Buck Crowley Interview

Profile photo of Buck Crowley

Buck Crowley has spent twenty years automating commercial web presses. He is credited with putting the first computer control on a web press. That process, which was covered by 20 of his US patents, eventually automated every process and reduced waste and the number of people to run a press. Buck was also responsible for the Xerox 9700's first jam-free sheet feeder and the IBM 3800's first rollfeed-in-cutsheet-out technology.


Q: What's the potentially largest future market for printing?

Buck: Packaging is the most significant Future market potential for printing, dramatically affected by the advancement of e-Commerce fulfillment volume. Container printing is expected to be much larger than the Graphic Arts Industry ever was. 

Q. How can printing grow with the expansion of e-commerce fulfillment, and what can be done to improve process fulfillment automation?

Buck: There are two Crowley tenants of automating:

  1. Move the raw material closest to the point of use, eliminating middlemen and intermediate steps.
  2. Put all workflow steps in line, from the incoming delivery truck to the outgoing shipping truck.

Q. What is an example of that?

Buck: When the print-on-demand market changed from sheetfed to roll feed, operators were only needed for process monitoring.

Q. How can the print-on-demand market, for which you won the Xplor™ Lifetime Achievement Award, be replicated in the e-commerce fulfillment market?

Buck: When fulfillment automation begins with rolls of Kraft packaging paper, there's a dramatic effect on everything else involved. 


Q. Would Kraft roll feed affect truck deliveries and storage in fulfillment?

Buck: Corrugated board is 90% air, allowing Kraft paper rolls to be 90% more space efficient in transport and storage.

Q. What would be the implications of creating boxes at the point of final use to create something like a Corrugated-On-Demand environment?

Buck: That on-demand environment would simplify the workflow since orders could be packed directly into right-sized, made-on-demand containers.

A simple change to e-commerce fulfillment dramatically affects fulfillment.

Q. How could this improve the picking or packing of fulfillment orders?

Buck: All the printing and addressing would be applied directly to the Kraft paper.

Q. How could this affect the picking workflow?

Buck: Simple drones could now pick orders from shelves that go to the ceiling and then put them right into the destination container, eliminating an entire packing process.

Q. How does this affect the picking/ packing process?

Buck: This means that two simple mechanisms will eliminate an entire manual picking/packing operation, providing sealed boxes ready for trailer loading.

Q. When containers are right-sized for each order, how will this affect the shipping industry?

Buck: Estimates of a 50% reduction in volume would reduce shipping costs and help alleviate the shortage of shipping capacity.

Q. How else will this change the fulfillment experience?

Buck: For example, on a four-flap box, personalized messaging, information, and instructions printed on all twenty-four interior and topside surfaces can enhance the customer experience.




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