May 11, 2021
By Scott Cherewayko, Continuous Improvement Leader
When we think of buying items that are “handcrafted,” it often comes with the expectation of them being singular and unique. When it comes to manufacturing, our goal is to take out the variations “handcrafted” generates, and introduce precise, predictable and perfect outcomes. At Friesens, we continue to explore ways to automate and streamline processes in our business to give you the best book possible.
Here are some of the things we are doing involving technology and artificial intelligence in our manufacturing process.
Cobots and Robotics
We are finishing the install of the Cobot Palletizing Systems. There were some delays due to COVID-19, but the installation is complete on four out of our six binding lines. While there are still some minor adjustments to be made, we are excited to see and experience the improved efficiencies and the effectiveness of these systems. It has allowed staff to use their skills in more technical positions and improve our automation. These systems remove s lot of the heavy lifting and stacking that staff had to do every day, all day. This cuts down on potential workplace injuries and allows us to run more efficiently and get your books to you faster.
In addition to these machines doing the heavy lifting; we also integrated an automatic labeler that places all the carton labels on the cartons. This means that the labels are applied precisely and accurately every time. It is a benefit to your warehouse and distributors, which rely on accurate, well-placed carton details to automate their process as well. We know how important response time is for book orders, so providing accurate and precise labeling will help those distributing your books.
Asset Tracking System
Another key initiative we are working on is the Asset Tracking System (ATS). It uses a real-time locating system along with Bluetooth low-energy beacons to locate assets on our shop floors. This will allow us to electronically track raw materials and any of our customers’ product in press and bindery that we move throughout production. We operate using three large facilities that look after print, packaging and fulfillment. These facilities encompass over 330,000 square feet, so you can imagine the importance of keeping track of product.
Beacons will be attached to all the skids that move around within our plants. The network takes over from there. The beacons report their location over the wireless network to the locators that pick up their signal. It then places them in the database and displays their location on a map of our floorplans. The accuracy is within approximately five feet, and pinpoints the location of the product being searched. Each user will have a mobile or web-based app that will allow us to locate what we are looking for immediately by doing a quick visual display of the item’s location.
- Improves workflow
- Increases efficiency by automating inventory tracking
- Increases overall productivity by cutting down on the search process by using visual maps and precise locations
- Decreases the chance of losing raw materials or product
- Allows us to check on things “on the go”
The next item we are looking at is how we can incorporate the Asset Tracking System into using Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV). This would allow the AGV to have the ability to use the ATS to locate what is needed and bring it to a desired location.
We are excited about the possibilities ahead involving using technology to improve the book manufacturing process.