It's not every day your hard work is recognized with prestigious accolades. That's why long-time B&R customer Müller Martini was so proud to receive the Swiss Industry 4.0 Award. The globally active Swiss machine builder was distinguished for its batch-of-one book production line, which embodies the company's philosophy of "Finishing 4.0". The solution addresses the increasing demand for small batches of customized, personalized printed products. Many of this line's functions are made possible by its seamless automation – for which the company has relied exclusively on B&R for over 25 years.
Gone are the days when print production could be considered a growth sector, and since 2008 the industry has undergone a profound structural upheaval. Successfully navigating the new landscape of customer requirements and consumer reading habits has required innovative adaptations. Müller Martini emerged from this transformation as a technological leader in the fields of offset and digital printing – a feat owed at least in part to automation solutions developed over the course of its 25-year collaboration with B&R.
Müller Martini's Finishing 4.0 philosophy brings together a variety of innovations the company has developed over the past ten to fifteen years – a number of them in cooperation with B&R. "The key to Finishing 4.0 is that our data is fully utilized so that our processes are fully integrated," explains Christoph Gysin, Müller Martini's head of corporate development and standards. "Some of the innovations that have been made possible with B&R as our controls supplier include the ability to acquire and communicate machine data, as well as advanced diagnostic capabilities. Overall, it's the high degree of automation – with fast motion axes, powerful industrial PCs, an efficient bus system and high-quality HMIs – that form the backbone of Finishing 4.0."
The book production system recognized with the 2017 Swiss Industry 4.0 Award enables a completely hands-free workflow without any manual intervention or downtime for changover to produce books in very small print runs. Ultimately, that includes batches of one, as is frequently the case with photo books and other personalized products. The Connex workflow system developed by Müller Martini integrates every step in print production, from the print-ready PDF file to the finished book ready for shipping.
Connex starts by reading the book's information from a PDF and generating the necessary formating and job files for the digital press. The custom book is then printed on a continuous web and processed into a book block. The Vareo binder then joins the book block with its cover, and then the product is trimmed to its final format in the InfiniTrim three-blade trimmer. Format, thickness and content can vary from book to book without the line ever requiring a single manual operation. Since the Connex workflow system is aware of what jobs are pending, it is able to make optimizations on its own. "It's Industry 4.0 in its purest form. We have moved past the theoretical talk into real-world solutions," says Gysin. "The jury of the Swiss Industry 4.0 Award took notice – but more importantly, so did our customers."
On the search for an innovative and reliable controls partner, Müller Martini decided 25 years ago in favor of B&R. "At the time, they were just developing the System 2000," recalls Gysin. "From a technical standpoint, we were impressed by the modularity, breadth and completeness of their portfolio, as well as the programming capabilities. At a personal level, we shared similar corporate cultures, a readiness to accommodate and a passion for innovation. All these factors played a role in our decision to make B&R our automation partner." And it's a decision that Müller Martini stands behind to this day.
From motion axes, controllers, industrial PCs and HMIs to development and diagnostics software, B&R automation solutions form the foundation of today's most advanced manufacturing systems. "Around 20 years ago, we worked with B&R to develop a comprehensive hardware/software concept – which we call the Müller Martini Automation Platform," explains Gysin. "This standardized platform continues to play a significant role in the success of our most innovative projects." We worked together closely to establish software guidelines and define interfaces and various functions such as alarm management and I/O management. B&R's Automation Studio software also allows us to program and simulate very efficiently. We developed software libraries that make our programs both flexible and consistent. Of course, as B&R's products have evolved over the years, so has our platform. In the future, a number of the existing functions will be directly replaced by mapp Technology components."
For Müller Martini, the primary goal of Finishing 4.0 is to help print shops, newspaper publishers and book binders keep costs down and stay competitive while providing the increasingly individualized products their customers demand. "The cost pressure in the paper converting industry is enormous," emphasizes Gysin. "We give our customers the ability to personalize the content of their printed products without compromising in areas like seamless tracking and quality assurance. In line with the definition of Industry 4.0 – which applies equally to Finishing 4.0 – intelligently coordinated processes and systems make it possible to make highly individualized products with mass production efficiency. B&R sees the print industry as an Industry 4.0 pioneer – and are themselves a pioneer in their own field, having implemented Industry 4.0 at their plant in Eggelsberg. That's another important thing that our two companies have in common."
Head of Corporate Development & Standards, Müller Martini
"Our cooperation with B&R has been so successful for so many years because it is built on mutual trust, openness and corporate cultures that value stability, reliability, technological competence and long-term thinking."