02 September 2018 Print Companies

Stephens & George wins automation award

Muller Martini has presented its Industry 4.0 Award to the Welsh magazine printer, a first litho printer to gain the global award for automation.

Magazine printer Stephens & George has been awarded Muller Martini’s Industry 4.0 Award for automation. It is the first offset printer to receive the award and the second UK printer in the three years that the Swiss company has made the global award.

The award comes two years after Stephens & George began a transformation of its finishing area with two Primera MC saddle stitchers replacing three older machines and an additional Bolero binder leading to the retirement of a C18 perfect binder. It also linked the lines to Muller Martini’s Connex platform, managing the flow of job data to the finishing lines.

The investment in finishing complements the investment in 18,000cph long perfecting Heidelberg Speedmaster XL106s at the Merthyr Tydfil company. It went to Drupa 2016 having decided to upgrade the finishing department. “The reservations we had were over the Industry 4.0 technology and where the staff would buy into it,” says group bindery manager Marcus Partridge.

Two years on there are no doubts. Sett up is faster through touch screens and servo motors to moving settings into position, enabling a format change set up which had taken several hours to take place in minutes.

There has been a rub off on staff training: operators getting up to speed within months down room several years previously. And the reporting and auditing feedback has provided a factual basis for discussions over numbers delivered.

Dirk Deceuninck, managing director of Muller Martini Northern Europe, and one of the team making the decision about which customer would receive the global award, says: “Nominating Stephens & George for this award was both easy and not so easy. It is a more complex story than a digital print operation, more involved.

“The take up of automation is a bit slower than we thought it would be, but we don’t think there is an alternative. More and more business is data driven, which supports automation. It is a bigger step than people think and you have to get over the pain.

“Success is about getting the people behind it as much as the technology and the communication into the business. The people here have been willing to be trained and we are very proud to make the 2018 Muller Martini Industry 4.0 finishing award to Stephens & George.”

The previous winner was Printondemand Worldwide where Muller Martini’s Vareo binder and Infinitrim are used to finish digitally printed books.

The drive to automation continues at Stephens & George. Over the next few months it wants to integrate Muller Martini’s Connex technology with Heidelberg’s Prinect production network.

Gareth Ward

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Dirk Deceuninck, Andrew Jones and Marcus Partridge as Stephens & George receives the Muller Martini Industry 4.0 Award for the magazine printer's implementation of automated workflows in its finishing department.

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