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CEO of Finishing Resources, Inc

The Finish Line

By Don Piontek

About Don

Don has worked in technical support, sales, engineering, and management during a career in both the commercial offset and digital finishing sectors. He is the North American representative for IBIS Bindery Systems, Ltd. of The United Kingdom.

Planning for a Smooth Install

OK, here we are. Your company has just ordered a brand new finishing system, and you're excited as all get-out about getting this baby on the floor and operating. Your operators and maintenance people are pumped and ready-to-go. What could go wrong? Plenty.

Major (and even minor) successful finishing system installs require adequate pre-planning and some "course corrections" as things progress. Having been involved in many over the years, here's my best advice:

Get the Details
Fortune favors those who plan ahead. Learn the power, compressed air, vacuum and special environmental requirements of the equipment as soon as the deal is sealed. This will give you enough time to alert any outside contractors you may need and schedule them in plenty of time. Plan the space for your new piece of gear carefully. 

Ensure you have room for needed access, and to move the work to and from the new machine. Do a tape layout on the floor showing the machine's dimensions. This will give you an idea of the workflow around the machinery.

Assemble (and Analyze) Your Team
Think long and hard about the operating requirements for your new piece of gear and the talent match you may have in your plant. Offset and digital systems may call for different skill sets. Lots of digital finishing systems can be made ready with wonderful color touch screens that will handle most machine settings. Offset gear may require much more skill with actual tools and different analytic and mechanical abilities.

Analyze the Required Workflow
I cannot tell you how many times I encountered a scenario where the required programming, impositions and document formats were not shared with the pre-press and IT folks. This caused needless delays with both installation, testing and production start-up and does not make your vendor very happy.

The Install Process
OK, the new machine is on the floor, hooked up and ready to go. The vendor's technicians are ready to begin training your people. Here's where things can go well or badly. First, make sure your people are available and not distracted. An operator who's being called upon to deal with something else every five minutes will absorb little training, and up-time on the new machine will suffer. You will encounter more production problems than you planned for.

Likewise, you have to keep an eye out for what's working and what's not. You may find that an operator may not be able to "cut it" on a new system, and you may need to switch him or her out for another.

Remember that vendor technicians are willing and able to give your people all the expertise they can absorb, and (like all teachers) they respond well to people who are eager to learn. As a last FYI, don't rush the system into production until you're sure that everyone is comfortable with the technology. Installations that have to be rushed to make a production deadline don't go very well.

Plan a Follow-up
Like all students, retention can be a problem, so plan a follow-up visit from the vendor trainers or technicians a few weeks or a month after the initial install. This works really well because operators will have had the chance to develop a whole series of follow-up questions that can be addressed at that time.

Follow the steps and you'll be on the road to a successful system install!

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