Process Optimization — Makereadies Mean Money

“We had maximized their makeready potential,” says Jerry Keller, executive vice president. “We try to keep the minimum run to 12,000 full sheets because, on a 40? press, that’s what you need to break even.”

Clients Push for Digital

The company, which has 42 employees, serves a high-end customer base, so its standard output is four-plus colors with a 200 line screen, and it produces a lot of 300 line screen work. “We were being pushed by our clients for a digital offering,” Keller notes, “but we did not have a demand for variable printing. We needed high-quality short-run capability.”

A typical case is a customer that produces catalogs in longer runs throughout the year, but then needs just 1,000 or so additional copies for a special event. Telling the customer “no” was unacceptable, Keller says, so the company first tried covering those runs with its 40? presses, at a loss. Subsequent attempts to outsource the work for all-digital printing didn’t meet Universal’s quality standards.

The printer rejected the idea of installing a new half-size or even smaller sheetfed press with all the latest automation because of the cost compared to a new 40? model and the relatively large footprint. Ultimately, Universal’s short-run search led it to install a Presstek 52DI digital offset press last summer, which is now producing runs from 500 to 15,000 sheets or more.

Critical to that decision is the ability to match the DI’s output to the shop’s 40? presses, including running a 300 line screen, PMS colors and metallics, Keller says. The company is taking that match to the point of getting G7 color control certification for both its MAN Roland 700s and the 52DI.

Nu Graphics’ answer for the short-run market starts with its 28?, five-color Komori 528c press with aqueous coater, which features ink-key presetting and semi-automatic plate mounting. Nu Graphics extends the run length range over which it can be competitive even lower by running a Heidelberg DI Plus digital offset press and, for the shortest jobs, it relies on an HP Indigo all-digital platform. The 18-person shop currently is running an HP Indigo 5500 and 5000 to produce runs as small as 25 copies.

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