Catalog printer gets its sheets together

A new automatic stretch-wrapping system helps The Dingley Pres

January 29, 2014

7 Min Read
Catalog printer gets its sheets together

A new automatic stretch-wrapping system helps The Dingley Pres

For years, The Dingley Press, a catalog printer in Lisbon, ME, has saved its customers millions of dollars in paper, ink and postage costs through the use of its unique RightSize catalog format. But, when it came to its own operations, inefficiencies in its pallet-wrapping procedures were resulting in lost time, damaged product and excess labor costs.

Above, pallets of shrink-wrapped catalogs are first conveyed through an orbital stretch wrapper that wraps them vertically over the top and under the bottom, after which a rotary tower wrapper secures the pallet's four sides. Top, securely wrapped pallets then are conveyed to an area for retrieval by fork truck.

Serving customers nationwide in the business-to-business, mail-order catalog market, Dingley prints more than 600 million catalogs per year that it distributes on mail pallets to bulk-mail centers (BMCs) around the country. Its niche service, the 8 x 101/8-in. RightSize catalog format, provides catalog customers with up to a 10-percent savings in paper and mailing costs over the cost of printing standard, 83/8 x 107/8-in. catalogs. To move these high volumes of printed catalogs, flyers and inserts through its massive 260,000-sq-ft facility, Dingley requires reliable and efficient production systems.

Until May, 2003, a serious logjam existed in the plant's end-of-line operations, where pallets of finished product were being inadequately wrapped using semi-automated systems that required significant operator involvement. After much research, Dingley replaced its semi-automated wrappers with a two-stage, six-sided pallet-wrapping system custom-designed by Orion Packaging Systems that has increased its pallet-processing productivity by nearly 33 percent.

Manual wrapping is slow, costly
In Dingley's finishing department, saddle-stitched or perfect-bound catalogs are shrink-wrapped in bundles according to BMC postal regulations and are placed on mail pallets measuring 48340 in. Before acquiring the automatic stretch wrapper from Orion, Dingley used two semi-automatic machines along with a manual strapping process that together required four operators. Stacked pallets were moved to the stretch-wrap area where they were placed on the machines. An operator would then position the wrapper arm and initiate the wrap cycle, in which the pallets were wrapped horizontally on four sides. Wrapped pallets were then removed from the machines and were manually strapped from top to bottom.

"We used to strap the pallets to hold them together so we could stack them in preparation for loading onto trailer trucks," explains Rex Stickley, bindery manager for Dingley. "With this system, we had a ton of problems because the straps would loosen after the bundles would settle. Pallets would fall, and we'd have to pick bundles up."

And, the wrapping and strapping process was a painstakingly slow 20 to 30 pallets/hr. "It caused a bottleneck in the workflow system throughout the plant," Stickley adds.

Approximately three years ago, Dingley began searching for a more efficient stretch-wrapping solution. On the suggestion of equipment distributor Butler Brothers, Dingley approached Orion about the possibility of the Collierville, TN-based stretch-wrapper manufacturer custom-engineering a system capable of handling mail pallets. While Orion had provided similar integrated wrapping systems for other industries in the past, this would be its first foray into the printing industry. "We visited their manufacturing plant in Montreal," relates Stickley, "and it was very impressive. But it was their level of internal expertise that really impressed us."

In January, 2003, Dingley placed a purchase order with Orion for an integrated, two-station automatic wrapping system, which was installed five months later.

Six-sided wrapping is the solution
According to Orion, the printing and graphic arts industry presents some unique challenges. Among them is the issue of securing the slippery and unstable printed matter effectively to the pallet without the use of strapping materials that can loosen or can cause damage to the uppermost layer of product. In addition, the printing must be kept clean and dry on the sides and top. To meet these requirements at Dingley, Orion developed a system of two machines for six-sided wrapping. First, a Constellation orbital FAOW-OR-80 wraps the pallet vertically over the top and under the bottom, after which an MA- 55 rotary tower automatic stretch wrapper secures the four sides of the pallet.

Beyond these requirements, Dingley had some specific requests. According to Stickley, the system had to be "operator-less." He says, "The only people who ever need to attend to the machine are the forklift operators who deliver the pallets to the system and put on a new roll of film onto the machine when needed."

Supplied by Orion, a 58-ft conveyor accepts pallets from the forklift operator at one end, moves the pallets through the two-station system, and then conveys the wrapped pallets away from the system for collection at the other end. Movement is controlled by an Allen-Bradley programmable logic controller driving AC motors.

Notes Dingley's bindery manager, "With the process that we have now, you can literally throw the pallet off the fork truck, pick it up and go on. The six-sided wrapping maintains the integrity of the pallet so it doesn't fall apart."

Dependability was another priority for Dingley. "It had to run twenty-four hours a day," says Stickley. Contributing to the system's reliability, he explains, is the orbital ring wrapper's double-roll construction, which employs two rolls of plastic to wrap each load. "Having the same size roll on each side of the ring acts sort of like a balancing function," he explains. "The competitors' systems use one roll, so the ring has to run faster to accomplish the throughput. By having two rolls, we can slow the ring down and make it run slower, which means less wear and tear on the machine. In the event that we do need more throughput, we can go in and tweak it to run faster. We could probably get up to seventy to seventy-five pallets per hour, if we wanted to set it up that way."

Under normal operating conditions, Dingley operates the two-station wrapper at 60 to 65 pallets/hr. Lastly, flexibility was a huge issue. The system had to be designed to accommodate pallets from 12 in. to 4 ft tall, as well as a myriad of mail pallet constructions. According to Stickley, mail pallets use small "feet" on the bottom that can vary in size. "They [the U.S. Postal Service] may change the feet pattern by one-half inch, three quarters of an inch, etc., so it was important that Orion engineer the roller system to carry virtually any configuration. When you deal with the quantities of mail that we do, you never know what you're going to get from the post office, so we wanted to make sure we covered the full range of feet patterns so that any size could go through the machine without a flaw."

A satisfied customer
Almost a year after installation of the integrated Orion stretch-wrapping system, Stickley reports that "it's really been great–no surprises." In addition increasing Dingley's wrapping speed from 20 to 60 pallets/hr, which completely broke up the company's production bottleneck, the system has also led to a considerable savings in labor and in materials. No longer having to strap pallets vertically, Dingley has saved money in strapping materials, and with the greater integrity of the wrapped pallet, the printer was able to downgauge the thickness of the chipboard used as a tie sheet, for further savings.

Pallet stability has been greatly increased, as well. "I never have a pallet fall apart that I have to pick up," relates Stickley. "With the process that we have now, you can literally throw the pallet off the fork truck, pick it up and go on. The six-sided wrapping maintains the integrity of the pallet so it doesn't fall apart."

"Orion did a super job," he concludes. "I'd buy another system from them if we needed one."

More information is available:

Stretch-wrapping system, conveyors: Orion Packaging Systems, Inc., 800/333-6556. Circle No. 201.

Equipment distributor: Butler Brothers Industrial Supplies, 207/784-6875. Circle No. 202.

PLC: Allen-Bradley, 414/382-2000. Circle No. 203.

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