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Riding Into the Sunset --Dickeson

November 2005
I just pulled the plug on the PREM Web Press Database after 14 years. Kinda sad. But it was time for sundown.

Every month since October of 1991, web printing companies had sent me data collected by AutoCount devices on their presses: gross, net, makeready and running waste impressions; number of forms and running stops; hours spent in running, making ready and recovery from unscheduled stops.

In total, as the sun went down, the Database had more than 11,000 press-data months contributed by 68 companies from 205 web presses comprised of 53 press models. The companies were primarily from the continental U.S., but also included plants in Hawaii, Canada, Sweden, Australia and Austria.

Some Hard Numbers

The idea was to provide web press industry external benchmarking. Seeing what others were doing, operationally—paper waste, speeds and delays. Each month I would publish a report ranking the presses by average run length, makeready impressions, running waste and net running speed. Hopefully, it would be a notch above the "surveys" published by trade associations. It was, because it was hard, actual, comparative numbers not "estimating" standards usually supplied by printing companies as "survey" responses.

It failed as an external benchmark because of the diversity of variable factors endemic to our print industry. By ranking, I was comparing apples with oranges and with walnuts. There are no "industry" standards, either of survey estimates or hard data, nor can there be; we're simply too dissimilar. External benchmarking is a waste of time for printers!

Start with press models. Can you compare them one with another? No way! Even identical models in the same plant weren't comparable in age and physical condition, average run lengths, weight and grade of paper used, number of printing cylinders, folders, finishing lines, dryers, registry systems, ink key pre-sets. Configuration and condition of press physical variables is widely divergent. Then come customer demands. Similarity? Come on, Josephine!

Took me a while to learn these basic truths, but learn them I did from pulling together 168 monthly reports. Stupid me. This is all too obvious if you just think about it a moment.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I began to de-emphasize the cross-company ranking (external benchmarking), but continued to do it, nonetheless, until the sun dipped down into the sea of cold truth. I developed a series of internal benchmarking reports by monthly individual press performance. These used a 12-month rolling format where each month you lop off the oldest month and add the newest. These rolling 12-month reports were private to the company reporting data for those presses. Rolling 12 months were used to minimize seasonal fluctuation in the data.
 

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