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GREAT LAKES BINDERY -- Move to Automation

August 2001

When Steve Landheer's customers speak, he listens. The owner of Great Lakes Bindery—based in Grand Rapids, MI—knew that in order to remain in the trade bindery business, he had to find a way to meet his customers' increasing demand for faster turnaround.

For the past 20 years, Great Lakes Bindery has specialized in mechanical book binding. Landheer's father decided to focus on mechanical binding after a major client agreed to exclusively use Great Lakes Bindery for its mechanical binding work as long as Great Lakes invested in the necessary equipment.

And not much has changed in the mechanical book binding process since Great Lakes began binding books 23 years ago, according to Landheer. "Mechanical book binding is an extremely labor-intensive craft; there is nothing quick about it."

While much has remained the same in the mechanical book binding process, customer expectations have expanded. Today's focus on faster jobs forced Landheer to find a quicker and easier method to mechanically bind books. So five years ago Landheer began looking into automating his 15,000-square-foot trade bindery.

"We knew that we needed to improve our turnaround times because our customers were demanding it," he states. Still, deciding to automate his shop was not just an effort to better meet client demands. It was a way to increase Great Lakes Bindery's productivity and address the shop's growing skilled-labor shortage problem.

"Employment has been tough the last several years. It is very difficult to find and keep skilled labor. It's even more difficult for trade binderies because we are such labor-intensive operations," Landheer explains.

Problem Solved
To solve his dilemma, Landheer turned to Long Island City, NY-based Spiel Associates. Great Lakes installed a Sterling Coilmaster II automatic coil former and inserter, as well as a Rilecart B-599 automatic wire binder, as part of a $250,000 shop upgrade.

"The Rilecart really fit our needs, and does it without spending $800,000 for a machine The binder has really done well for us." A double-loop wire binder, the B-599 automatically binds books at speeds of 4,000 books per hour depending on size. It automatic-ally binds books with wire diameters from 1⁄4˝ to 1˝. "With this machine, I'm doing twice the amount of work with the same number of employees," Landheer says.

And the story of improved efficiency has been much the same for Great Lakes' Sterling Coilmaster former and inserter. It uses spools of plastic filament in various gauges. It forms the coil around different size mandrels and ejects them onto the infeed conveyor. The coil then drops into a motorized chute and is fed directly into the book, where it is cut and crimped automatically.


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