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We Have Markedly Accelerated the Hardcover Production Process with the Duo VBA/Vareo PRO

Cyfrowa Foto sp. z o. o. has several Muller Martini finishing systems predestined for digital production in its factory in Zaczernie, near Rzeszów, including a Vareo perfect binder, a Duo VBA/Vareo PRO for hardcover production and a Diamant MC Digital Photobook bookline. We asked Mariola Baradziej (Senior Process Engineer) and Arkadiusz Sidor (Operations & Development) from Cyfrowa Foto, what advantages these bring to the Polish flagship company, which is particularly known for its innovative photo books.
Who founded your company and when?
Mariola Baradziej/Arkadiusz Sidor: Cyfrowa Foto sp. z o. o. (Ltd.) was established in 2006 by Piotr Leszczyński. However, it had its origins back in 1998, when Piotr Leszczyński established his first business in the photo industry. Initially, this business consisted of photo labs located in the main shopping centers of Rzeszow, the largest city in southeastern Poland. Over time, the founder of the company, who is also one of the main architects of our products, introduced the first photobook and initiated the nPhoto and Colorland brands, which are now the main pillars of the 13 retail brands maintained by our company.
How would you characterize your company?
Cyfrowa Foto has been built on the personal commitment of the founder. It is clearly at the heart of the company's culture and a source of the company success. While developing and becoming a global company, Cyfrowa Foto deploys methods, processes, and solutions suitable for large manufacturing and trading companies, and combines personal commitment with proven methods of product manufacturing and delivery.
How many people do you employ?
Staffing levels fluctuate throughout the year. Over the last four years, we have generally been involving between 400 and even 900 employees or subcontractors.
How many shifts do you work?
Nine months of the year our production is organized around a first main shift, with additional shifts organized when there is a larger flow of customer orders. In high-order months towards the end of the year (keyword Christmas business) we work in three shifts.
How does your capacity utilization in the peak season compare to normal operations?
When we switch from single to three-shift operation, our daily production volumes increase many times over.
From left: Arkadiusz Sidor (Operations & Development), Mariola Baradziej (Senior Process Engineer) and Jacek Kobilinsky (Sales Manager Muller Martini Poland) in front of the Diamant MC Digital Photobook book line at Cyfrowa Foto sp. z o.o. in Zaczernie, Poland.
Keyword volume: how many books do you produce per year – and what forms of books are these?
Our production is characterized by a wide variety of products with different page and image sizes and a varying material structure. It is therefore difficult to describe it with such a simple parameter as the number of books. What we can say with certainty, however, is that outside of the peak seasons we still have space to produce white label orders for our partners and companies in the photographic and printing industries.
How has the overall volume developed in recent years?
The last three years have brought many changes and uncertainties. The corona pandemic curtailed the activities of a large part of our customers, the photographers. The Ukraine war created new uncertainties. Despite this turbulence, our brands total volume of sales is growing steadily.
How does your customer structure break down?
Our customers range from professional photographers to enthusiasts who capture their passions in photos, to companies that use our Presejo brand, to private customers. For each group, we try to develop an offer tailored to their needs in terms of quality, price, and delivery time.
Where do your customers come from?
Our company was founded and launched in Poland, thus this is where we started scaling up our business. Today we can proudly say that our customers come from Poland, the European Union, and the USA.
Do you also have self-publishers as customers?
Our offer allows for publication of self-publishers contents. However, this is a group for whom we want to expand our offer in the future and better tailor it to their needs.
Do all your orders come in via a portal?
Yes, we receive all orders electronically. They come to us through our e-commerce channels, but also through our API interface that we offer to our partners.
Do you print exclusively digitally?
We call ourselves a digitized production house because sales are made exclusively through the e-commerce channel or API and the order then goes through production digitally. As for printing itself, to meet our customers' expectations, we use an entire range of printing technologies – from digital and silver printing to toner and inkjet to UV or laser printing.
What does your product range look like?
We offer a wide range of products, from traditional prints to business cards, posters, images, and several types of photo books – including layflat books.
Cyfrowa is especially known for its innovative photo books.
Among others, our offer includes photo books made with our own technology, which we call Photo Albums. These are characterized by higher print quality and block finishing (keyword layflat), as well as a wide range of cover finishing. We also produce photos or books in Accordion format. The Accordion-shaped block is placed in a cover closed with magnets.
Do you produce both soft covers and hard covers?
Yes, we are in both segments.
What is the ratio between softcover and hardcover?
Hardcover books make up the majority.
What are your print runs?
We offer our customers the entire print run segment – from book-of-one to several thousand copies, managing the orders flow by adjusting lead-time for larger quantities.
Have short (or very short) runs increased?
Short(est) runs are at the heart of our business, but it is difficult to say if those are the one growing. The total volume is steadily increasing.
How many of your products have run lengths of one?
The majority.
Do you have certain specialties in hardcover?
Yes, we have a number of unique products in our range. One, for example, is distinguished by its format: a 500 x 700 mm handmade book. Another is the Accordion mini book we mentioned earlier. In both cases, we use a hardcover binding. Another product is Triplex, a collection of three hardbound photographs in a hardcover finishing.
You put your first Vareo perfect binder into operation in 2019 and also decided on the VBA/Vareo PRO solution from Muller Martini in 2021? What tipped the scales in favor of this investment?
The idea was to expand capacity of the existing Muller Martini machinery in our production on the one hand and to automate hardcover production on the other.
To what extent does the VBA/Vareo PRO duo meet your needs exactly?
We can now produce very short runs much more cost-effectively, not only in softcover but also in hardcover. We have also significantly accelerated the hardcover production process.
It addressed the end-cover prep and application as well as automates the overall block production process.
Is expanding the VBA/Vareo PRO Duo with an InfiniTrim three-knife trimmer an option for you?
Yes, this is certainly the next step in automation that we have on our roadmap. It will allow us to introduce new solutions, formats, and products. Currently, we use a Granit three-knife trimmer.
In addition to the two Vareo, you have also had a Diamant MC Digital Photobook bookline in operation since 2019 – with what experience?
It allows sequential changeovers and batch production down to single books, as well as 1:1 matching and matching via a reference list.
To what extent have you strengthened your market position with Muller Martini solutions?
The Muller Martini equipment helps us to ensure the reproducibility of our products while maintaining the required output. These are parameters that are especially important to our customers.