Although printing ultimately still involves ink on paper, the industry has been significantly altered over the past several years by technological advances. For printers, this has meant faster, better quality production – in prepress, on press and post press – accompanied by rising customer expectations for even faster and higher quality work, and all at competitive prices. The answer to keeping pace with the demands evolving technology brings may mean adding even more technological innovation that allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of your business 24/7.
Monitoring press operations is not a new concept, but advanced solutions now allow for real-time, anytime, visible status of your pressroom. Some make printing operations visible in the safe environment of the cloud. Many are designed to integrate with your existing equipment and even your enterprise-wide MIS system, which can link them to ordering and estimating systems, inventory and invoicing. The one thing they all have in common is their expanded ability to measure, track and report on a wider range of mechanical operations of your press, as well on the level of print quality throughout the press run. The biggest benefit is the ability to connect print manufacturing processes to make them visible, automatic and labor saving.
The level of automation and/or measurement achieved by these solutions can vary from vendor to vendor, but the goal is to provide greater visualization of print processes for a better understanding and control of pressroom operations. The data these systems collect is key to identifying exactly where a problem may exist so that you can solve it quickly and efficiently and generally improve productivity.
For example, you may have questions on why the second shift is not as productive as the first shift or vice versa. Or why the print quality varies between shifts. For some situations this may be due to the different types of work being assigned to the different shifts. The day shift may take on the more complicated jobs, while the second shift has fewer interruptions. Or, perhaps one shift or the other needs more training to improve their efficiency. This is all valuable information.
However, even if the operating state is known and the problems are visible, productivity can’t be improved unless the issue is fully understood. With the right technology, you can gain a concrete action plan for preventive maintenance and productivity improvement based on actual press operating data. These are things that can be determined by looking at the data the tool generates. For instance, the data will help you document how many makereadies were done on the shift and if there are problems in the makereadies. How long did it take to come up to color for each job? Was print quality consistent from start to finish? Why or why not?
Providing information as to what’s going on in close detail can help you determine where the problems are and how to optimize efficiency and quality output. When an abnormality, such as a press stoppage or standard working time overrun occurs, some systems send a notification to your smartphone, making it possible for the status to be understood in real time. Losses are minimized with the ability to immediately check the worksite and react quickly to resolve problems.
Also useful is the ability to see and make note of trends over time to test and review any changes. For example, while your consumable blankets and rollers may claim to last for X amount of impressions, monitoring their performance on a weekly or monthly basis might show that you need to change them out more often to maintain the highest level of quality. Additionally, you can use the tools to track and compare the performance of products from different suppliers to determine what works best on your equipment. And while press operations systems generally provide visual displays on your press console, those based in the cloud will let you access the information on your mobile devices as well.
Essentially what these advanced solutions give you is data — precise information that supports productivity enhancements by making the most of scheduling and color management for better efficiency and profitability overall. In today’s hyper-competitive environment, advanced technology is a worthwhile investment that can significantly maximize productivity, helping you save time and money while providing better products and services to your customers.
Matt Buisson, Digital Software Specialist for Komori America, provides expertise in the area of continuous improvement by implementing and managing technology solutions that automate workflows and refine process control. Additionally, Buisson has in-depth background in designing, implementing and supporting complex cloud-based systems for a variety of industries, including commercial print.