Me & my: Horizon StitchLiner MKIII

Simon Creasey
Thursday, July 23, 2020

When Sheffield-based print businesses Northend Creative Print Solutions (CPS) and My Print Partners (MPP) merged in April 2019 to form Northend, one of the first things the managers of the new business did was take stock of their inventory of equipment to establish what they needed to keep, what they could dispose of and where there were gaps that needed filling.

Northend: So efficient, “it’s frightening”
Northend: So efficient, “it’s frightening”

The process of reviewing operations took around six months, during which time MPP’s staff and finishing equipment moved across to Northend CPS’s site. By the end of last year the company knew exactly what investment was needed to take the business to the next level.

One immediate area of need that was identified was greater productivity in the inhouse finishing department. The company, which produces a wide range of different digital and litho jobs from large-format exhibition graphics to book printing, had an existing Muller Martini binding line, but it was getting old and took too long to make ready.

“When we merged businesses they [Northend CPS] had a Muller and it was folding sections all the time, but we were constantly falling behind and everything was bottlenecking on the folder,” recalls Richard Green, production director at Northend, who was formerly at MPP. “I looked at the speed the Muller was running at and it was 3,000sph an hour. They had three people on it and I thought ‘this is crazy – absolutely crazy’.”

There was one piece of work in particular that presented a regular headache for Northend’s finishing department. “We had a job that we took on and there wasn’t much money in it for us, but it was a regular job so we did it anyhow,” says Green. “However, it was taking us 20 hours in finishing to complete that job.”

Green knew exactly how to rectify the problem. He picked up the phone to Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS), with whom he had had a long-standing relationship at MPP, and enquired about purchasing a Horizon StitchLiner MKIII.

As MPP had used Horizon systems before – the company moved an existing Horizon SPF-FC200a across to the new business – he says he didn’t consider investing in anything else as he knew that IFS and Horizon would deliver the goods.

Although Green and his MPP team had previous experience of using Horizon kit it was new to the Northend CPS finishing crew and he felt they needed convincing, so he arranged to visit the equipment manufacturer’s facility in Quickborn, near Hamburg, which houses Horizon’s German operation and acts as a spare parts distribution hub for the European region.

“I said ‘I’m not spending all that money without going to take a look at it’ so I took my finishing manager with me and he loved it. Within an hour of us getting there he said ‘can we have it?’ and I said ‘yeah’, so we got it installed just before Christmas.”

Game changer

The machine has been a game changer for the business since it was installed. That 20-hour job? “Now it takes us six hours,” says Green. “It’s frightening.” He adds that the efficiency savings achieved thanks to the Horizon StitchLiner MKIII have been mind blowing. “Previously we had three people on the Muller running at 3,000sph and now we’re running at 5,000sph with one person on it. It doesn’t take Einstein to work out which is more effective,” adds Green.

The company hasn’t just enjoyed significant time savings thanks to the new system, which has a maximum speed of 6,000 booklets per hour. “We had a six-station Muller with a cover feeder and a bander that kept breaking, so we pulled that out and we have made some space [as the StitchLiner has a smaller footprint]. We’re also saving considerable time on jobs because we’re not moving sections from the folder to the stitcher all the time.”

Northend’s new fully automated saddle stitch, fold and trim system includes the new high-capacity VAC-L600H collators with 130mm deep trays, which are more than double the depth of the 55mm trays on 10 station collators. This equates to roughly 2.3 times less down time for loading and greater uptime, according to the manufacturer. The manufacturer also claims the collators are more flexible and can handle a wider range of substrates than previous models. And thanks to the system’s easy to use touch screen control panel jobs can be set up within a minute.

Due to its ease of use, it didn’t take long for the Northend team to get up to speed on the new system. Green says MPP staff that had previously used the Horizon bookletmaker were able to quickly pick things up and the main finishing person from Northend CPS was also trained up on the kit along with other members of staff. The fact that the system is so easy to use has proved a godsend during the recent pandemic, which saw Northend furlough a number of staff.

“If it’s cut right it will run right, so you can get a semi-skilled operator on it,” says Green. “You just set it up, show them what to do and get them to box the job up at the end.”

An added bonus is the versatility of the system. “It’s great for short-run awkward jobs,” says Green. “If you’ve got a pocket cover on the front or back as long as you trim your sections right you can hand feed in awkward jobs.”

He adds that the company has even run a job on it that was business card size. “That’s a job you would have never got done on the Muller, but we managed to get it done. Alright it runs slow, but it’s certainly not as slow as dishing it out to an outworker or hand stitching it.”

Green says that the only teething problems the company has experienced with the system is some minor marking issues, but he says “you get that on any piece of new kit and they’re easily overcome”.

Other than that he struggles to find fault with the equipment or the after sales support that the company has received from IFS. So much so that when asked if he would recommend the system to anyone else he responds: “I already have recommended it to someone and I would recommend it to other people as well. I know it’s a big outlay, but it’s a no-brainer really. It runs quick and it’s turned a non-profit job into a slight profit. It’s reduced overtime and it’s given us greater versatility and flexibility.

“It’s just a great piece of kit and they [Horizon] have got it off to a tee and nailed it down”.


Technology Saddle stitch, fold and trim

Max sheet size 356x508mm

Min sheet size 140x194mm

Max stitch thickness 5mm

Sheet weight Normal paper: 52.3-350gsm Coated paper: 73.3-350gsm

Max speed 6,000 booklets per hour (A4 finished from A3 sheets)

Price Around £170,000

Contact IFS 020 8997 8053


Sheffield-based Northend was founded in April 2019 following the merger of two local print businesses: Northend Creative Print Solutions (CPS) and My Print Partners (MPP). Staff and equipment from MPP were moved across to CPS’s circa 1,860sqm premises from where the company serves a wide range of commercial and B2B clients as well as design agencies. Northend produces offset work on a quick drying Ryobi 920 LED UV five-colour press and digital print on a Ricoh Pro C9100 and a Ricoh Pro C7100. The company employs 47 full-time members of staff and has an annual turnover of around £4.7m.

Why was it was bought ...

Following the merger of the two businesses a review was carried out of the new entity’s operational requirements. It was decided that the existing Muller binding line was inefficient and the company needed to improve productivity in its finishing department.

How has it performed...

Like a dream. Richard Green says the Horizon StitchLiner MKIII has exceeded expectations, saving the company time and money. “You don’t need to worry about your manpower because you only need one person to run it,” says Green. “All you’ve got to do is worry about scheduling in enough jobs for that person to get it through the day.”



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