Curious about how your favorite planner is made? You’re in luck. We sat down with Jaime, our Sr. Manager of Production, to chat about creating the Year Task Planner (YTP) from start to finish. Read on for a first-hand look at what it takes to bring our top-selling planner from our studio to your doorstep.
Hi, Jaime! First let’s set the stage. What do you do at Appointed?
Being head of production means I create the schedule of manufacturing in order to fulfill orders—from custom to wholesale to orders from our website. I’m the one who sets up machinery for new products, checks to see if we can work with a die for a custom order, chooses which type of hot press to use for different jobs, etc. I also draft planner interiors every year for calendar and academic releases, which involves coordinating the proofing process. When it comes to releasing brand new products, I work with Alex from our product development team to create samples and make sure everything is going to work as expected.
Walk us through how the Year Task Planner is constructed from start to finish.
First, we use a collating machine. Once we receive pallets of interior and tabs (from different vendors), I have to input the setup for each tab by counting the number of pages between each month. So let’s say I have ten pages for December—I enter ten pages plus one page for the tab, etc. Once this is entered I have to check that it's collated correctly with a single interior before running the whole pallet.
We stack collated interiors on our work tables in stacks of 50. We try to do this step before we receive the covers so that we can begin working as soon as the covers are received.
Once we get the covers in, we punch holes for the wire-o with a manual punch. We then collate them with the interiors in stacks of 50. The next step is the our binding machine. We set this machine up first for a 9/16” wire and set it to cut at 28 loops. We use this machine to loop the wire inside the interior. We don’t use this machine to close the wire up, though—because the YTP is so thick this would damage the machine.
We again work in stacks of 50, and (one at a time) close the wire-o binding with a manual wire closer. This is like a small press with a lever—we place the wire facing the wall of the machine. Once it’s even on the back we pull the lever and close it up.
The final step is the packing process, using a cello bag and label. Once we have the assembly process ready, everyone on the team jumps to the table and starts packing. Packing takes a while because right now there’s no way to automate it.
That’s so interesting! Do you work in stages like: today we collate—tomorrow we bind? Or do you work on a specific quantity of YTPs until they’re done?
It depends on how many covers we receive, because sometimes we receive partial orders. So let’s say we receive a partial of 250 of each color cover, we try to have everything done by color. But it depends on what else we’re working on and what we’re reserving planners for. For example, right now we have about 2,000 interiors stacked and ready to go, which will take us about a week to make once covers arrive.
Are there any details about the YTP that require close attention during the production and QA (quality assurance) process?
The interior is the number one priority for QA. We need to go through each page, because sometimes there are printing issues [with the ink]. I remember last year there was one single page each month with lines that shouldn’t have been there from excess ink. We also check each tab. One person stands in front of the the collator while it's running. This person is able to see page by page what is going on.
Also, at the end we check that the wire is closed correctly. If it’s not, once you put it in your hand you can see the cover sticking up at an angle instead of laying completely flat.
What makes the YTP different or more difficult than making other products?
Definitely the thickness. For example, with other products like notebooks, we can use the binding machine to close the wire. That is much faster because you can insert the wire-o and close it in one step. But because the YTP is so thick, we have to add an extra step to manually close it.
What is your strategy for keeping up with YTP demand through our busiest season when we have higher sales in every product?
Around our busiest season, (Black Friday for example) I try to keep at least 250 YTPs per color completed on the shelf. The YTP is very unpredictable. Sometimes one color will be a bestseller, and then the next year it will be the least popular. So it’s hard to look at last year’s sales and predict how many to produce by color. We check the shelf twice a day to keep these levels up and make more depending on the colors sold. This means we have about half of the team working on YTP at any given time.
Now for the fun stuff. What is your favorite Appointed product?
The Workbook. I like the size because I feel it’s a little more easy to handle. I don’t have a specific color—I always try to use extra covers we have in the back. Also, when we receive interiors they come with a divider page between every 75 pages. I recycle this paper for my workbooks.
You make your own workbooks with the divider paper? That is so fun.
Yeah—just to save paper and because I prefer to leave the rest for the customer. I mean, it’s a small way to save paper and recycle. Sometimes they are blue, yellow, gray, white with gray edges—so not the typical Appointed product!
Pen or Pencil?
Pencil—always pencil because I like being able to erase!