Voice of the Customer: Printers Highlight Benefits of Sheetfed Offset Press Automation
(The desire to automate and refine processes in sheetfed offset printing is driven by several factors, including the absence of qualified labor, reduction of touches, and efforts to minimize waste. In the past several years, press manufacturers have added and refined tools to make the sheetfed offset process much more efficient, and to achieve higher-quality, more repeatable results. Here, print services providers chime in on how sheetfed automation technologies have benefited their businesses.)
In our offset pressroom, Heidelberg’s Push-to-Stop concept, and its underlying technologies, have provided the single greatest advantage to Seaway. The underlying technologies include simultaneous plate mounting, which reduces makeready times; Inpress Control, providing in-press color measurement and registration control, which reduce makeready times and sheets, and increases consistency during the run; and Intellistart, which determines which tasks needed to completed in what order to transition from one job to the next. Push to Stop has allowed us to reduce makeready times and sheets, increase the number of good sheets to the floor per shift, reduce the number of issues, increase the overall quality of our printed sheets, and significantly reduce our cost of manufacturing while making it easier to train new operators.
— Kevin Heslin, president at Seaway Printing (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
For TEAM Concept Printing we’ve seen the greatest benefit of automation from our Komori GL 640, specifically the PDC-SX print density control system, with automatic registration. We’ve cut our makeready times down by 30% and our waste sheets by nearly 40%, with the registration and density being scanned and adjusted simultaneously. There are many automated features on this press, but this feature has made the most impact on overall job quality, and on our bottom line too!”
— Terry Wiersma, prepress and pressroom operations manager at TEAM Concept Printing (Carol Stream, Illinois)
Any competitive industrialized print manufacturer is buying automation in their press configurations. This includes preloaded job settings for materials and color requirements, automated wash-up systems, auto plate mounting systems, in-line color control, in-line PDF checks, logistic systems on the feed and delivery sides of the press, just to mention a few. Our goal is to configure all our presses, including our Koenig & Bauer Rapida 106 X sheetfed press, to allow our operators to maximize the sheet output of the press with minimal changeover time, for maximum net output, with minimal downtime. The high cost of today’s equipment can only be justified by high net output. The “easy” part is buying equipment with this type of automation. The challenge, however, is to coordinate the entire company to prepare the investment for success. Justification is not solely based on how many sheets this press or pressroom can manufacture per year; it should be broader in scope: How many sheets can our organization produce in a year? Our sheet output is directly connected to the revenue per employee metrics. Equipment configuration is only one part of our industrialized process.
— Bernie Elzer III, president at Grafika (Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania)
Automation, to range, is critical for our future. The end-to-end options we selected for our press were based not only on efficiencies, but on ROI. Our most recent RMGT 970 LED-UV press purchase was coupled with closed-loop color controls from LithoFlash. This really steps up the game for our customers and makes us a player in the ever-changing print marketplace. Knowing we will be replacing veteran press operators, these controls will help us to be successful.
— Shawn Sundquist, president and CEO at Range Inc. (Brainerd, Minnesota)
The great single automation tool on our Manroland press is the Inline ColorPilot (ICP). This system has many functions that work well together. We regularly have single pull makereadies to get to color and fit (often color comes in sooner than the fit). The savings in makeready time and stock are the single greatest benefit and it easy to quantify. The Color Library, which uses calculation correction to adjust our ink key settings from CIP files, provides a better baseline on PMS and other special colors. It adds even more value to the ICP during makereadies when it is used properly and updated when running special colors. The ICP also includes a trend over-range feature which allows the pressman to know when there is a fluctuation in density that is out of normal range and prevents the press from overreacting to it.
— Mike Ottenwess, CFO at Wynalda Packaging (Belmont, Michigan)