James Cropper plc is Europe's leading manufacturer of coloured and specialist papers. The volume and diversity of the products they make, coupled with traditional packaging and handling methods, has meant that their packing activities have always been labour intensive, with the potential to create bottlenecks when the product mix is less than ideal.
In order to support a volume growth strategy whilst simultaneously reducing costs, improving quality control and reducing manual handling risks, James Cropper plc decided that a step change was required.
The Cropper team created a computer simulation of the packing activities to produce a 'what if' scenario for different product volumes, product mix, breakdown and process efficiencies. This exercise meant that they could specify the correct systems needed for a radical change. The outcome was that operations that were previously handled manually would be automated including the use of laser-guided vehicles
Some of the capability requirements for the system were particularly challenging, not least the ability to handle a large range of pallet sizes and product formats. Coupled with multiple material entry points, routings and packing methods, the number of process permutations was immense. Typically 70,000 pallets are handled each year, amounting to 250,000 individual pallet movements. In addition 42,000 unpalletised webs are handled and the department applies 800,000 individual labels.
Aetna UK Ltd was invited to tender for this prestigious contract, along with several other companies. Aetna prepared a solution based on 4 Euroimpianti laser guided vehicles; 1 with clamp attachment to handle reels, and the other 3 to handle the multiplicity of palletised materials. They also proposed a new fully automated pallet strapping, stretch wrapping and labelling line, which would work in unison. The whole system would then be centrally controlled and monitored by its own stock control software.
Steve Crook, Finishing Operations Manager at James Cropper plc and responsible for the project, commented ” We were looking for a supplier who not only provided robust and quality products, but were also respected by their customers. Feedback from Aetna's customers on product capability and reliability was extremely good which gave us the confidence to choose them as our partner for this important project. They were also prepared to take responsibility for the integration of several technologies from different suppliers which other others were not prepared to do.”
In order to minimise the installation and commissioning time at James Cropper plc the whole system was assembled and tested at Euroimpianti's plant in Italy prior to acceptance. By simulating the final factory floor layout, product types, routings and throughputs, the system could be evaluated against all requirements. This approach provided the ideal environment for all parties to work together to ensure that the system met those requirements prior to installation.
Mr Crook added, ” As in many industries, the packing department can act as a safety net for quality and data deficiencies from upstream processes. Product now has to be right before it reaches the packing department rather than as it leaves it thereby driving quality upstream.. The automation of our process has reduced headcount however staff turnover in other departments has enabled the surplus labour to be redeployed. Now Speciality Papers' complex order book is handled and packed in minutes and hours, rather than days.”
James Cropper plc say that their investment in the Euroimpianti LGVs has resulted in a step change for the department. Labour costs have been reduced by a third; exposure to manual handling risks has also reduced, and any future growth in sales can be accommodated.
For general information about Aetna UK visit www.aetna.co.uk
For technical information contact Mark Tucker, Aetna UK's managing director
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