The intricate process of book manufacturing has always been a multifaceted endeavor. In today’s Print-On-Demand production environment, the pressure to deliver a single book within a tight timeframe post-order intensifies the already complex process. There are many steps involved, like printing, cutting, laminating, casemaking, binding, trimming and more. All these steps have to come together perfectly to create the final quality product before it is ready to be shipped to the end customer.
In our industry, achieving this flawless synchronization amidst a myriad of variables, particularly time and workforce dynamics, remains a significant challenge. Let’s face it—when was the last time your operation ran perfectly for an hour without waste, equipment stops or distractions impeding production? Rarely, if ever. These persistent challenges range from workforce unpredictability disrupting workflow to components misaligning stalling manufacturing efficiency.
So, what is the current approach to solving this POD workflow conundrum: Throw people and money at it…
- Re-sequence covers/cases and/or book blocks
- Inspect finished products to ensure correct cover or case is on the book
- Reorder missing or damaged components
- Manually collect job/production data at completion of job or batch
- Overprint covers/book blocks to ensure correct amount arrive at binding/finishing process
- Lost production time due to machine stoppages from missing, out of sequence or mis-matched components
- Lost production time while operators determine how to resolve an issue or remove un-matched component from inside machine
However, continuing to dwell on these obstacles isn’t the solution. Instead, let’s delve into tangible solutions that are available today. At Müller Martini (MM), our profound commitment to “Driving the Digital Transformation” in the graphic arts industry remains unwavering. Our developmental compass, guided by the Finishing 4.0 ideology, steers our pursuit of innovation.
Suggested/Recommended solutions for addressing these challenges
- Implement a variable de-stacking solution of book blocks or books to simplify and automate the feeding of equipment.
- Integrate softcover binders and hardcover casing-in lines with book block re-sequencing and/or reject capabilities.
- Employ barcode license plates on individual components to ensure precise cover/case matching.
- Utilize scan and print systems prior to trimming for reapplying barcodes thus streamlining downstream manufacturing.
- Embrace barcode-driven Robotic trimming for zero make-ready and expansive trim-off capabilities therefore standardizing upstream set-ups and minimizing operator intervention.
- Invest in End-Of-Line (EOL) sortation solutions to automatically sort books based upon product (e.g. softcover or hardcover), size, order or delivery type (e.g. bulk or individual cartoning, shrink-wrapping, mailing, etc.)
- Utilize workflow solutions such as Connex Workflow System and Connex Info Cloud
- Automate set-up protocols based on JDF/XML data files, enabling precise equipment changeovers.
- Gather real-time production/job data directly from machines for live KPI tracking and fault analysis.
By embracing Automation, Networking, Variability and Touchless Workflow in the early development stages of all of our products, we are able to engineer solutions that streamline operations and effectively synchronize all components seamlessly. Manual interventions are now a relic of the past; the era has arrived to move beyond hypothetical discussions of a Smart Factory and invest in concrete solutions that redefine the efficiency of Print-On-Demand book production.