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Texas publisher creates simple tool to speed hand inserting.

Simple steel stand supports tabloids or broadsheets for easier manual inserting of preprinted materials

For publishers with manual inserting operations, Douglas Kirk devised a decidedly low-tech tool that relies on physical design rather than mechanical and electrical engineering,

Costing less than $30 a piece and having neither moving parts nor microprocessors, it's the Original Insert Buddy -- a device Kirk designed to save him time in manually inserting preprinted ads into his own three weekly papers.

Kirk concedes that what appears to be such a simple invention for holding an armful of newspaper copies in a convenient position for inserting became obvious only when he himself had to insert ads by hand on deadline.

Promoting his Insert Buddy as a time saver, Kirk -- president of Morton Falls Publishing Co. and publisher of its Bulverde Standard, Canyon Lake Week and Comal County Beacon -- offers refunds if it doesn't cut labor time in half. In some shops, he says, inserting time can be reduced by two-thirds.

Kirk and a local welding company that helped him on earlier projects worked up several prototypes before arriving at a size, shape and angle best suited to all but perhaps the largest and smallest persons. The 9"-wide steel device stands about 9" high in the back and 5" high in the front. Front to back it measures 7 1/2" at its base, spreading to 11" at the top.

In designs for both tabloid and broad-sheet sizes, the stand "holds papers in such a position that it's easier to insert," says Kirk, who adds that it halves insert-feeding time in his own shop.

As a one-man operation, Kirk says, "I have to, out of necessity, streamline things." Kirk does have help in the person of Lealand Bruce, who can make fast work of inserting using the Insert Buddy.

A right-handed inserter will load broad-sheet copies into the Insert Buddy in an upright position, with the first fold to the left, second fold on the bottom, and the entire bundle resting against the back panel of the stand.

The inserter opens each copy with a finger of the left hand, slips in an insert with the right hand, and pulls the succession of inserted copies forward against the front panel of the stand.

Kirk applies ergonomics not only to his device's design, but also to its use. To help make the job quick and easy, he says, the stack of inserts should not only be close at hand, but also kept high enough to allow the worker to sweep, rather than lift, each insert from the top of the stack into the top opening of each copy in a single motion.

To insert multiple preprints, Kirk recommends stairstepping -- putting different inserts into stacks of different heights, arranged from highest in the back to lowest in the front. Sweeping from back to front, the worker drags the top insert off each stack and into the top opening of each copy. The lowest stack must remain higher than the tops of copies to be inserted.

Manual inserting is typically accomplished from a stack of papers in which the top copy is lifted up to open the pocket sideways and insert the ad flier.

Many of Kirk's spot sales were made at Texas Community Newspaper Association conventions. He says his customers -- other small newspapers around Texas -- are "mainly weekly tabloids."

He made one sale to a daily broad-sheet, but it soon discontinued using the Buddy. "I've had better luck," he says, "with people who are independent or open-minded and need to save time."

Unfortunately, while other buyers were also optimistic, their workers, unlike the 19-year-old Bruce, often resisted. Two takers, Houston-based Advantage Publishing Inc. and the Fannin County Special, Bonham, Texas, had similar experiences.

"I personally like it very much," say Advantage publisher Vic Mauldin, who tried the Buddy himself in his office on about 20 copies. But Advantage stopped using it, he says, for reasons of space and inserters' preference.

Though he "liked the concept," Mauldin says he was not about to force it on his workers.

At the Special, owner Thomas H. Turner acknowledges that after buying a couple of Insert Buddy stands at an industry trade show, "we probably didn't give it a just try."

"I personally thought then and still think it will work," Turner says. His paper used it for a while, but even though "one or two of the inserters liked it," he says, others resisted the change.

Turner explains that he bought the stands last year - just before rehiring some workers who had inserted the old way for years and didn't want to change.

Apparently the bigger dailies using expensive automated inserting systems aren't the only newspaper shops where training and changing habits will help maximize productivity.

"I didn't make an issue of it one way or the other," Turner recalls. "If you could start people off on them," he suggests, "I think they'd work real well."

Turner's operation averages three inserts per issue, sometimes up to five. As he sees it, his crew's problem with the Insert Buddy was that "we tried to do 50 [newspaper copies] in each one of them. If they had gone to 25 . . . per setting, it would have probably worked better.

"But they had done it the old way for so long.... People are reluctant to change" even though, as Kirk maintains, "the old" way requires more muscle movement and farther travel.

Kirk sought savings by reducing the number and range of motions. In contrast to the eight movements involved in opening, inserting, closing and removing a flat newspaper, he says, a supported upright bundle of newspapers able to slip forward and backward within a stand can be inserted in only four movements, then removed as one bundle.

While his crew "sure couldn't save any time" working with 50-copy bunches, Turner says, working with half that number would have been manageable and prevented "having to go back and count" copies once they were inserted.

"That would he the real value," says Turner.
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Author:Rosenberg, Jim
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 28, 1998
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