|GROWING WITH THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT|
|Ray Eaton observes production as operator Joyce Gray
folds package inserts.
Miniature package insert folding is universally considered to be among the graphic reproduction industry´s most specialized niche markets. Still, from a production standpoint there remains highly defined segments of this marketplace with few companies understanding the scope of it better than Northcutt Printing of North Kansas City, MO. And considering Northcutt´s explosive growth in the seven years since opening its doors for business, even fewer companies have been more successful at adapting their operations to take advantage of the opportunities these specialized market segments present.
Ray Eaton, Northcutt´s President, stresses the importance of equipment versatility in responding to the accelerated demand for everything from coupons, instruction sheets, and hangtags, to pharmaceutical inserts and other types of folded package inserts.|
While acknowledging that there is always some overlap in a folder´s ability to handle different types of inserts, experience has taught Eaton that there is always something that one machine does better than another. To illustrate his point, Eaton cites Northcutt´s recent acquisition of a Vijuk-G&K V-14 SAF Folder. “Though this folder will be used on many of the same inserts we´ve been handling on our other folders, it definitely improves our ability to work with the heavier, coated stocks," says Eaton.
In December 1996 Ray Eaton and his wife and business partner Wendy purchased a small printing company located in Fort Scott, KS. Among the assets was a nearly new Vijuk G&K SVA 35 6 x 6 pharmaceutical folder. After recognizing the growth potential of the package insert marketplace, the Eatons elected to narrow the focus of the company by concentrating primarily on the production of pharmaceutical and miniature folded package inserts.
In Northcutt´s first full year in business, it produced over 12 million inserts, and added their second folder, a Vijuk-H+H KL112 6 x 4 miniature folder. By 1999 the company was relocated to its present North Kansas City location, and had come back to Vijuk for yet another H+H KL112 folder (6 x 6 configuration).
Northcutt serves a constantly growing customer list that includes commercial printers, binderies, printing distributors, advertising agencies as well as manufacturers/packagers. “We´ve produced package inserts for just about every market you can think of including pharmaceutical packaging and repackaging, cosmetics, medical and dental hygiene, sporting goods, and label manufacturers,” says Eaton. “More recently, we´ve gotten involved in the automotive industry, and also started supplying booklet labels for veterinary medicines.”
Elaborating on the decision to buy the Vijuk-G&K V-14 folder with the SAF top-load, continuous feeder, Eaton notes that the machine´s ability to produce a broad range of miniature folded package inserts and general commercial folding substantially increases their overall production capacity. “Right now we have a customer that´s ordering about 450,000 inserts per month, and another ordering three million pieces at a time. While the folders we already had were capable of handling both pieces, they couldn´t do it at the production rates customers were calling for. With the added production capacity of the V-14, we´re able to meet the needs of those customers.”
According to Eaton, the original G&K SVA 35 folder is used primarily for the pharmaceutical inserts produced on lightweight stocks. While one of the H+H machines is dedicated to the insert requirements of a single customer, the other 6 x 4 folder is what Eaton describes as a “workhorse machine” that´s used on a constantly-changing variety of work.
The timing of the latest Vijuk folder purchase coincides with the growing trend towards inserts printed on heavier, coated stocks. This unusual capability for a miniature folder is the result of a number of features, most notably the large diameter folding rollers that are engineered to accommodate heavier paper weights. “We like the way the V-14 can be used as a back up for production on our other folders, but there´s no question it also adds something special to our overall capabilities,” says Eaton.
Beyond supporting high-volume production performed on other machines, and handling the heavier, coated-stock jobs, the V-14 is also Northcutt´s “go-to” machine for glued inserts. The folder is equipped with an optional HHS cold-glue system that Eaton asserts, “...is extremely accurate at putting the glue in the same spot every time.” He attributes this precision to the fully-pneumatic nature of the design, which he credits for assuring substantially more control than mechanical systems.
Eaton is equally impressed with the V-14´s right angle folding unit. “The transfer rollers literally drive the paper across the gap separating the first station from the second, so you never lose control even with small, difficult-to-handle pieces.”
When asked to identify what he considers to be the most important single feature on the folder, Eaton points to the fully adjustable folding plates. “Because of the wide range of work we do, change-over time is crucial. With this folder we just dial in the adjustments. There´s no need to remove the plates to set up for the next job.” Using a numeric size gauge, the operator simply adjusts to “0” and the fold plate becomes a deflector, thereby eliminating the need to change plates. The end result: dramatically faster make-ready that promotes quicker turnarounds.
Capable of folding down to 3/4 inches in the right angle, the G&K V-14 is rated at operating speeds up to 500 feet per minute. However, Eaton says they have yet to operate the machine at peak speed. “The machine will easily outrun the operator. But while speed is certainly important, we have to consider the trade-off with labor costs. Instead of putting two people on the machine, we run the job at the most efficient speed using just one operator. We´ll still meet production schedules, but we can do it at a more effective delivered cost to the customer.”
Eaton´s experience with the other Vijuk folders leaves him with little doubt that the V-14 is indeed capable of operating at the “advertised” speed. And he takes a similar view when it comes to the dependability of Northcutt´s newest folder, stating simply: “We look at the Vijuk machines as being precision built, durable and dependable. They last forever.”
“Making sure you have the right machine for the job certainly can have a measurable effect on a business. And that´s been the case with our V-14,” concludes Eaton. “By reducing our turn time it´s increasing our cash flow. At the same time, it also allows us to serve our customers better; and gives us the added capacity that enables us to go after new business.”
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