The first time I was invited to visit a printer in China was in Poon Yu district in 2002. At that time, China still did not have the labour law to protect wages, the average income being $400 RMB per month. The factory I visited was a medium scale one, hiring about 500 employees, and just like all other factories in China, they provided dormitories and uniforms. The reason of this visit was an annual report job on how to find a cheaper supplier, since printing in Hong Kong can be quite expensive indeed.

Around 12 p.m., the factory manger lead us to the conference room and showed us the 4 color books they were using. He kept praising the printing machine, as well as the color correction system. After lunch time, he lead us to the factory lines,  where the labors were divided into many groups and were working on different floors. The ground floor was the office, where the clerks did all the paper work. The other side of the ground floor was the paper storage, and they showed us how good the paper quality was. They had a color machine on the second floor but I don’t remember which brand – I’m sure it wasn’t Heidelberg. At that time, CTP was not popular so they were filming using lithographic plate, which was kinda old school, but I quite liked it. When I passed by the color adjusting machine, one of the supervisors beckoned me to see the color proofs. The color was not too accurate, it was too  yellow and the black was a little too shallow. So, we agreed to adjust the output by reducing 10% of yellow and reinforce the black by adding 5%. After the conversation, he insisted that I sign on the proof with the agreed adjustment, which I did.

Later, we visited the department which was responsible for gluing boxes and book spines. Around 50 young ladies sat there quietly, doing their jobs. We headed back for Hong Kong at 5p.m, and the factory driver drove us right up to the border.

Two weeks later, we received the stuff. The cover looked okay, beyond my expectation, the sliver foil was good too and was accurately stamped on its position. When we flipped over the inside page, there seemed to be no big problems, but later, we discovered that the color was fading. After we opened more cartons to check, we found that the green color on the header and table varied considerably between the first book and the last. The worst however, was yet to come. We were shocked to find that  the last page advertising had 1 cm bleeding, and was more than the 5mm standard (it cropped in for 1.8cm!). It caused 3 characters to be cut from the address line. When we brought this to the printer’s notice, they kept apologizing but refused to refund, because just one page  defect was far less than their company policy of 5%! The product was totally unacceptable by our quality standards and we had a hard time with the 5,000 pcs of holy crap.

This is my true experience of getting printing done in China. I will soon share my other experiences in a different blog post.

Written by Alan Lee (www.monogum.com)

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