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September 2002

Football season is upon us, and the focus of most teams is on the quarterback. Some quarterbacks are pocket passers like the Saint Louis Rams' Kurt Warner, while others like to get out of the pocket and make plays on-the-run, like the Philadelphia Eagles' Donovan McNabb.

For the printing industry, talk of pockets brings us to the bindery—where new collating equipment can be the quarterback of the finishing department. Just like NFL-caliber players, collating equipment has to be tough, smart, reliable and flexible, equipment vendors say.

The same broad trends that are shaping the printing industry at large—shorter run lengths, faster turnaround requirements, and a shortage of skilled operators—are influencing the way collating equipment is being manufactured, says Don Dubuque, product manager for Standard Finishing Systems.

"Shorter run lengths mandate quick setups and changeovers, because setup time is amortized over the number of units in the run," Dubuque explains. "This is coupled with customers' expectations for faster turnarounds, which means printers need to produce more shorter-run jobs per day. That requires quick setups, ease of operation and reliable performance on a broad range of substrates."

These trends have led to the need for highly automated collating systems, he continues. "Automation is most effectively addressed through interactive, icon-based touchscreens that clearly and efficiently step the operator through all setups. This, in turn, leads to improved efficiency with quicker setup times and faster turnarounds, which is particularly important as run lengths decline. Automated, shortened job setup times translate into higher profits, more collator run-time, and the possibility to free up an operator to run another piece of equipment."

Latest Performer

The latest collator offering from Standard Horizon is the SpeedVAC, which offers high levels of automation through an icon-based touchscreen for quick, simple changeovers. Easy and powerful programming enables dual-

directional feeding, intelligent feeding, and a number of other functions that allow for continuous production and enhanced productivity at speeds up to 10,000 sets per hour. The programming, with touchscreen control, also allows for instant recall of previous jobs and the ability to break into jobs as needed for rush work.

According to Cliff Thompson, manager of marketing communications for Streamfeeder, many businesses that historically outsourced collating projects are choosing to bring jobs in-house. As these companies expand their capabilities, they are very focused on the long-term profit-generating capability of the equipment purchased, he contends.

"Flexibility, value, and ease-of-use translate to return-on-investment, so collating systems must be designed to be simple to use, easy to reconfigure and capable of efficiently handling diverse jobs," Thompson asserts.


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