TSUKUBA MANUFACTURING PLANT — STILL PRESSING AHEAD
AUTO DEVICES to speed makereadies. Ever-increasing press unit requirements. Convertible and dedicated perfecting configurations. Unique coating capabilities. As U.S. sheetfed commercial printers strive to differentiate themselves from their competitors, they increasingly opt for more customized press solutions.
And, once they decide to buy a new offset machine, the ability of their chosen press supplier to deliver the order within a short time frame is crucial to sealing the deal.
That market trend, in part, is what drove the Komori Corporation to build its new Tsukuba sheetfed press manufacturing facility near Tokyo, which went into full operation in December with the second phase completion of an approximately 414,000-square-foot factory, R&D facility, customer demo and training center, and employee fitness facilities—all situated on a 451⁄2-acre tract with room for further expansion.
To showcase its advanced manufacturing platform at Tsukuba and to discuss its plans for the upcoming IPEX exhibition in England next month (see sidebar), Komori invited an international group of trade press editors to tour the new Lithrone manufacturing complex.
The press event also included a stop at Komori’s Sekiyado web press manufacturing facility, as well as a visit to a major Komori customer—Leo Paper Group’s Heshan plant in Guangdong, China.
Designed around the concept of customer kando (means beyond expectations), the goal of the new Tsukuba facility is to surpass clients’ needs through product development and manufacturing efficiency. R&D, design, production and final print testing are now done at one location, following the closure of its Toride plant that opened in 1967. This enables closer interaction between various departments. And, in building a new facility from the ground up, Tsukuba’s processes have been engineered for high-speed production of standard and customized presses (about 2,000 press units annually).
The plant incorporates several productivity and quality assurance advancements. An expanded design department now features the latest CAD systems. Computer-controlled machining equipment precisely outputs components such as side frames and press cylinders, and AGVs are employed to transport the cylinders to the next stage. Sub-assembly lines run in concert with an automatic crossover system for the main press assembly line.
Constant temperature and humidity are carefully maintained throughout the plant, as are strict quality control and just-in-time parts delivery. All finished presses are thoroughly print tested on-site. A network also links Komori directly with its suppliers.
Employee development is also ongoing. Workers are being cross-trained for greater flexibility. Walls have been minimized to foster communication. A training center has been established to fine-tune the level of machining and assembly technologies, as well as field services. And design and value engineering rooms were created to facilitate continuous improvement.
From a customer standpoint, Tsukuba itself serves as a showroom with an observation deck on the second floor for visitors. A large press demo area has also been created, along with ample training and meeting rooms.
Situated in an area that’s home to several nearby educational and research institutions, the exterior of the new plant features a sleek and environmentally friendly architectural design, complete with an entire section of solar panels as well as wind power, to generate electricity for indoor and outside lighting. Plant waste is separated into more than 20 recycling categories.
“The Tsukuba plant will be, we believe, a manufacturing base for the 21st century that is without parallel,” noted Yoshiharu Komori, president and CEO of Komori Corp., during the press conference.
To conclude the event, he presided over a ceremonial planting of trees on grounds next to the plant. The planting, in part, was done to bring good luck to the new facility and to honor the late Harry McMillan, a long-time executive at Komori America.
29˝ LS Model to Debut At IPEX
Komori also used its open house to announce the new Lithrone LS 29 series (also available in a 26˝ model) that will be introduced at IPEX next month. They replace the Lithrone 26/28 series. A five-color Lithrone S29 with coater and 10-color S29(P) perfector (shown) will be at the show.
Key features of the 16,000 sph press include six-minute changeovers from one job to the next (50 percent faster than the Lithrone 28) with fully automatic plate changers and blanket washers, high-speed pre-inking, as well as optional convertible perfecting for printing on a wide range of stocks.
Also shown will be the first S version of Komori’s double-deck Lithrone press, the LS40SP Super Perfector.