Bulking Up The Mailroom p. 22

By: GEORGE GARNEAU NEWSPAPER PACKAGING AND distribution systems are bulking up to drive costs down, and in the incessant drive for efficiency, bigger is better, at least for the moment.
Oversized automation ? in the form of robots, palletizers, cart systems and even jumbo plastic containers ? dominated the post-press product parade at Nexpo in Las Vegas.
System vendors see demand for more automation in moving newspapers from the press delivery toward readers. Simply dispatching bundles to the loading dock on a conveyor belt to be floor stacked by hand on a truck simply won't do anymore.
Innovative new systems can do the job faster and cheaper, and newspapers are betting it's worth the investment as they refine the decentralized distribution system that began transforming newspaper delivery a decade ago.
In short, mankind is endowing machines with the brawn and brains to take a lot of the back-breaking grunt work out of moving newspapers. And
the materials-handling evolution is attracting more companies from other industries ? for example, soda and milk packagers and warehouse system developers.
"The big trend is: Everybody is looking at bulk handling, either palletizing or carts," said consultant Chuck Blevins of Denver's Blevins Harding Group.
As newspapers, starting with the biggest, shifted to adult carriers delivering longer routes from decentralized distribution centers, needs have changed. The challenge is to move printed products ? inserts, advance sections, late news sections and complete newspapers ? to distribution centers, and between printing and inserting plants.
First came palletizers, then carts and automatic loaders. This year, robotic loaders and plastic containers for untied papers are emerging to fill special needs.
"I think we are going to see a lot of activity in bulk, either tied or untied bundles," Blevins said.
Machine Design Services Inc., the Denver company that last year showed an automatic cart loader, this year demonstrated a robot that can load carts and pallets. Based on an American-made Kawasaki robot fitted with a lifter designed to hold four newspaper bundles, it loads 40 bundles a minute. The first unit is working at the Washington Post.
The robot improves on the cart loader because it loads pallets, too, said Greg Greenan, MDSI marketing chief. Either way, it's faster, and reduces labor costs and injuries, compared with manual loading.
The cart-loading robot sells for $125,000 to $150,000, $225,000 to $250,000 for the pallet loader, which requires pallet conveyors.
MSDI also showed the
45" x 52" x 42" plastic container, holding up to 1,200 96-page papers, that is being used to transport untied stacks of newspapers from the Los Angeles Times' Orange County plant to distribution centers, where stacked products are inserted by hand, Greenan said.
The Newspaper Bulk Loading System automatically loads the containers, one layer at a time, from a conveyor of untied newspaper stacks. Then it stacks one container on another and moves them by conveyor to be loaded by fork lift onto trucks.
The system, rated at 38 bundles a minute, is designed also for moving printed products between plants, in-plant storage of advanced sections, and can move tied or untied bundles.
Advantages of untied bundles include: no strapping machines, no strapping material, reduced damage, no bottom wrapping ? and papers can be hand inserted directly from the container.
Quipp Systems Inc. of Miami weighed in with its own robotic palletizer, a Fanuc M-410i model adapted for newspaper lifting. Louis D. Kipp, one of Quipp's founders and a veteran mailroom vendor, said bulk loading of newspapers is on the upswing for the simple reason that takes cuts in half the time it takes to load and unload trucks and reduces product damage.
The robot loads 40 bundles a minute, four at a time, in straight stacks and can be programmed to automatically install slipsheets made of corrugated board between layers. The full system with conveyors goes for about $250,000.
The robots being demonstrated at Nexpo this year aren't the first attempt to put industrial robots in newspapers, Kipp said. In the late 1970s, Idab introduced a robotic loader that was greeted with yawns, and union opposition.
Quipp also introduced its Viper three-quarter Kraft wrapper with an inkjet head capable of printing bar codes. It wraps 40 to 50 bundles a minute and costs $16,000, inkjet included.
When the New York Times asked Western Atlas, one of the biggest makers of palletizers, about incorporating a stretch wrapping, Western came up with a prototype within a year. The Times thought it "pretty tremendous" and, after "suggesting" a few improvements, ordered seven of them for the production plant under construction in Queens, N.Y., said David Thurm, Times production vice president. Now called von Gal Z-3 NewsWrap, the machine, rated to load 84 bundles a minute, was shown on videotape in operation.
For one thing, wrapping the loaded pallet in plastic on the palletizing machine saves a lot of space. For another, the NewsWrap accepts different kinds of pallets, which allows the Times to save money by reusing pallets from preprints. And the fact that Western has sold the machine to other companies helps assure the machine's continued support.
At its second Nexpo, Western was promoting its first sale to a newspaper, the Times, but not the last, according to Jim Seidel, regional sales manager, who said sales to other papers were in the final stages.
GMA, which introduced its next-generation in-line inserter, the SLS2000, to huge demand and some 30 sales, showed enhancements such as a pneumatic collater takeup, air bearing table for more accurate feeding, safety interlock guards to prevent injuries, and remote feeder adjustment on the fly.
GMA also improved its Plans software system. An inventory tracking module uses real-time, radio-frequency bar code scanners to follow inserts from the time of receipt. The system includes an expanded module for calculating postage costs and a totalizing system that includes multiple counters for reduced overruns, said Philip K. Jones, systems marketing manager.
He said newspaper preprint advertisers are demanding increased accountability, such as reports of inserting accuracy.
The ability to provide accountability ? in part, by bar coding each newspaper through a GMA system ? allows the Tacoma, Wash., News Tribune to bill insert advertisers only for products actually inserted, Jones said.
In more traditional categories, a number of new strappers, stackers and three-quarter wrappers debuted at Nexpo.
One of the more innovative was Total Mailroom Support Inc.'s Compass counter-stacker, designed so bundles can be routed to exit in four directions. The feature gives mailroom managers the flexibility to change production flow without moving a lot of equipment. The design saves floor space and includes movable controls.
TMSI President Michael McGeady called it "the most exciting breakthrough in stacker technology in 20 years."
The company, based in Brook Park, Ohio, and formed by employees left jobless when Hall Systems closed in 1994, says the speed of 72 single-batch sacks a minute is the fastest available anywhere. The company's first new product, the stacker sells for $49,000.
While a prototype was demonstrated, the machine won't be available until August. Executives said a sale was in the offing for two units, however.
Sterling Packaging Systems of Westlake, Ohio, showed its new MR-50 strapper, rated to tie 42 bundles a minute in actual operations. New features include an optional two coils for fewer changes, a mechanism for fast reel changes and touch screen diagnostics.
Power Strap of Hodgkins, Ill., introduced its NT-30 strapper, rated at 30 bundles a minute, which includes a high-resolution inkjet printer, all for $35,000.
Meanwhile, several commercial stackers have been adapted to mimic newspaper stackers ? the theory being that newspapers can unplug their regular stackers and roll the commercial stackers into place when they print smaller commercial jobs.
The 84-inch-high infeed on the Gammerler compensating stacker has already attracted 10 buyers. Specially designed to cash in on increasing commercial printing at newspaper plants, the machine sells for $73,000. The German company builds them in Illinois.
Heidelberg Harris has adapted the American-made Rima commercial stacker as a newspaper machine, designated RS-25S-OH. Heidelberg says the unit rolls into place, cuts staffing because it produces neater stacks, and makes the product easier to see and adjust for.
In other developments, NCS said it has wound down its agreement for Sheridan Systems to market the NCS PC-based inserter control and totalizing software. NCS, a software development firm in Landing, N.J., said it would sell instead through Postpress Equipment Co., Savannah, Ga., with a remanufacturing plant in New Jersey. Prepress, which sells rebuilt insterters and stackers, will market NCS software through such companies as Valley Remanufacturing and AM Graphics.
Fred Fazzio, a founder and president of NCS and part owner of Prepress, announced a major contract to integrate the NCS inserter control system into the production management system at the New York Times' Edison, N.J., plant, which will run eight Sheridan 1472 inserters. He said upgrading old inserters with new controls is key to the new company's strategy.
Edge Ergonomics exhibited EZ-Loader, an air-operated table that lowers pallets of inserts automatically as the load lightens in order to reduce worker injury. Over 50 of the 2,100 tables have been sold to newspapers, Edge's Kevin Nelson said. Some employers want to help employees, and others have been ordered by their workers' compensation insurance carriers to raise pallets off the ground in order to reduce claims, he said.
Cannon Equipment, which last year showed a second-generation cart loader, this year announced sales to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which plans to buy eight loaders and 1,600 carts as it converts from manual loading. Production director Ken Kieck said the system reduces staffing by 75% in loading bundles.
Bushman Co. introduced a new conveyor-based bundle sorting system, UniSort 10, which is twice as fast as its previous system. Bushman, based in Cincinnati and active in other industries, said it is seeking a partner to market its products to newspapers.
Sitma, the Italian maker of poly wrapping and onserting equipment, demonstrated a new hopper, designed for newspapers, functioning on an onserter that collected main news sections with comics insert packages, wrapped them in poly bags cut from a roll, stacked them, tied them and palletized them, all online at 10,000 an hour.
In use at the Washington Post for Sunday insert packages, similar systems are widely used for TMC and shopper packaging, said Raquel Jensen, marketing manager, who predicted more newspapers would move to poly bagging.
?(Total Mailroom Support Inc.'s Compass counter-stacker, designed so bundless can be routed to exit in four directions) [Photo & Caption]
# Editor & Publisher n June 22, 1996


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