By: Jim Rosenberg
century with automated cart loading
Automating the transport of carts that protect bundles and ease truck loading
puts an end to the last labor-intensive step in getting papers out of the plant
In its transition from downtown to out-of-town production and packaging, the publisher of the Dayton Daily News and Springfield News-Sun now assembles and loads all inserted bundles at its new Print Technology Center in Franklin, Ohio, about 19 miles from Dayton near Interstate 75.
Since operations began at the 265,000-square-foot facility April 5, Cox Ohio Publishing’s 150,592-circulation Daily News has begun printing and inserting its advance sections there twice a week.
That’s given the plant reason to begin operating its automated cart-loading system. Downtown, bundles are manually loaded onto carts that are manually rolled to trucks. Made by Cannon Equipment Co., Rosemount, Minn., the loaders are among the new plant’s automated systems, many with product-buffering features.
“It’s all installed and we’re running about half of it,” says operations vice president Stan Richmond. Save for “a couple of little blinks here and there” during its first days of use, he adds, “the system is working fine.”
According to Pat Geraghty, Cannon national sales manager, the remainder of the Dayton paper’s auto-loading system will likely be brought on line later this month.
The Print Technology Center is the first plant to use a new on-floor design (rail-mounted shuttles) of the Series II Cart Accumulation System (CAS), which, Cannon says, “provides dynamic storage and handling for empty and loaded carts.”
Cannon has five automated cart-loading systems at North American newspapers. The Plain Dealer, in Cleveland, installed Cannon’s (and probably the newspaper industry’s) first such system at its Brooklyn, Ohio, production and distribution plant.
South of Dayton, The Courier-Journal, in Louisville, Ky., added cart loading following “a modification of their dock to fit the equipment in,” says Geraghty. That retrofit, however, does without the cart-accumulation system with lateral shuttle. According to Geraghty, experience shows that full automation requires that it be planned into a new facility.
Bundles in Louisville move from the third floor to a ground-level cart system installed in what had been a garage before the paper switched to truck leasing. In the absence of a shuttle, says Cannon project manager Dan McRoberts, an operator loads empty carts into a CAS-6 and moves full carts from the machine to the trucks.
National sales manager Geraghty estimates that the cost of automated cart-loading systems can range from $200,000 to $250,000 a bundling line, depending on system options, the amount of plant space available, and the size of the trucks.
The Dayton paper’s plans called for integrating each of four cart loaders with a custom-designed, software-driven, 108-cart accumulation system ? nine lanes, 12 carts deep ? that controls the movement of carts.
An automated lateral shuttle connects the two-way storage lanes to a CAS-6, which automates cart handling throughout loading. Each one-way CAS-6 infeed and exit lane can hold three carts.
Each shuttle picks up two full carts from a loader, drops them off at a designated accumulation lane, picks up one or two carts from an empty-cart lane, transports them to a CAS-6, then awaits loading. At peak demand, a shuttle can carry four carts ? two empty and two full.
Cannon upgraded all aspects of the system for the Franklin facility ? simplifying it and reducing cost and maintenance requirements, according to Geraghty. Whereas The Plain Dealer in Cleveland required pits for its shuttle vehicles, the Dayton paper uses a floor-mounted design. The laser-guided vehicles have “greatly increased the throughput of the system,” says Geraghty. The Plain Dealer’s system, for example, could become “starved” when, “on certain runs it would be difficult to keep up with the demand for carts,” says Geraghty.
By itself, the CAS-6 indexing buffer that shuttles carts provides up to five minutes of unattended operation. Were the entire system to be loaded with empty carts, the four loaders would operate unattended for more than 90 minutes ? though, in practice, notes operations vice president Richmond, carts are always being brought in and taken away.
Copies processed through the plant’s four Heidelberg NP630 inserters are stacked on four Heidelberg Olympians, strapped and bottom-wrapped, then passed onto a Cannon-supplied conveyor. That belted incline rises to a platform above the six-foot-tall carts.
When a platform has four bundles, stops hold the bundles in place while the platform withdraws, allowing the bundles to settle onto support forks that reach through a cart’s framework. Those forks lower with every four-bundle delivery until the cart is filled, whereupon the forks withdraw.
A mechanism under the cart automatically moves that cart, when full, onto the rail shuttle, which conveys the cart to a full-cart lane or column designated for a certain delivery zone. The cart is then ejected into that column and mechanically moved to the end of the column.
At any time there ordinarily are 400 carts being filled, another 400 being returned by truck, and 400 more at the “branches,” or distribution centers, according to Richmond. The Dayton Daily News maintains nine such branches.
Upon backing into the plant’s dock, a driver rolls the carts out of the truck and pushes them into a slotted wheel track “that pulls the carts into the system,” says Richmond.
At the other end of the system, the indexing machine extracts carts to be loaded and returns loaded carts to their assigned columns.
Ready to reload, drivers enter their route numbers by typing into terminals or swiping route identification cards through readers. The CAS then releases only the correct carts (those bearing the right number of the right bundles) to each truck dock.
“You have better control over what products go on what trucks, because it’s more difficult to make a mistake with a system that will only release certain things to certain places,” says Richmond. Also, a label on each cart provides drivers with “a visual check” to ensure that they are loading the correct bundles.
“I’ve never seen one of these get behind,” observes Richmond. “I think they can go as fast as you can go.” The long path of his system’s conveyors
permits product to back up briefly so that “minor disturbances” won’t always interrupt production.
the system’s “consistency” in bundle handling and placement, Richmond also finds “it minimizes the damage” and “deals ? fairly well” with the football-shaped bundles that typically result from large, heavily inserted copies.
As the production transition proceeds, an overall packaging control system is being created for the new plant by linking information and controls in Heidelberg’s systems to those in Cannon’s. Information on products coming out of the inserting and bundling lines will be used to instruct cart loading and staging for truck loading ? the cart-loading system will know what’s coming and where it’s going.
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