Midland Regional Printers gets blank label production rolling with BAR Graphic slitter
Contrary to the perceived wisdom in the narrow web world nowadays, it’s not always the best solution to do everything – including the finishing – in-line, especially when many of your typical production runs are what would be termed ‘small’ orders – under 2,000m. As Midland Regional Printers, of Nottingham, UK, has discovered, having a reliable finishing system that is easy to operate and keeps makeready times to a minimum is the key to good workflow and high productivity.
Since it replaced its old finishing equipment with a dedicated dual slitter rewinder and inspection unit from BAR Graphic Machinery early in 2004, the label division’s productivity has jumped by a quarter. It has also been able to offer a competitive supply of blank labels to small and large companies alike across the English East Midlands region.
MRP specializes in all areas of commercial print, including offset, digital, packaging, and recently, labels. The latter makes up about a tenth of the business; the company specializes in flexo printing (both water based and UV), with two five colour Edale presses and a six-unit KDO. About 95 per cent of the total output goes through an off-line slitter at the finishing stage.
Label production manager Kevin Brennan says: “Though our old machine had given a good service in the past, its set-up times were just too long. With the existing machine, it would be difficult to grow the label business – any increase in capacity would lead to bottle-necks.”
And MRP’s growing, diverse label customer base across the region has high expectations – on-time deliveries, sometimes at a couple of days’ notice, and in seemingly ever-decreasing order volumes. Consistent quality is a given. And maintaining optimum productivity is vital to keep that reputation strong.
“In this case you have to make your assets work as hard for you as possible. Putting the right job on the right machine is actually just as important as keeping makeready times to a minimum, and cutting waste,” comments Kevin Brennan.
The company eventually chose the Elite 250 DDI dual die inspection slitter-dual rewinder from BAR Graphic. The maximum die cut web width is 250mm; and 300mm for inspection.
“It has the same footprint as a single die machine – an important consideration with our factory space being so scarce,” he adds. “But equally, it was a reliable, fast and precision engineered machine that allowed quick, easy and safe job change-over, and kept our machine down-time to a minimum.”
The Elite 250 DD boasts a number of operator friendly controls to ensure smooth, problem-free conversion of blank labels. Set-up times are between 10-15min; the machine is said to run smoothly at speeds of up to 150m/min. Its cartridge slitting system allows easy setting of the blades without taking them away from the machine. This is made possible by a datum point within the cartridge, which retracts back into the machine “effortlessly” without the need for alignment.
The cartridge can be changed without disturbing the web, thanks to its quick release system. Up to 15mm lateral cartridge movement is possible, during production, to achieve final adjustment. Its razors are said to offer precise cutting of all substrates – plastics or paper.
The mandrel is pneumatically inflated, ensuring firm gripping of each core, even if it is out of specification, says Bar Graphic. Its fixed splice table, with dual pneumatic single web clamp, is said to enable neat cutting without cross-directional web movement. Rolls can be rewound to a wide degree of tightness or slackness, depending on customer preference. It is capable of handling substrates in this way down to 20 micron.
With the Elite 250 DDI, makeready is claimed to be reduced by several features. Its ‘operator friendly’ dual die loading station is loaded horizontally. The operator can place the die into the machine easily, with the weight supported by the positioning rails. Dies will not get stuck or damaged, says Bar Graphic. The pneumatic rewind mandrel is said to be easily interchangeable. The manufacturer supplies a range of unsupported mandrels starting from 25mm diameter; they are changed by removing four bolts with an Allen key.
“The efficiency of the new finishing machine enabled us to meet the growing demand from – initially – our packaging customers, for blank labels,” comments Kevin Brennan. Thermal transfer bar code applications and price labels are common requests from clients in the retail sector. Requests equally came from organizations as diverse as hospitals and manufacturing plants, looking for variable information label solutions.
“A good proportion of our blank label orders are under the 2,000m mark. The trend to shorter runs is a reality, especially since customers want to hold as little stock as possible. Thanks to the fast set-up times of the BAR Elite machine, we can quite viably deal with orders as low as 200m,” he enthuses.
MRP’s label clientele ranges from small-to-medium enterprises to very large, nationally known names such as Boots. As he explains, being able to offer fast lead times to the retail sector is of prime importance. “Given the competitive nature of the High Street today, we often get last minute orders, when a customer decides to launch, for example, a surprise promotional campaign. We’ve had orders for up to four million labels – it may seem a tall order, but it can be turned around easily in a matter of days. When you have a reliable machine like this, you take out the risk factor, and that does wonders for relationships with the buyer.”
| BAR Graphics
Tel: +44 (0) 1274 680020
Midland Regional Printers
Tel: +44 (0) 115 955 1000