Don't Make Light of the UV Learning Curve
Over the years I have run across a number of printers that thought they had everything figured out until their new machine actually went into production. How often does the “AS SEEN ON TV” ad actually come true? Yes, that result was seen somewhere, but sometimes the smoke and mirrors screened the complexity.
There are times when the “DON’T TRY THIS STUNT AT HOME” theory comes into play. Unfortunately, many do not realize what is actually involved when the smoke clears and the lights are turned on. This scenario below, sorry to say, is more common than you could imagine.
The excitement starts when the riggers pull up in the parking lot, the manufacturer’s technicians are onsite with their tool boxes and then the dock doors open. As they start to unload your new printing press and bring it into the building, the camera flashes are going off. The time lapse video camera mounted in the corner above the area where the machine will be installed, continues to run. Knowing how great all of this will look to your customers when your new website launches.
The next few weeks seem to go on forever. The machine is being erected and there are so many outside contractors in the building, they are running into each other. Everyone with constant questions regarding their part of the installation. Your sales group chasing you down to find out when their customer’s job is going to be on the new press and, best of all, the owner asking “When can we start making money with this huge investment?”
You feel confident that you have done all of your homework. You have all of your supplies on hand from various vendors. You hand picked your best crew in the house to run this new machine. You’ve gathered all of the info and attended all of the seminars you could on UV printing. And you believe that when the lights come on, everyone will hit the ground running.
Then it happens; the first few months seem to be a constant struggle. Anything that could go wrong has. You can’t match proofs, some jobs ran off color, you hear the words, “We’re not hitting our estimates!” or “Why do we need more paper?” and you also seem to be spending a great deal more money and not getting the results you’ve expected. The entire time you’re asking yourself, “How do our competitors do this and did they start up with these same issues?”
You have to keep in mind there is a learning curve associated with UV printing. Operating windows on the machine are much smaller and the tolerances are tighter. Many press operators start to question their own ability or get discouraged as things go wrong. Despite what some people will tell you, full UV does not print like conventional printing. Your approach and thinking will have to be different. Keep in mind how important it is to maintain a positive attitude throughout this entire experience and do not let it destroy you. And remember that saying, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”
The learning curve will always be there to some degree. It’s just to what extent and how long will it continue. There are some great resources out there to make the transition into the UV world as painless as possible. It is a small investment compared to what you have already spent to explore this venture. Also consider the amount of money you could spend if things continue to go sideways.
We are asking all of you to share your experiences and thoughts on this topic. I’m sure many of you will agree with me, and we want to hear from both sides. It will help everyone realize that they’re not alone when it comes to the trials and tribulations of UV printing start ups.
Darren has worked in the printing industry for 30 years and spent more than 12 years at two of the nation's leading high-end commercial printers: Bradley Printing in Des Plaines, IL, and Williamson Printing Corp. in Dallas, TX. During that time, he operated conventional and UV 40˝ sheetfed presses and also successfully managed a $15-million pressroom equipment transition. Darren also was Lead Press Instructor for Heidelberg, where he directed specialty equipment startups and was involved in all aspects of the printing process by teaching both instructor and pressroom employees.
In addition, he served as a troubleshooter for various printing companies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. As operations manager for a start-up specialty folding carton company, he played a key role in achieving more than $6 million in sales within two years. Currently Darren is president of D.G. Print Solutions, a consulting firm that supports printing companies of all sizes. He specializes in growth development planning, pressroom color management and pressroom training through specialty print applications.