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In-line Finishing--Going Retro on Presses

March 2000

Ray Frick, CEO and president of Pennsauken, NJ-based The Lehigh Press, recalls a time not long ago when in-line finishing could not match the speed of web offset presses. It was simply impractical. "For many years, the conventional wisdom in our business stated that in-line finishing, as a process, was slow," Frick notes. "There really wasn't a need to purchase new high-speed equipment, only to throw a ball and chain around it, so to speak, with respect to a finishing line and its auxiliary components."

That is no longer the case. The rotary cutter, formerly the culprit behind the slowdown in the delivery system, has realized increased speeds. Now printers like Lehigh (at its Lehigh Cadillac Direct facility in Broadview, IL) are retrofitting older web presses with the latest in-line finishing technology, enabling them to meet the challenging demands of their customers. In adding this in-line finishing technology, Frick says, printers are adding value and profitability to an equipment portfolio that, in some cases, was not entirely current.

Increased productivity and creativity, balanced with waste control, has been vital to the success of Lehigh Cadillac Direct. The comp any's newer presses produce in-line finished products at the high rate of more than 50,000 impressions per hour (iph). Lehigh has turned to some of its more mature presses, and has embarked on an aggressive remanufacturing program to bring them up to speed, so to speak.

"The same press that could barely run 35,000 iph a year ago now looks showroom new, is loaded with new technology—particularly state-of-the-art electronics—and runs better than OEM ratings," Frick remarks.

Among recent additions/enhancements made by Lehigh Cadillac Direct: four new gluer/coaters that enable printers to apply adhesives and scratch-off coatings at high speeds with improved laydown, less misting and less down time. Over a three-year period, the printer has also acquired four variable rotary cutters, enhanced slitting ability, increased diecutting capability and hot melt gluing equipment.

Frick believes the additions have played a vital role in the growth of the company over the past year, as Lehigh enjoyed a 20-percent increase in sales. "By increasing our throughput, we also increase our market opportunity," he says. "We're still not satisfied, but these equipment additions are having a very positive impact in terms of the quality and the volume of pieces that we produce."

Frick also counts 1999 as a banner year for new customers and markets. Kiss-cut diecutting capabilities helped key growth in the first two quarters while perforated stamp sheets excelled in the second half, buoyed by enhanced coating and perforating capabilities. Demand for kiss-cut pressure-sensitive labels was also considerable, aided by the company's hot melt gluing and diecutting expertise.


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