Meeting requirements of the United States Postal Service (USPS) is essential for printers and commercial mailers who base their businesses on receiving all available postal discounts. As of September 8, 2009, the USPS will implement new booklet tabbing rules, noting that booklets "consist of bound sheets or pages." Noncompliance with these new rules can mean that mailing companies won't receive discounted postage rates - ultimately impacting competitiveness and profits.

For many types of booklets, the new tabbing rules will require two 1.5-inch tabs wrapped on the leading edge of a booklet and one 1.5-inch tab wrapped on the trailing edge of the product. The tabs cannot be perforated, and the required orientation of the tabs has been changed and varies depending on the product being tabbed. Binding methods that are compatible with automated processing, and thus eligible for postage discounts, include perfect binding, pressed glue and permanent fastening with at least two staples in the manufacturing fold (saddle stitched).

To maintain profits, mail houses and commercial printers may need to update their tabbing solutions to ensure USPS compliance. This is because the new tabbing requirements cannot be met by the majority of existing tabbing equipment, with the exception of new systems and upgrades now available. Furthermore, the new orientation of the necessary tabs may require additional material handing equipment to rotate the booklet 90 degrees.

Mailers should carefully consider the capabilities of new tabbing solutions to ensure compliance with regulations and seamless integration into the production line:

Product control. How does the tabber control a variety of booklet sizes to ensure proper placement of tabs? Does the tabber offer features to prevent product twisting and jamming?
A system with product guides ensures the booklet does not shift as it moves through the tabber, resulting in USPS-compliant tab placement.

Production speed capability. What is the throughput capability of the system and how does it affect current production speeds? Will the system reduce speeds and require more labor hours to complete existing jobs?
Most tabbing systems tend to have similar production speeds of 15,000 to 20,000 pieces per hour. In many cases, however, another piece of equipment is required to reorient the piece or turn it 90 degrees to ensure proper tab placement. These systems can vary from 8,000 pieces per hour for a bump turn type product, to 20,000 pieces per hour for a power turn solution. It is important to consider the production speeds of all pieces of equipment to ensure production lines maintain throughput.

Ease of upgrade. Can the current tabbing solution that the mail house is using be upgraded to minimize capital outlays?
Many existing tabbers can be upgraded at a lower cost than purchasing brand new equipment. This can reduce capital outlays and potentially result in an easier installation process.

Jason Lund is a graphics product manager for Videojet Technologies Inc., Wood Dale, Ill. He is responsible for managing marketing initiatives for variable data printers, vision systems, line controllers and paper-handling equipment. He received a bachelor degree in Business Administration in 1999 from Drake University and a Master of Business Administration degree in 2006 from the University of Virginia's Darden Graduate School of Business Administration. More information on the Videojet Cheshire TLS system is available on the Videojet website.