11 Tips for Better Paper Handling

Paper handling is a core component of success in the print production industry. Every operation that does a decent amount of print production is going to become intimately familiar with paper handling.  There is a ton to learn about this topic when you start getting into the finer details. Experts who have been running machines for a long time can make things happen with paper that will blow a new operator’s mind. With a wedge in the right spot a curly stack might feed like a dream but we only use those tricks when we’re in trouble. Better to stay out of trouble completely, right?  

The paper handling tips in this list should help you in a variety of ways. We can get the most out of the paper we have, generate less waste, and head off a host of problems long before they appear. Paper supplies are becoming a struggle lately and it is always a good idea to evaluate the basics for a good chance at improvement.

Let’s Get Started!

🟣 Number 11 – Track your waste!

A great starting point to get the most out of your paper is to reduce waste altogether. Most operations do not even track their waste so there is no meaningful way to even know how much waste is happening. Once you begin tracking your waste it will become very obvious where the most waste is happening and how much it costs! Just by tracking your waste you will find huge savings.

🟣 Number 10 – Store in a cool dry place

We’ve all heard it before. Keep your paper stored in a cool dry place. However this advice is totally legit. Paper stored in a cool dry place will stay in good condition for much longer. The moisture content in paper is a large influence on how it behaves during various processes. Paper that has drastically different moisture content will behave differently and require operators to make adjustments in the plant.

🟣 Number 9 – Find Quality Suppliers

Easier said than done. Good suppliers are tremendous asset. There are many benefits including better stocked materials, additional expertise when problems arise, and more consistent business operations that will reduce disruptions in production.

🟣 Number 8 – Use the Right Paper for the Job

Paper comes in an enormously wide variety. Each job has requirements and picking the right paper for the job will help you get the most out of your commodities. Use light text weight stock for book guts and for book covers use a cover stock that is coated on one side. Talk to clients about what their expectations are and use the most appropriate paper for their needs, while leaving your other stocks ready to go.

🟣 Number 7 – Respect the “Dry Time”

Dry time used to be a big deal but as toner replaces wet ink there is less attention on dry time. This is still an important part of the process and the high volume producers know exactly how much dry time their jobs need. Even toner based digital prints should be allowed to rest for a short period of time before being taken onto the next process. Letting heat and static dissipate will ensure that further operations run smoothly. Just because there’s no wet ink doesn’t mean that you won’t benefit from allowing work to settle. Try it out!

🟣 Number 6 – Incorporate Jogging into your Processes

Jogging is when a stack of paper is vibrated to bring the sheets into alignment. A jogged stack will be nice and square. That square stack makes it hard for ambient moisture to penetrate into the stack. It’s also ready to get loaded directly into the next machine and will feed much better. Pay attention to how often your operators jog piles of paper and consider incorporating it into your standard operating procedures. You’re doing it anyway!

🟣 Number 5 – Standardize Your Production Sizes

One of the most frustrating things is when you have every size of paper but the one you need. By standardizing sizes throughout your production lines it’s possible to completely eliminate odd sizes and formats. This can really streamline production and optimize different steps of your process. Depending on run length it can be better to tolerate some paper waste just to avoid adding a whole extra paper size format to your operation.

🟣 Number 4 – Understand Paper Weights

Lately the US paper market is adopting the metric standard weight measurements for paper. This can be very confusing when comparing papers that are measured in the imperial system with papers measured in the metric system. Try to standardize your paper weight references throughout the entire workflow and educate yourself on how to convert back and forth. Knowing the ropes will help when comparing pricing to spec the right paper for the job.

🟣 Number 3 – Humidity Control

Environments with very low humidity can cause huge amounts of static. This is typically a winter issue here in Michigan but it can happen at any time. When a single sheet slides off of a pile the static energy produced can be enough to bring the sheet after or simply stick. Humidity control is your best enemy when fighting static issues. Environmental humidity is optimal at about 40% rH. Anything over 20 should work OK but any environment with lower humidity than that is likely to struggle.  For small areas a household humidifier is OK but larger production sites should consider a larger humidity system. 

🟣 Number 2 – Less SKUs and More Quantity

When possible, use the same paper for everything. This goes along with using the right paper for the job. Pick and choose a “house sheet” that is the best for your type of work and suite of production equipment. Use this for everything unless there are extra requirements. Eliminating small paper orders and combining them all into one large bulk order of a single SKU might represent a huge savings that is worth considering.

🟣 Number 1 – Pay Close Attention to Grain Direction

Paper grain is something every operator should understand. Paper will behave very differently based on the grain directlion. Often times we ignore grain because things work OK but when we’re struggling this should be one of the first things you evaluate.  It’s best to consider grain from the very beginning when placing your paper order and deciding how to layout products. When grain is considered ahead of time and paper is ordered correctly the operators will do it right without even realizing it.