Run lengths are declining, not just by five or 10 percent, but more like 50 percent when version changes are factored in, he adds. “That puts a premium on makeready speed enabled by presetting.”
Virtually every press productivity enhancer available on a new press can be matched by the aftermarket for existing presses, Holliday contends. This includes semi-automatic plate changing, preset systems, closed-loop color control and servo drives. Two exceptions are press format and motorized folders, in terms of providing a payback, he adds.
With makeready being done electronically based on plate file data, it’s possible to make wider/bigger presses ready in about the same time as a 2x4 format machine, Holliday points out. “The best press for short runs is the one that requires the fewest makereadies to complete the job. That’s the larger format, except when the final imposition of the job is less than the page capacity of the press.
“This is another new reality that has snuck up on a lot of printers. The conventional thinking always was to use small presses for short runs, until we automated makeready. Increasing the format size can be a very big lever in the makeready cost equation,” he explains.
Maximizing pressroom efficiency is not all about electronics. Presetting and running to the numbers make it more important to keep presses in their standard operating range.
“There now is a much greater impetus than most printers realize to have a very good preventive maintenance program to ensure their presses are always reliable and predictable.”
Printers also may want to rethink the mindset of equating fewer operators with pressroom efficiency, he adds. “Run lengths coming down so rapidly may merit a bit of a reevaluation of the benefits of saving a man on a press crew. You don’t want to compromise your overall costs by skimping on crews. You may actually want more crew on hand for the more frequent makereadies.”