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Progress Printing links Avanti bundlers and high-speed webs

Press release from the issuing company

March 8, 2004 -- Two Muller Martini Avanti bundling systems are working as the interface between the recently updated web pressroom of Progress Printing and the company’s state-of-the-art bindery. The first Avanti at Progress Printing was installed in 2001, when the Virginia-based commercial printer began running the first shaftless ROTOMAN press in North America. The second Muller Martini Avanti was activated at the close of 2003, when Progress Printing inaugurated its second 16-page web press from MAN Roland. In operation, the Avanti bundlers jog the folded signatures that are produced by high-speed webs, assembling them into strapped, log-shaped bundles. That’s no easy task at Progress, since the presses typically generate signatures at maximum speed, with the full variety of signature formats their combination folders can produce, including 4 and 8 page signatures at speeds over 90,000 copies per hour. The Muller Martini Avanti bundler handles all these requirements with ease, producing a high quality log that is easy to transport, protects the integrity of the presswork, and interfaces cleanly with Progress’ bindery equipment. Stan Smith, General Manager of Progress’ five-acre facility in Lynchburg, Virginia, says that his two Muller Martini bundlers are achieving all those objectives and more: “Avanti has really impressed our pressroom team. We can run our presses at full speed with it and our crews have no problem keeping up as signatures come off the press’ folder.” Smith points out that the integrity of the log is the key: “It means everything to the quality of signatures. Avanti produces logs that are nice and flat, so you can transport and store them when and where you require, and you can’t easily damage them.” The Avanti’s patented horizontal bundling and log separation concept promotes such quality, assuring consistent results for all press speeds and formats. The Progress production chief also appreciates Avanti’s flexibility and ease of use. “It can handle every fold we can do on the press,” he says. “It gives us a high level of quality and stability. And the makereadies are easy and quick, paralleling those on our ROTOMAN presses.” For a bundler to be fully effective as a workflow interface, it has to connect directly both mechanically and electronically to the delivery end of a web press’ folder. In the case of Avanti and ROTOMAN, the link-up is a highly productive match. “MAN Roland takes responsibility all the way to the exit of the folder, and from that point on Muller Martini takes over,” Smith says. “They teamed up together to integrate the digital and mechanical aspects of both systems, so they can talk to each other. The signals from press tell the in-feed conveyor on the Avanti whether start-up material or good product is coming off. That way the Avanti knows if it should be counting and jogging product or dumping it into the waste stream.” At Progress, logs that come off the bundler are placed onto standard pallets and trucked via forklift into a work-in-process holding area. “That’s where we stage the jobs for finishing,” Smith says. “As the bindery schedule requires, the logs are transported by material handlers to our saddle stitchers. That part of our workflow is not highly automated but it is very organized. Everything is cataloged so we know where each piece of every job is at any given moment.” The bundled signatures take up much less space, reducing the number of skids to track and simplifying the material handling logistics. “We pour a stream of product into Avanti and it jogs up and conditions those signatures and delivers them in the form of tightly compressed logs that can be stored until the complete job is ready for finishing,” explains Pat Allen, Postpress Manager at Progress. Progress runs three Muller Martini saddle binders as the key components in its five-stitcher fleet. One is a vintage system that still runs 24/7 after 23 years of service. At the other end of the spectrum is a Prima SB furnished with flat pile feeders and integrated streamfeeders that condition the signature stream and assure maximum uptime with minimum manning. Bundled signatures are hoisted into the streamfeeders with a Muller Martini Crane and Hoist system. With this production line, Progress can handle selective binding and inside/outside mailing jobs. “Avanti works best with that system,” Allen notes. “We lift the logs with a crane and load them right into the feeders. One person can handle a job that used to take three or four helpers, and we’re gaining the full benefit of the Avanti concept.” But Progress is also benefiting from the advantages of automated bundling on its manually fed machines. “For shorter runs, our operators break the logs open on skids and hand feed the signatures,” Smith points out. “The integrity of the logs helps them to load the pockets faster, while the product stays in great shape.” Before the advent of the Avanti/ROTOMAN combination, Progress was managing every signature by hand in its migration from press to bindery. “It’s a very cumbersome process when your signatures are not conditioned,” Smith recalls. “Avanti has streamlined the process and opened up our plant floor. The compressed logs can be palletized so they don’t take up as much space.” As to the reaction of Progress’ 280-member staff: “The pressroom loves it, because Avanti has automated the delivery process, and the bindery crews like the quality of the product they‘re receiving. The flatness and consistency of the signatures makes their equipment run faster and more efficiently.” Smith notes that while it’s difficult to put a hard number on Avanti’s advantages, the results speak for themselves: “We just know it’s improving our productivity and reducing downtime in the bindery. For one thing, we have 80 percent less rejects with the Avanti. But it’s immeasurable what Avanti has done for our saddle stitching operation.” For customers who require perfect binding, Progress utilizes select trade facilities. The transportability of Avanti’s bundles delivers dividends there as well. “We use a couple of production partners for perfect binding,” says Smith. “They love how the product arrives. We it get to them in excellent condition, thanks to Avanti. As long as they’re strapped, the bundles are very durable and you can move them easily, so they dramatically cut down on freight costs.” But it’s the continuing effort to fully integrate Progress Printing’s internal workflow that is getting the full attention of Smith and Allen. “Putting ink on paper is only one part of the process,” Smith declares. “We’ve got to finish what we print and get it out the door on time. In that sense, the bindery is like a vacuum to the rest of the plant. It has to pull the work through the process.” With its digitally driven controls that communicate with the presses’ PECOM operating system, Avanti plays an active role in Progress Printing’s ongoing adoption of Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM). “We believe in the benefits and value CIM brings and we believe we’ve picked a very good company in Muller Martini to help us introduce it into our postpress operations,” Smith says. Allen notes that as Progress continues to grow, the company will continue to raise the level of automation in its bindery, perhaps adding automatic palletizers to its two Avanti bundlers. “We have furnished this plant with high speed printing equipment,” he says. “We can’t do less in bindery, where throughput is just as crucial. Our customers demand quick turnaround, so we have to stay on top of each facet of the business, and the bindery is a critical part of that.” When asked why Progress was among the first printer in North America to install an Avanti system three years ago, Smith replies: “Primarily the decision was based on the relationship and trust factor we had established through the years with Muller Martini as a company. Avanti at that point in time was very new to the U.S., since there were two in the country when we decided to install our first one.” The performance that Avanti promised also helped cap the decision, according to Smith: “We liked the capability of the Avanti bundler and how it fit into an overall production concept to help us be more efficient in our operations. In our eyes, Muller Martini has developed the right equipment for efficient manufacturing and they’re headed in the right direction. Avanti is a good example of that.”