Sajith Pallippuram: Smart automation in bookbinding is inevitable

19 Feb 2019

The Impel-Welbound team at PrintPack 2019

Rushikesh Aravkar catches up with Sajith Pallippuram of Impel-Welbound at the 14th edition of PrintPack India.

What is the star product of Impel-Welbound stand?

We are showcasing the WB@4000 12-clamp perfect binding machine. This is the first 12-clamp perfect binding machine manufactured at our Bengaluru facility. I would describe this machine as flexible and expandable. Flexible because, the user has the choice of using different gluing systems – cold glue, hotmelt EVA, new-generation ultra adhesive, and PUR. The different gluing systems require different set up. We have provided a system where one can switch from one gluing method to the other seamlessly.

And expandable because?

This machine can be coupled with our high-speed gatherer and also to an inline three-knife trimmer.

How does this help the customer?

The Welbound Technical Services team has been involved in installing and servicing several imported secondhand 12-clamp perfect binders. What we have observed is, when a user makes this switch from a six-clamp machine to an inline binder, there a steep learning curve. It involves understanding the signature, how they are processed in printing and binding stage — are the signatures kept under pressure, are they stacked. This is especially true when one is switching from manual gathering to inline automated gathering and inline binding.

As a result, though the machines are equipped, the user is not able to derive the expected throughput out of these high-speed machines. Moreover, it also results in higher energy consumption and the wastage of consumables like adhesives. So, even if the secondhand machines are affordable, the price per book is pretty high.

We have seen a series of our own customers who have invested in such machines in the past and have suffered in the process. So, the customers who are making this automation switch are looking to start with a high-speed binding machine that would allow books to be fed manually at the initial stage. And as they grow they are willing to add to the automation. That’s where the WB@4000 fits in. It produces 4,000 books per hour. It is a EPIC series of WB Impel-Welbound binding machines. EPIC stands for efficiency, productivity, intelligence and cost-effectiveness.

Explain EPIC.

How does one achieve efficiency, productivity, and cost-effectiveness? For these things to improve, one needs to have the information on what happens when you are running a book, or you are changing a book, or when a machine is not maintained, or when the machines are not cleaned properly. These kinds of things have impact on costs. We have put energy meters in the machines which gather information such as costs incurred when the machine starts consuming more energy because one is idling the machine or when one is not running the machine at a higher speed or because the knives are blunt or because the glue tank was not cleaned regularly.

We have realised that we need to work with the book printers in order to have a continuous improvement of cost efficiency. The areas that we can look at are: one is machine, which will give you the throughput productivity and minimise wastage.

How does this make the machine intelligent?

The machine makes the information available to the user to act upon. It's a one way communication from the machine to the user in a readable format or to the user’s ERP. The information can be delivered in the form of an email or an SMS or you it can be downloaded in MS Excel format. This information can be used to figure out if anything is going wrong in the machine or to find to the root cause of a problem in the machine. It definitely can be used to improve efficiency and productivity.

Does it also tell you if the quality of a book is good enough?

An inspection system cannot work only by systems. It required expert people to use the available data to make inferences and make right decisions.

With WTS programme, we are educating everyone who's involved in bookbinding to understand how to test a book, how to look at the things which can go wrong and also then trace it back to the root cause if something is incorrect. There’s no point in trying to make corrections at the end of the process. One needs to go trace the issue back to the planning stage and make amendments there because root cause can be in grain direction or folding or any intermediate process.

There are methods of visual inspection, there are methods of testing a book, and then there also in-process inspection. At this exhibition, we are promoting the entire concept of testing your books well. This includes a page-pull tester, glue-level measurement devices, digital and analogue thermometers.

We are also showcasing that with right adhesive in right quantity and right spine finishing can provide better quality and spending lower costs. This is an eye-opener for many customers who have visited our stand.

The page-pull tester is the only way of measuring the strength of a binding. We have created this tool and we are selling it with our machines at a subsidised cost. This helps the customer will be able to give a number to the quality that he produces.

The third important cost is adhesive.

Our partnership with Henkel has been over 25 years now. It has allowed us to introduce the best of adhesives technologies that are adapted to the Indian scenarios. So they form a crucial partner in the process. With efficient machines and processes and services, the idea is to ensure that we are delivering the right quality at the lowest possible cost. Our aspiration is to help the entire supply chain bring down the cost of books. This cannot happen overnight. It needs change in the way people work. We will play that significant part of working with all the stakeholders in continuously reducing the cost and providing better books.

How many installations of EPIC bookbinding machines?

We have supplied 60 six-clamp WB@2500 machines. This also includes exports to Bangladesh and African countries. We have been able to meet aspirations of the customers with this new model in terms of 35% more productivity. We have made the temperature control digital so that it’s easy to use. Plus the nipping is able to handle up to 500gsm cover with accurate and adjustable creasing. The at-the-rate (@) symbol signifies that these machines are internet-ready, they are talking to you through emails.

Is the bookbinding industry in India ready for smart automation?

The biggest cost in bookbinding is labour. Moreover, signature gathering is a highly-skilled job. It is getting difficult to get skilled labour. So automation is inevitable. Smart automation with a human face is what we need. There are certain things that are better done by human hands so as to achieve good quality, probably at a lower cost than what it would be.

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