Materials Handling

By Steve Katz | May 13, 2008

Materials are tools of the trade, and must be handled with care and caution, with safety in mind.

Handle with care. This phrase is used to instruct people in the handling of a wide range of materials. From a carton of eggs to priceless fine art, items are susceptible to being broken whenever they're picked up, handled, or put in motion. While some things are more delicate than others, the fact remains that materials break or get damaged and it's in ones best interest to implement measures that will minimize this occurrence. Additionally, certain items, when not handled properly, can become hazardous to health, safety and the environment.

For label converters, thought and strategy are put into the handling of the materials they use. Converters spend a lot of time, effort, and money selecting the products they'll use to produce high quality labels for their customers. Equipment and materials are used separately and together to create and transport product throughout the various stages of the converting process. Products are available to converters that go a long way in preventing materials from becoming damaged, as well as ensuring the health and safety of those who handle them.

Product protection

Materials come together on press to produce a label manufacturer's finished product. These materials include rolls, sleeves, substrates, inks, adhesives, plates, lamps, and so much more. If not handled correctly, these materials can become damaged. Sometimes, materials travel great distances to get from point A to point B. Along the journey, accidents can happen. Human error, inclement weather, and other unforeseen circumstances can play a role in the damaging of materials.

Rollguard Products

Rollguard Products, Appleton, WI, USA, a division of Great Northern Corporation, is a supplier of protective packaging systems for rolled and cylindrical products. The systems Rollguard offers are a natural fit for the narrow web market, as numerous press materials are, well, rolled and cylindrical. With a network of manufacturing and distribution facilities throughout the United States and Canada, the Rollguard product line consists of roll cradles that are available in a variety of materials, sizes and designs.

Rollguard's RF-20 Full Roll cradle
"Narrow web rolls are packaged one of two ways," explains Rob Swanell, Rollguard's general manager, "eyes to the sky, vertically, like perhaps how someone would stack rolls of coins, is one way. But this method creates problems with rolls rubbing against one another." Rollguard offers the horizontal method of packaging. Swannell says, "We cut our cradles so they're on an angle. This saves them from the problem of 'nail pops.' A nail on a pallet, that's not quite buried, can come into contact with the rolled material. If that happens, a lot of revolutions are going into the scrap bucket. We have eleven different sizes of stock Full Roll cradles designed specifically to handle narrow web rolls. Rollguard is capable of designing a cradle to meet almost any size and/or handling requirement."

Swannell says that the company's narrow web customers like the Recycled Full Roll Fiber line of cradles. They are available in single- and multiple-roll configurations in a variety of sizes to accommodate roll diameters from 9" to 40", and items are sized to fit standard 40" x 48" pallets. Swannell emphasizes the company's ability and willingness to meet specific needs. He says, "We've developed a number of cradles that have added perforations, so a 48 can now fit on a 40, for example."

Additionally, designs are available with an optional protective lip feature that provides additional defense against roll end damage and roll over. "We look at 'safe handling' as a part of materials handling." Swannell says.

Rollguard's cradles are environmentally-friendly. They are made from corrugated box clippings, and when its time for their disposal they can go out with corrugated waste.


Despite a company's best preventive measures in product preservation and handling, sometimes things go wrong. Traffic accidents happen, machines fail, and plant workers drop things. Perhaps the press operator, as he's about to mount and feed labelstock onto the press, notices a crushed or damaged core. This will not do. This is potentially wasted material and lost money.

The Roll Restorer from Nim-Cor
There is a product available to label converters to remedy the situation mentioned above. It's called the Roll Restorer, and it's manufactured by Nim-Cor. Headquartered in Nashua, NH, USA, the company produces a variety of products and accessories specifically for the web-process industry. The Roll Restorer salvages rolls of paper, film, foil, plastic, board and other types of roll stock. It uses hydraulic pressure to reform damaged cores. The device can also be used to install a shaft while restoring the role.   

"Nim-Cor has been manufacturing the Roll Restorer for over 25 years, and it continues to be a tremendously popular tool for narrow web converters," says Don Chapin, Nim-Cor national sales manager. "Customers especially like that it easily adapts to different core diameters using a wide range of interchangeable heads. It's portable, easy to use, and works great. There is no reason to throw away expensive material or allow damaged cores to interrupt your production schedule."

This product serves as an insurance policy in the event that labelstock gets dropped or otherwise suffers core damage. According to Nim-Cor, the Roll Restorer is "essential in allowing you to rapidly turn seemingly unusable stock into profitable inventory."

Back up

Press operators might do a fair amount of lifting on the job. As is the case, sometimes the lifting is considered "heavy."

Lifting heavy items is one of the leading causes of injury in the workplace. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists the weight of objects, awkward postures, high-frequency and long-duration lifting, and inadequate handholds, as the leading causes of lifting related injuries in the workplace.

OSHA suggests preventive measures and solutions. These include the use of lifting gloves to address inadequate gripping, manually lifting materials using OSHA's recommended technique of lifting at the "power zone" – holding items between mid-thigh and mid-chest height and bending at the knees. OSHA also suggests, in order to avoid lifting-related injuries, that vendors and suppliers break down loads prior to delivery. Also, OSHA recommends that anything heavier than 50 pounds not be carried by one person.

Narrow web converters are well served when they provide plant employees with materials handling equipment that go a long way in preventing lifting related injuries. Specifically designed to eliminate lifting injuries, roll lifters and fork trucks and are useful materials handling tools for the narrow web converter.

Aztech Machinery

Since 1984, Aztech Machinery, Tempe, AZ, USA, has been providing materials handling equipment for the narrow web industry. The company's Rapid Engineering Development team makes custom modifications to its products in order to meet customer requirements. Its products are designed with two things in mind, reducing workplace back injuries and material damage.

Scott Schwandt, sales manager, talks about a couple of Aztech's products that are popular among narrow web converters. The Rollrunner MH series of mobile roll handling carts is one such product. Schwandt says, "The Rollrunners have heavy duty casters to move loads smoothly and easily from point A to point B. We offer both manual and electric versions, and it seems the electric version has become the popular choice for our narrow web customers. The unit is constructed entirely of steel and it has just a few moving parts, so it will really provide years of safe, dependable service."   

The Rollrunner MH 1500-HD from Aztech Machinery
The Rollrunner is available in three models, the 400, 800, and 1500, the numbers corresponding to the weights they are capable of supporting. "The MH 400 series has a lift capacity of 400 pounds and is capable of lifting roll products up to heights of 39", 48" and 63" effortlessly with our push button electric lift option. With quick-change attachments, the versatile MH 400 can be transformed to carry roll product with a Roller Core Boom, Swivel Cradle or Two Point Lift and our newest design a Self-Aligning Ejector Core Boom."

The MH 1500 HD electric is designed for heavy-duty operations and has a lift capacity of 1500 pounds with a lift height up to 63" that allows one to perform various material handling tasks. This lift features a transmission style electric lift using a roller chain for lifting. Roller Core Boom, Swivel Cradle and Two Point Lift are available as quick-change attachments for the MH 1500 series." Schwandt says. "These are heavy duty machines," he adds, "and it's really surprising how easy they roll."

Schwandt emphasizes Aztech's willingness to make adjustments in order to meet specific needs. "All our lifts can be modified to meet the customer specifications."

The E-Z Tilt 600 Large Roll Tilt System is another product offering from Aztech that label converters are buying, according to Schwandt. He describes the E-Z Tilt 600 as "an inexpensive and effortless solution for lifting, tilting, and transporting large and heavy roll products weighing up to 600 pounds." He explains its operation: "Simply lower the 3" diameter core boom into the roll core, lock it into place, lift and tilt. Also, rolls are just as easily stored in horizontal position by reversing the procedure."

AAA Press International    

AAA Press International, Arlington Heights, IL, USA, manufactures portable roll handling equipment, which, according to Mark Hahn, the company's VP of sales and marketing, "seems to be the way most converters go unless they buy a new machine with an integrated roll lifter."

Hahn says that AAA Press's narrow web customers favor the I-Lift RL 1000 portable roll lifter and the E-Lift RL 1000E electric roll lifter. The device facilitates lifting (up to 1,000 pounds) and prevents injury. Hahn explains: "The RL 1000 is ideal for lifting and loading rolls on and off presses, rewinders and converting equipment. It is an all-steel, ergonomic roll lifting device that offers a smooth reversible crank-style winch, low-inertia casters, simple detachable core lift boom and ideal height operator handles allowing operators to stand upright while raising, lowering, transporting and loading rolls, thus reducing the probability of personal injury. The low friction wheels and optimal footprint make moving rolls around the shop floor a snap."

For companies that want to take an extra step in injury prevention, the E-Lift RL 1000E is a product that does just that. This machine provides for an effortless method of lifting, transporting, loading and unloading rolls. It is equipped with a motorized winch with a rechargeable marine battery, promoting fast and easy roll handling by an operator of virtually any size.

"Manual roll lifting is typical for most pressrooms. However, constant manual actuation of the winch can contribute negatively to carpal tunnel syndrome and aggravate previous shoulder, back and arm injuries. The E-lifts' ergonomic design and eye level controls allow operators to position, load and unload rolls from an upright, standing position, reducing the probability of back fatigue and injury," Hahn says.

Converter Accessory Corporation

Handle your web. What is web handling? This question is posed and answered on Converter Accessory Corporation's website, which fittingly can be found at handleyourweb.com. To this Wind Gap, PA, USA, based company, "web handling is the science, engineering and equipment necessary to successfully transport a continuous flexible material through various processes without defect." The company offers several solutions for successful web and materials handling.

CAC's Fork Truck Rol-HandlR
CAC offers customers a versatile product that is an accessory for a fork truck, the Fork Truck Rol-HandlR. Jeffrey Damour, sales manager, says, "The Fork Truck Rol-Handler is extremely well suited for the narrow web industry because it allows you to lift, turn, transport, load and unload rolls up to 600 pounds in weight. Heavy duty units are available to handle rolls up to 1,000 pounds. These units allow for easy quick start up – they mount to any material handling device that uses forks – instantly changing it to a roll handling device. Wall mounted storage devices allow customers quick change over from roll handling device to a standard fork based material handling device (fork truck) and back again. Since we grab the roll by the core, we handle rolls with zero damage to the web."

Visiting CAC's website, you're immediately greeted by the color green. There's a reason for the color scheme. Damour explains that the company is getting new demands from its customers for products that will help them become more environmentally friendly and become "greener."

Damour considers the topic of materials handling to include the handling of waste, which he says customers are becoming more and more concerned with. He says, "If you handle your web properly, you will generate less waste, resulting in becoming greener." CAC offers the Fox Trimaway matrix removal system to customers who want to go greener by producing less waste. Damour explains: "It will pick up and convey waste with or without exposing adhesives. Ninety-five percent of our customers have exposed adhesives in their matrix, and the Fox Trimaway removes it without contaminating the system. Some systems remove adhesives by spraying oil or powder into the duct. We don't contaminate the atmosphere. We use a Teflon coating, so none of it sticks. If you handle you properly handle your web, you can really green up your product."

A material world

Label converters live in a material world. Their working environment is surrounded by materials that will be manipulated through various processes to become a label. A single solitary finished label is a relatively small, lightweight product, one that you can examine while holding it between your fingertips. This label's origins are the large and heavy rolls of material that were at some point transferred from a production facility of its own, to the label converter's plant. It's here, where it's the converters responsibility to make sure these materials are handled correctly, for a job cannot be completed successfully with damaged products, or injured employees, who were without the proper tools needed to assist in handling the equipment.
  • Dscoop Post-Show Report

    Dscoop Post-Show Report

    Greg Hrinya, Associate Editor||April 7, 2017
    “Imagine” was the theme for the annual gathering of users of HP Indigo digital print technology.

  • Narrow Web Profile:  Liberty Marking Systems

    Narrow Web Profile: Liberty Marking Systems

    Greg Hrinya, Associate Editor||April 7, 2017
    The Cincinnati converter has enjoyed recent growth and expansion.

  • Laser Diecutting

    Laser Diecutting

    Greg Hrinya, Associate Editor||October 14, 2016
    This finishing option becomes more viable with the rise in digital printing.