A Visit to the Printers – See HeroQuest Glorantha Covers

I’ve been asked about the status of HeroQuest Glorantha. Well yesterday I was traveling from Minneapolis to Fargo and the nice people at Bang Printing offered to give me a small tour of their warehouse and printing facilities in Brainerd, MN. It was a bit out of the way, but totally worth seeing it. Bang Printing handles fulfillment for Moon Design Publications, printed the Argan Argar Atlas, and King of Sartar, and are the ones that will get HeroQuest Glorantha into your hands as soon as possible.

You can skip to the bottom to get the delivery details, but I thought I would show you a bit more than just that in this post. During university I worked a few summers in Pulp mill (and learning how paper is made) and it was interesting to me to see it go from a roll of paper into a printed book.

I have toured various manufacturing plants several times; I develop software that manages inventory, distribution, warehousing, fulfillment, and financials (aka ERP software), but this is the first time ever seeing my product being produced, and that was really exciting.

The Warehouse

Do note, this isn’t an Amazon fulfillment center full of busy robots, but their processes have been developed over years of doing fulfillment.

Their main warehouse is huge! 110,000 square feet (or 10219 square meter). They have some of the lines for the larger book assembly there, but most of it is devoted to storing books ready for fulfillment. One client has over one million books in inventory there ready to be sent out, but most of their clients are smaller companies like us (and our friends at Design Mechanism). Bang Printing has locations in multiple states, but this is their main plant.

The Printing Process

HeroQuest Glorantha was printed on this!

After working in a pulp mill, I expected it to be louder in there, the place wasn’t silent either. Bang Printing runs their lines 24×6, with the lines down on Sundays. Their planning team constantly works to manage each job and get them all printed as smoothly as possible.

This is not on demand printing. Just because we have approved the proofs and are happy with the results, it may not mean that Bang Printing is ready to start the run. Effective just-in-time scheduling is an incredibly complex problem, as I am well aware with my years of working on ERP systems.

HeroQuest Glorantha is printed in a four color process and was done on the machine shown on the right. They use an offset printing model where the image goes onto printing plates and then onto the paper. They have different machines for one-color printing, two color printing, and doing the covers.

Book Ready for Binding

Multiple pages are created at once, and then cut up to a set size. For large books like ours, they have a sorting machine that handles 21 bundles of pages at a time they collate into the full 256 pages of HeroQuest Glorantha.

After collating, they run it through a binding machine that will take the pages, trim to size (watch your fingers!) apply a very strong glue, and attach the pages together and to the cover. I didn’t get to see a large hardcover book being done, but we were able to watch some softcovers getting bound and boxed.

As you can well imagine, it takes almost as much time to set up the job as to run it, and any small mistake can ruin an entire print run and force them to do the entire thing all over again.

Ok, what about HeroQuest Glorantha? Is it printed?

HeroQuest Glorantha cover

Technically yes. All the pages are printed as is the cover, shown to the right. However it is not bound yet. Per my understanding, it was scheduled to start today. I don’t know how long it will take to get our entire print run done. This is our largest print run ever – yes, even more than the Guide to Glorantha, if not as heavy. Once they print it, box and inventory it, I’ll be able to send over the orders to start getting them fulfilled.

I really want to give Tyra, Perry, and Melissa from Bang Printing a special call out for showing us about, and John, my engineering manager at Microsoft for humoring me enough to take the longer drive through Brainerd so I do do the visit. Thank you all!