A Look at E-Commerce and Finishing
Although some areas of traditional finishing may be experiencing some bumps, there are LOTS of other opportunities open to the creative engineers who build finishing systems. One area is E-Commerce. Although e-commerce is Web-based, fulfilling the actual order requires someone to physically pick, pack, and ship the items.
Amazon recently opened a warehouse facility not far from where I live, and they ran TV ads trying to sign up potential employees. From these you can see there is a lot of manual labor involved. A few firms over the years have made an effort at automating the process of packing the goods. Perhaps the most successful has been CMC, an Italian firm that I did some work for in the early 2000’s. CMC was one of those small engineering companies that consistently took on those “out-of-the-box” projects that larger competitors thought too risky.
Originally, a builder of polywrappers, CMC has branched out into many diverse lines such as envelope inserters, high-speed paper wrapping, and more. I fondly remember CMC’s founder, Giuseppe (Beppe) Ponti giving whiteboard presentations in his slightly fractured English that absolutely dazzled prospects.
CMC’s e-commerce entry is the Cartonwrap 1000. The Cartonwrap can process up to 15 boxes per minute. The machine offers several distinct advantages. There’s no need to stock boxes of varying sizes, since it uses only one size of fan-folded corrugated. Fulfilled products are introduced into the machine via conveyor and the box is built around the assembled products, reducing waste caused by using oversized boxes. It also greatly cuts down on filler materials, and can add additional advertising inserts, as well as printing and applying the shipping label. As an added extra, the system features something called "packvertising" which uses an inline printer to print custom advertising directly on the box. An added bonus.
The system has enough potential in that it has attracted the attention of major e-commerce retailers, and they have installed Cartonwraps. Although this is not traditional finishing, it’s a successful automation effort where there is clearly a need. As in the luxury packaging market (which we covered last week), there is LOTS of potential for systems which reduce labor in markets outside of the bindery. Here’s a link to a very good YouTube video on the Cartonwrap 1000 www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eqtqKDbV1Q