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Materials Handling in the Bindery — Moving It on Over

February 2005 By Chris Bauer
Managing Editor
Call it paper kinesiology 101. The science of moving materials around the bindery is getting ever more digitized and automated, if not complicated. It is taking its cue from current automation trends up the production stream—although it can be difficult to automate the entire finishing process.

“Printers have picked the low-hanging fruit available to them by automating the prepress and pressroom areas,” explains Dennis Mason, president of Western Springs, IL-based Mason Consulting. “In many operations, the bindery remains a veritable beehive of activity, with people performing a wide variety of tasks. But it is this same incredible variety of tasks that makes it difficult for printers to remove labor through automation. Instead, a major trend in printers thinking about automation involves setting labor standards and making tasks uniform in order to increase productivity and throughput.”

According to Terry Choate, operations and general manager of Banta Catalog Group, there are many trends affecting the bindery today, which, in turn, will impact the way materials are handled. “From an operations perspective, binderies are facing severe manpower shortages,” Choate says. “Machine speeds are going up, while personnel numbers are going down. Binderies need to find more effective ways to handle the customer’s product and get it through the bindery at higher speeds and with less people.”

To this end, Banta is moving towards automating bindery processes rather than relying on manual processing to keep up with the pace of machines. It continually works on creating more efficiency. For example, Banta bundles in logs versus hand stacking on pallets for increased efficiency and speed.

Mason points out that digital workflows are beginning to incorporate bindery functions in-line with the press. “At Drupa, we saw many instances of in-line finishing, all of which is beginning to blur the line between the bindery and the pressroom—much as the line between prepress and the pressroom has been blurred by the advent of computer-to-plate and closed-loop color.”

Bindery equipment manufacturers showed a great variety of automated bindery equipment at the recent Drupa and Graph Expo trade shows. “(Manufacturers) have also embraced JDF and appear ready to provide printers with the equipment they will need to take full advantage of the integrated automation possibilities of JDF,” Mason reports. “It remains to be seen how printers will adapt this equipment to their operations.”

While many manufacturers are offering more automated finishing equipment, some users are not ready to implement all of the capabilities just yet.
 

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