WS Packaging Group, Inc. in the US state of Tennessee has become the first graphic arts company worldwide to invest in a Muller Martini Presto II Digital saddle stitcher with an unwinding system, at its brand new greenfield facility in Knoxville. Thanks to that world premiere, the packaging specialist can now offer its customers full services for all print products.
While a number of companies, including Hobbs the Printers Ltd. in the UK (see “Panorama” 1/14) and Paul Büetiger AG in Switzerland (see “Panorama” 2/14), are already using the Presto II Digital to stitch digitally printed signatures, WS Packaging has entered new territory in two senses this year with its MBO unwind/sheeting/folding system, which is connected inline to the plow fold unit of the Presto II Digital. “Our new saddle stitcher serves our new business model, which in turn is emblematic of our brand new production site in Knoxville,” says Brad Barkley, IBSO (Impact/Business/System/Office) Corporate Director.
WS Packaging Group, Inc.’s new business model means that the packaging giant with 21 plants throughout the US and Mexico can now offer full services for all print products to its customers. These customers, who come from a wide range of industries, are mainly based in the southeast of the US and include several major enterprises.
Everything from packaging and labels to brochures and operating manuals is printed in house. “We’re taking on the role of general contractor for our customers, and replacing relatively loose customer relations with genuinely strong partnerships,” says Barkley.
WS Packaging benefits greatly from having all the necessary production equipment it needs to deliver the complete package under one roof in Knoxville. The new Presto II Digital saddle stitcher – the first Muller Martini machine in WS Packaging’s 14-year history, making it another premiere – is lined up alongside printing, folding and finishing systems. “The fewer windows we have between the various production steps for our complete packages, the simpler the process and the higher our productivity,” says Barkley.
A Sophisticated Line as the Perfect Hybrid Solution
Speaking of “complete package”, Muller Martini acts as a general contractor for the line, which is highly sophisticated due to the integration of the various elements. It features an unwinding system, cross cutter, buckle folder (all three from MBO), plow folder, Presto II with three feeders (one of which is a folder feeder), an Apollo compensating stacker, a banding system and MMRemote for online services. Barkley explains that this compact solution, together with Muller Martini’s excellent reputation, was the reason for opting for this system, which is also optimal in terms of production speed, quick job changeovers and user-friendliness.
“We inspected the complete system at Muller Martini North America’s showroom in Hauppauge during a demo, and rapidly became convinced that this is precisely the solution that the market needs.” The Corporate Director explains that there is also another key advantage: “The Asir-3 barcode system provides us with maximum production reliability, which is vital since our customers, especially those in the pharmaceutical industry, have very high requirements in terms of the correct sequence of signatures in operating manuals and leaflets for medicinal products.”
The Presto II Digital was installed near-line to an HP T230 Inkjet Web Press. Though it prints in full color, some 90 percent of the manuals are in black/white. Typically, only the company logos are printed in color. The universal saddle stitcher is used as the perfect hybrid solution (see also box) to process both digitally printed products via the unwinding system and conventional offset printed signatures using traditional pocket feeding methods.
The Presto II Digital also excels when it comes to varying product sizes, thicknesses and run sizes. The manuals range in size from 3½ x 5 inches to 8½ x 11 inches. They have between 2 and 160 pages, with an average page count of 32. Their run sizes are between 1,200 and 50,000 copies per title, with the average being 2,500 copies.
Before the Presto II Digital was commissioned, such manuals were all printed using the sheet-fed offset method and processed using an old saddle stitcher. “Now, of course, we’re much faster,” says Barkley with a grin.