Our customers tell us that the converting market is very competitive and that good returns can only be achieved by striving for ever better productivity. At the same time, their budgets are limited, so it is essential that any investment is targeted to deliver the maximum benefit.

The perceived wisdom has always been that the turret slitter will outperform the duplex as the changeover time between sets of rolls is so much quicker. However, when you risk assess a turret slitter, it is very difficult to make them safe whilst allowing the operator access to the non-winding shafts whilst the machine is operating. This means that to gain from the fast changeover time, the machine must be fitted with automatic roll closure, automatic roll unloading, automatic core loading and positioning. Once all these items are added the machine cost is high and access to the machine becomes restricted, causing extended downtime when problems occur and making thread up of the machine difficult. The gains expected by the turret mechanism are lost due to all the inefficiencies caused. 

Without the additional automation, the turret machine must remain stopped while the finished rolls are unloaded and the new cores loaded and positioned. Only once this work is completed can the operator leave the “hazard” zone and start the machine. Thread up of a turret slitter is difficult due to the extended web path. Often operators have to reach between the upper and lower turreting mechanisms to thread up the machine. When risk-assessed, there is potential for serious injury or death from the rotating turret. Access should only be allowed when the safety system prevents the activation of the turret, preferably with a safety key lock system which only the operator can reset. Many turret machines do not have adequate safety systems. 

Universal Converting Equipment have chosen a different route. Automation has been used to develop the Universal XS duplex slitter. Instead of spending money on the expensive turret mechanism, the investment goes into extensive automation allowing the Universal XS to run almost without an operator. The machine stops for around 35 seconds between sets of rolls with the rolls automatically closed, unloaded and the new cores loaded, positioned followed by start-up of the machine. The rigid structure of the duplex machine allows acceleration up to 1000m/min in 25 seconds. 

However, the automation does not stop there. How many times have you seen machines running slowly as the operator cannot deal with the rolls that are being produced? Humans are equipped to handle heavy rolls for an eight hour shift. Machines can do it 24 hours a day. Rather than running the machine slowly and needing another slitter to keep up, roll handling automation is a sound investment. The Universal XS can be supplied with an ARX unloading robot that takes the rolls directly from the slitter rewind shafts and places them onto conveyors for automatic labelling inside and out, automatic bagging and robotic palletising. The system is designed with flexibility so it can process both short and long runs with very fast changeovers. 

Many companies have invested in turret slitters with little benefit from the extra investment if safety rules are followed. Instead, the money is better invested in automation to remove the operator from the process. Consider the economics; a high throughput manual sitter may require two operators to run at full speed. If the machine runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the labour cost alone could be £400,000 a year or £4 million pounds over 10 years. If you adopt Universal XS automation instead, the labour cost will at least halve. The £2 million saving is significant and doesn’t take into account a likely increase in output, as there is no manual handling of rolls.

This is just the start. A major US customer who has adopted the Universal XS technology is now moving to one operator per two Universal XS’s. Use of AGV’s to handle the parent roll delivery and move finished pallets to the warehouse can further minimise labour input. 

Investment funds are scarce. Ensure that any money is spent in areas that enhance both productivity and safety.

Last Updated on June 21, 2024