Currie points out that two HP inkjet web presses (T300 and T410) and three HP Indigo (W7250, 7500, and 10000) are sufficient to cover the current market demand. “Ongoing investment in this segment will be focused on the front-end system catering to on-demand printing solutions.”
The migration of short runs from offset to digital “is gathering momentum while our overall business—in both offset and digital—is rebounding after an all-sector decline last year,” adds Currie, who has seen publishers either shutting or downsizing their print-buying offices. “The print-buying function is going back to being centralized, so printers capable of stepping in and effectively liaising with these centralized print control units are now more attractive to these publishers. This scenario is not unlike that of the financial printing sector, which saw document solutions provider Williams Lea growing rapidly.”
Both Currie and CEO Peter Tse are seeing publishers spending more time evaluating digital printing as a comprehensive answer that offers reduced inventory and more efficient supply chain, with short-run and on-demand advantages. “There are clear findings on unnecessary and avoidable costs when regional printing and distribution are not applied,” says Tse, who has established a Singapore office to offer distribution, inventory control, and warehouse management in light of these industry changes—“effectively positioning us beyond a pure printer.”
Companies with more complex and comprehensive offerings, adds Tse, “will emerge as the leaders in the next five to 10 years, and I want to see CTPS as one of those leaders. But for that to happen, we need to reorganize and manage ourselves efficiently and professionally. So I am working on restructuring the group—where we have three companies—to clearly define the scope of services for each entity. We are also progressing from being ‘family style’ to ‘quasi-MNC’ in terms of management.”
June marked the 20th anniversary of Hung Hing UK, which started as a partnership between Hung Hing and MacLehose Associates. “What began as a small two-person operation is now a full-fledged office with 14 personnel providing the whole gamut of print production services for conventional books, children’s products, and novelty production. Two new divisions were also created in recent years: HH Deluxe packaging and HH/Creative,” says commercial director Richard Lim, who points out, “HH Deluxe is becoming a household name for high-end packaging printing in the U.K., and these additional services have expanded our market share and improve our responsiveness to client needs.” The U.K. office has also been restructured to meet clients’ front-end needs by having more people in project development and account knowledge building while leaving the day-to-day operations on project follow-ups to its customer service staff at the Hong Kong and China factories.
Hung Hing, now in its second year of partnership with shareholder Rengo Japan, is seeing its consumer base expanding to include such brands as Pilot, Suntory, Morinaga, Bourbon, Lion, and Kokuyu. “The Japanese point-of-purchase print and display accessories industry has benefitted from our proven expertise in paper products that comes with comparatively lower handwork cost. This enables our clients to go further with their budget and sales promotion strategies,” says executive chairman Matthew Yum, adding that Rengo and Hung Hing will be working together to extend these services to the domestic China market.
Growth in traditional markets for Hung Hing, says Yum, comes from consolidation rather than true business expansion. “We will continue to provide more products and service offerings to expand our business. Deluxe packaging and Apps Plus are on the right track, and we will be able to build future demands on these unique products.”
Automation, he adds, is essential in the pursuit of production efficiency and effectiveness. “We are refocusing on the soft skills needed to drive efficiency from upstream activities. Data mining will enable us to build a wider knowledge of our clients and their activities, and to help us improve in areas such as inventory stocking and purchasing, capacity planning, and value creation through design and innovation. Cost, we believe, is just one factor attracting clients to work with Hung Hing. Our goal is to offer a total package of products to attract and retain our clientele.”
Books are customized products that require service and hand-holding, says managing director Ken Kong. “Publishers may not realize that by slightly modifying the book’s trim size or extent, they can end up with a considerably more cost-effective specification. Or that they would have a less interesting or beautiful product if they follow strictly the specification or image on the file supplied by their creative person or designer. It is in our interest—and our client’s interest—that we assist in achieving the best possible product within their budget and avoid any unpleasant surprises.”
Jade Productions does not hesitate to offer clients advice and tips, says company founder James Binnie. “It has always been the way we run this business. Suggesting alternatives to make the project fit the printing presses or suit the paper stock better comes naturally. And if the print run is too small, we will encourage clients to put several titles together for production and shipment. Otherwise, they could run into problems with minimum cargo size. On the whole, this is about the personal touch and long-term relationship—which defines the print brokering business.”
Sourcing and indenting paper is another way Jade works to benefit its clients. “We started purchasing paper and keeping stock more than 10 years ago in order to keep the cost stable. But at the beginning, we only did it for special projects requiring huge quantities of paper or frequent reorders. Nowadays, we keep a variety of stock to cater to different preferences. Smaller publishers will benefit more from our bulk purchase as they have wider choices while keeping their manufacturing cost low,” adds Kong, pointing out that he keeps popular grades (115 gsm, 128 gsm, and 157 gsm) in different widths for coffee-table books and juvenile titles, and one-sided 350 gsm and 400 gsm artboard for boardbooks. “For boardbook projects, paper is the biggest cost factor. We always insist on using the correct grain to eliminate cracked folding and warpage issues, and minimize waste—which will end up with a better price for the client.”
There have been no new or special requests coming from clients in recent months, notes Binnie. “However, we have more small orders from people we have known for many years, but do not publish regularly. It is good to know that they have not lost their interest in publishing books.” Business was slow in the first half of this year, he adds, and “then all of a sudden, the orders started coming in when we hit July. So, that homework and preparation work done months ago is finally hitting the production lines now.”
Leo Paper Group
Last October saw Leo Paper moving into its new Hong Kong headquarters, a self-owned two-story 32,000-sq.-ft. facility for around 180 Leonians. “This move underscores our management’s confidence in Hong Kong’s future development, the printing industry, and the group’s business growth,” says managing director Kelly Fok, adding that his European sales office is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. “Our Italy sales office, which relocated from Milan to Bologna in July 2013, just celebrated its 10th year in business, and we are all looking forward to more anniversaries and collaboration with clients globally.”
In operations, with the children’s book market trending toward increased focus on education and interactivity, Leo Paper has successfully created more interesting products since Haptic Magic, its innovative solution, was launched in 2012. “This year we continue to offer inspiring ideas and innovative product applications as well as demonstrate how Haptic Magic can help create value to clients’ products,” adds Fok.
Then there is Leo Touch, whose 60-plus secondary processes developed inhouse offer clients an array of visual and tactile enhancement to make their products stand out from the crowd. At the 2014 London Book Fair, a special boxed set entitled Leo Touch Five Elements (metal, wood, water, fire, and earth) was soft-launched to showcase a mix-and-match of secondary processes applied with special designs, printing technologies, and techniques. Adds Lai: “This set guides our clients and their designers on how to better apply our secondary processes to their products. It is about adding new value to graphics and products, inspiring our clients and their designers, and letting them know what is possible and available from Leo Paper.” At last year’s Bologna Book Fair, Lai and his team successfully launched Leo & Friends, a special edition celebrating the 10th anniversary of the secondary processes that is aimed at the children’s book market.
Increasing business by deepening client relationship is the business mantra at Leo Paper. “Supporting our clients’ business development means continuing to develop and expand our own business to offer more value-added services, and getting involved in our client’s product development as early as possible,” says Fok, whose team has continued to pursue and upgrade its certification on sustainability, security, and quality management.
The business strategy at Magnum Offset is all about focusing on clients and what they need, says Vicky Chan, manager for overseas sales development. “That is a continuation from our strategy of previous years, and it has worked well. Our team will continue to provide professional advice to clients—who face tremendous pressure on production budget and ever-changing consumer demands—and work on a partnership to create products that will bring in the margins for both parties.”
Recent months have seen Magnum broadening its service lines to offer such packaging as rigid box, artcard box, and e-flute box, as well as paperbag. “This is a natural progression when you consider the increased demand for consumer goods that also includes books and digital products. We have also introduced new production ideas, unique finishing solutions, as well as novel print materials. For instance, our clients have benefitted from our research in applying offset printing on canvas, touch-and-feel coating, multicolor pattern lamination, and use of waterproof paper and 3D metal stickers,” says sales manager Alice Fan, whose team is focused on increasing Magnum Offset’s profile abroad.
“We have been working with American and Australian publishers in the book, magazine, and catalogue business for a long time,” adds Chan. “Our expertise is known and our solutions appreciated. However, there is a much bigger market out there that we have not even looked at. In recent months, we have been receiving enquiries from the Middle East, South America, Eastern Europe, and Africa, and these are from clients who are looking for high-quality products and are willing to try out creative production ideas. Best of all, they are happy to pay for the extras that they are asking for. So, while the general publishing market may be down in some parts of the world, there are pockets of clients elsewhere looking for partners—for book printing and packaging—in Hong Kong. We just have to be optimistic and keep our eyes open,” Chan says, while admitting that print runs for bound copies are going down amid intense industry competition and changes roiling the publishing industry.
In the coming months, Chan anticipates that mature markets such as the U.S. will recover more rapidly than those in Western Europe. “The U.S. Federal Reserve, with its fiscal and monetary policies, will help to quickly pick up the economy. On the other hand, over in Australia, lower interest rates will continue as before—thus no changes to the currency exchange—and the demand for imports will maintain at current levels.”
Printing can no longer survive on its own merit, observes managing director Maurice Kwan. “Printing has to be combined with other means such as an electronic platform to deliver the final product to the audience. In a targeted one-to-one marketing campaign, highly personalized printed matter can draw the audience back to the product or company website, where his or her preferences and purchasing behavior are captured. Analytics is applied to further customize and refine the print product—or create new content, either in digital or print format, or both—for that consumer. To me, that is one direction that print can go in the near future.”
Recent years have certainly seen the rise of e-publishing affecting conventional printing, and few printers have not seen a decline in production volume, Kwan admits. “Regal is fortunate in that we are well established in the high-end quality printing market, and this segment has been largely spared the impact of e-books or mobile apps. So we have our own branding and niche, and we are going to keep growing in that direction.” That niche has seen Regal included as one of Sotheby’s premium affiliates this year. “Aside from printing Sotheby’s auction catalogues, we have also been busy working with many reputable museums and art galleries, especially those in the U.S. for their coffee-table books and collectible titles.”
Combining the best of conventional and digital printing is the way Regal Printing operates nowadays. “We are equipped to handle ultra-short projects requiring overnight printing and binding. One project saw us rushing out within hours 20 copies of spiral-bound A3-sized construction tender documents in landscape format—to form 64 pages—for a real-estate developer. Then there was one super-urgent project where the file came in at 1 a.m. and we had to deliver a total of 10,000 copies—of a 32-page 16 × 11-in. newsletter in two language versions—to the Hong Kong Convention Center before 9 a.m. Project size, quantity, and lead time basically dictates the printing method used.”
Increased demand for ultra-short runs has resulted in Kwan purchasing a semiautomatic case-making and casing-in machine from Italy, the first of such machinery in the country. “We are now capable of delivering short-run hardcase books from our New Territories facility. Our goal to continue expanding in high-end quality printing means that we must provide all sorts of flexibility to clients in terms of print quality and speedy delivery.”
Regent Publishing Services
Here is a print brokerage firm that began 30 years ago in Hong Kong’s Regent Hotel with a handshake between George Tai and Laurence Orbach, founder of Quarto. Today, Tai remains at the helm of Regent while continuing his mostly “silent” partnership with the Quarto Group. “While many brokers representing Asian printers have come and gone during this time, Regent remains strong, reliable, competitive, and honest,” says national sales manager Valerie Harwell, in the California office, adding, “the ability to mediate challenging situations to everyone’s satisfaction, and to continue serving our clients and utilize our trusted vendors even after problems have occurred has set us apart.”
While Regent has been diligently participating in certifications and trends—ISO, Disney, and FSC, for instance—“it is our commitment to our core business that has kept us afloat during the tough times,” adds Harwell, whose team has been mindful of the ultra-low margins and “are careful not to over-extend our sales and support staff in the U.S., Europe and Hong Kong. We do realize that a steady revenue without huge business growth is actually a sales success in an industry where less books are being printed every year.” As print runs go lower, many projects are more economical going from web press to sheetfed press, explains Harwell, “and our typical print run is from 1,000 to 10,000. So many big projects that are scaling down are coming to us.”
Some might say that using a broker is the choice of nonsophisticated buyers, she says, “but we continue to produce customized products for some of the biggest publishers in the industry. Our relationship, consistency, and reputation are the basis of our business—not necessarily new and innovative product lines or services.” The U.S. constitutes the bulk of Regent’s sales, with the rest coming from Japan, the U.K., South Africa, and Australia.
A profitable business, observes Harwell, “allows us to be there for our client’s reprints, sometimes five or 10 years later. We find ourselves surprised at the business strength of our largest clients as the market changes, and we are proud to serve them. Sure, the market has corrected and we have lost business in some areas, but we have held on to others, in some cases for 15 or 20 years. We see those businesses thriving and it makes us proud. We continue to find new and exciting businesses that need our expertise even more, and we continue to fight to keep our place in this industry.”
Trust is something that companies like WKT have taken years to build, says marketing director Jeremy Kuo, “and it is working for us now as a bulwark against the competition—that, and the collective industry expertise and logistical support that makes this region such a printing powerhouse. Our development with the D-tone color bar is bearing fruit with clients who want some certainty in their lives and, if possible, not having to travel halfway around the world to ensure it.”
Kuo believes that clients working with his team using Fogra and G7 standards know that WKT can deliver print that matches the proofs. “This is not some vague claim with a lot of complex color management jargon and ICC profiles floating around. In fact, we deter clients from using any ICC profile. If a client can produce a verifiable G7 or Fogra standard proof, we can match it, and in many cases we do so without ever seeing that proof. Some clients have even gone so far as to calibrate screen to Fogra and test our ability to match what they see onscreen. We are able to achieve it with D-tone, densitometer, and our eyes, and we print almost entirely with stochastic FM screen.”
FM screen produces a wider color gamut, better contrast, and no moire pattern problems. “Best of all, we do not charge any more than we do for conventional FM screen. And how many printers do you know who can set up a Fogra standard sheet with stochastic screen in 20 minutes? Our staff has been doing it for every job, and the major advantage here is certainty.” WKT now has partners in China, Europe, and the U.S. to market D-tone.
Meanwhile, WKT’s lighter packing solution, Airypack, won the merit prize at the 2013 Hong Kong Awards for Environmental Excellence (Green Innovations) and recognized under Hong Kong Green Label. “It is now on track for EcoLogo certification and the Carbon Footprint credit scheme,” Kuo says, pointing that several high-profile clients are using Airypack as a part of their environmental commitment. “As the pressure builds for businesses to respect concerns for sustainable packaging solutions, we are confident that Airypack will find itself in the mainstream of environmental-friendly presentation offerings.”
The special cover treatment of this 24.6 × 18.9 cm illustrated book certainly gives a new spin to the term “touch-and-feel.” “Nowadays, effects such as 3-D varnishing, drip-off varnishing, and deep debossing have become very complex. The same goes for grain-sand varnish, which was used on the cover of Persiana,” says general manager Kit Wong, adding that the 240-page book is one of the most challenging projects her team had encountered in recent months. “After full-color printing, we had to, first, laminate the case cover, and then apply the grain-sand varnishing before embossing it.” The outcome of the varnish, she adds, is affected by factors such as screen angle as well as the temperature and duration of the UV curing process. “We are very happy to see this book go back to print several times since January, and become one of the bestselling titles within our client’s publishing group.” —T.T.
Little Musician Series
The first print-electronic product of its kind, this series was created and produced by Hung Hing and subsidiary BelugaBloo Ltd. in collaboration with a Hong Kong music school. Targeted at kids aged two to eight, each book in the five-volume series comes with dedicated iPad and iPad Mini apps. “It uses a revolutionary printing technique together with pattern recognition technology to introduce children to new ways of learning music. Vol. 2: Note Reading, for instance, comes with 28 printed music cards and a free app. Users tap the card to the screen to bring the app to life and activate the sound of a particular note,” explains product development manager Nicholas Yum, adding that the first four volumes are now available in the market. More information is available from www.littlemusician.hk.
This 29.8 × 42 cm landscape catalogue with only 48 pages of text had unusual features
for Magnum Offset to handle. “First off, the client wanted a shiny metal clamshell box to accentuate the exclusiveness of the properties showcased in the catalogue. Aside from the oversized clamshell, the use of shiny metal required a lot of vigilance during mass production and assembly. Every little scratch or tiny bit of fingerprint can be seen very clearly—and avoiding those were tough. Then, there are the application of spot UV and spot matte UV for some of the text pages, adding to the complexity. Overall, it took us several weeks to study the project and produce the dummies before we went into final production,” says account manager Janet Yau.
For this 300-page catalogue, the publisher Hong Kong Economic Times specifically requested that mosaic tiles be incorporated into the cover design. “Since the tiles had to be of a certain color, grain, and size, we had to source far more than what we needed, and our team went through the stock to choose the best pieces. Waste was high, but it could not be helped. Then there were the technical challenges of assembling the tiles, fitting the assembled piece onto the debossed part of the cover, gluing it onto the board, and ensuring that it stay glued,” says managing director Maurice Kwan of Regal Printing.
It took the Regent team more than 15 months to move this Potter Style book from the idea stage to final product. “While it may look like a regular paperback, this book actually has three different paper stocks: 14 pages of reading section and 20 stencil cards with 19 sheets interleaving between each stencil card. The 20 cards—the book’s core element—contain different stencil images of the alphabet, and we have to machine-varnish both sides of the card to improve its strength for repeated use,” says national sales manager Valerie Harwell, adding that manual binding with additional stapling further reinforced the book. “The perforation style was also changed to enable the cards to tear off cleanly. The technical issues were plenty, but our team managed to tweak the usual production processes to deliver a great product.”
This order for one million sets took the Hung Hing team six weeks to complete. “One of the biggest challenges was the trimming of the 72-page miniature books, which measure 36 × 22 mm each. That small size meant that the trim tolerance was about 1 mm. Wrapping the plastic jacket over each book posed another challenge as the cover used thin paper stock, and the risk of damaging or wrinkling it during the process was extremely high,” says commercial director Richard Lim. He adds that the accessories used in the project—polybag, jacket, and string components—were carefully selected and meticulously tested by the quality-conscious Japanese client. “This collaboration with our Japanese shareholder, Rengo, enabled partial production in China and complete assembly—involving the pencil and pencil lead—in Japan to cut down on the cost and time needed to ship those Pilot items to China for packing.”