Consider Post-Sales Support When Purchasing Postpress Equipment
When it comes to postpress equipment, in the past, many shops took the approach of running their equipment until it broke down, and then taking the time to fix it. But with modern technology comes a wider range of things that can go wrong, usually at the worst possible time. To avoid that, working with manufacturers that offer preventative maintenance packages can be the difference between full uptime during the busy season, or a loss of productivity and missed deadlines.
Automation, in particular, is a key reason for this shift. Modern equipment doesn’t stand on its own; it is part of a wider range of equipment that includes prepress, press, and postpress machines, often with only one or two operators seeing it through the process, all the way out the door. The days of needing a person for each machine, and manually moving jobs from station to station have passed. This is great for productivity, allowing shops to move far more complex jobs through the doors than ever before. But it also means the equipment has far more moving parts and software that need to be running at peak performance at all times.
What to Look for in a Preventative Maintenance Plan
When it comes to choosing a company to purchase your postpress equipment from, there are a few key things to look for in their Preventative Maintenance offerings.
- Is it custom tailored? No two shops are alike, and their Preventative Maintenance plans shouldn’t be, either. There is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach to maintaining postpress equipment, and shops should ensure they are working with a manufacturer who understands that.
- How often will technicians need to come to the shop? Shops should be given options between quarterly, biannually, or annual checks, and in some cases a mix of all three, depending on the mix of equipment in the program.
- How thorough will the visits be? A Preventative Maintenance plan should include far more detailed analysis of each machine than an operator can perform themselves. Ideally, as part of the original onboarding process, the provider created a custom checklist for each individual piece of equipment, detailing every item they will check every time they visit. With preventative maintenance, the shop can schedule the down time around customer jobs, rather than have to call for emergency service on a downed machine during an important production run.
- What will the next steps be? Part of a good Preventative Maintenance plan will be to regularly replace the parts that are starting to get worn before they have a chance to fail. In some cases, those parts will be things the technicians have on hand and can easily replace as they go. In other cases, they will need to order the parts and return at a later date — and if that is the case, the follow-up visit should be included in your plan, not tacked on as an additional service charge.
One important question to ask is about breakdowns or problems that crop up outside of the regular Preventative Maintenance visits. No system is completely foolproof, and sometimes things can and will break unexpectedly, despite regular care. Having these regular checks greatly decreases the odds that something will go wrong, but no company can ever guarantee there will never be any breakdowns.
Going Back to School
Postpress support should encompass far more than just regular maintenance, however. One piece to consider is whether or not the manufacturer leaves the shop with every operator understanding how to get the optimal results. A good manufacturer will also offer a range of training options on the equipment itself, going beyond just a basic introduction done at installation.
Ideally, the postpress manufacturer you choose will offer a range of training options to best suit any shop’s needs. Onsite training, for example, allows a shop’s operators to get even more familiar with the equipment they are working with on a day-to-day basis, giving them a much more advanced understanding of what the equipment can do in their specific conditions.
On the other hand, training at a dedicated facility offers a few benefits as well. First, it allows operators to get training on equipment they may not have access to yet — such as a new piece of equipment that has been ordered, but not yet installed at their facilities, giving them a head-start, and allowing them to cut down the learning curve and begin running live jobs that much faster.
Second is the ability to get more advanced training on what the equipment can do beyond the work the shop is running right now. Often, in-house training focuses on the types of jobs the shop has already sold or is immediately targeting, with any features or capabilities that don’t immediately lend themselves to that specific job type left by the wayside. On the other hand, off-site training allows operators to learn the full breadth of capabilities of the equipment, which in turn allows them to both offer suggestions on new products the shop can offer clients, as well as being ready to jump right in when something out of the ordinary comes through the door.
Finally, off-site training allows operators to learn outside of the stress of a production environment. Most shops can’t completely shut down operations for several days during training sessions, which means that, to some degree, the operators will be “on call,” with the possibility of needing to take care of something keeping their focus divided. Off-site training, however, allows them to completely focus on the task at hand — learning about what their machines are truly capable of, and ensuring they fully understand how to get the most of the equipment on a regular basis.
When it comes to choosing the right equipment, making sure the shop is working with the right manufacturer is critical. Working with a partner who offers a broad range of post-sale support options will help protect the investment, and will ensure the shop can continue to run at full capacity for many years to come.
And this type of support will ultimately impact the bottom line, as well. Ultimately, it will cost less to pay for an ongoing preventative maintenance program than it would if the machine breaks suddenly, and the shop has to pay thousands — or more — in parts. Not to mention the time lost — a shop can usually find a way to increase speeds when they need to push productivity in the busy season, but an unexpected 6-day or more breakdown, that is a big deal. That can mean the difference between finishing a job on time or not, or winning a new customer or not.
Another thing to consider is that today’s operators are not the seasoned technicians they once were. Often, while they have the expertise to run the machines and handle basic maintenance protocols, they are not well-versed in the details of the mechanical operation. That requires technicians who have spent years learning the ins and outs of the machines they service, and who have seen — in both real-world situations and in simulations — every possible problem that could go wrong on a piece of equipment so they are ready to jump in and fix it.
Offerings such as robust training options are also critical to this workforce, as the seasoned operators who are still working begin to retire, and new skillsets enter the workforce. The newer equipment is far more complex than it used to be, with operators needing to know a much wider range of technology-specific skills for their day-to-day jobs. But the tradeoff is that they aren’t machine technicians who can handle major repairs and upgrades as well. Working with a manufacturer —such as MBO — which offers a varied and robust range of support options to fit every potential shop’s equipment and situation is a critical step to ensuring the shop is always functioning at full capacity.
For more information about this topic, please download the white paper “Consider Post-Sales Support When Purchasing Postpress Equipment” sponsored by MBO.
Toni McQuilken has been writing and editing for more than a decade. Her work includes B2B publications – both in print and online – in a range of industries, such as print and graphics, technology, hospitality and automotive; as well as behind the scenes writing and editing for multiple companies, helping them craft marketing materials, write press releases and more. She is a self-proclaimed "tech geek" who loves all things technology, and she knows that she is one of a select group of people who get to do what they love for a living.