Materials Handling–The Final Frontier

Ferguson cites other advantages of automation, explaining that up to 472 moves (or orders) can be programmed into an AGV, allowing it to make up to 2,000 moves per day. Per hour, Ferguson says AGVs are capable of achieving material movement flow rates such as these: seven palletized signatures from presses to bindery; nine palletized signatures into racks; and 14 palletized signatures from racks to binding lines.

Statistics like these are spurring industry organizations to include materials handling on their conference agendas.

For example, the Research and Engineering Council of the Graphic Arts Industry dedicated several sessions to materials handling automation at its recent 40th Binding, Finishing and Distribution Seminar.

“For many years, the printing industry viewed the bindery as a stepchild. But it’s a very important facet of the business,” explains Charles Dine, Banta’s manager of corporate industrial engineering, who served as the council’s session chairperson.

“A product has to be bound,” he continues. “It’s important that the product be folded, jogged and bundled correctly in order to run it on high-speed finishing equipment. If it doesn’t feed well into a 20,000 per hour machine, that machine may only run at 14,000 per hour.”

Which is an inefficient way of doing business, by any printer’s standards. But any printer’s standards might not be as high as the industry giants with multimillion-dollar budgets.

The Right Price
However, as materials handling forges to the forefront of industry issues, the demand for automated equipment is bringing prices down. From pile turners and palletizers to conveyors and computerized management information systems, automated machinery and software are being designed with the more modest bindery budget in mind.

Whether it’s one piece of equipment or an entire system, many printers are finding that state-of-the-art materials handling is paying for itself in time, space and manpower savings, not to mention ROI.

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