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Essential ingredients for faster presses

Jul 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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How fast should a press run? How fast can a press run? Can a press run fast and produce high quality? The age of a press can help answer some of these questions. Today, we see presses in the industry that are up to 30 years old, and some with 600 million impressions or more on them.

To make a press run fast, we need:

  1. A clean press and work area.
  2. A press that is maintained.
  3. Computer to plate.
  4. Goals.

Few printers will dispute the first two points. Practicing good housekeeping and proper maintenance is common sense. But computer to plate is a must. The benchmarking studies done in the industry all have shown that the firms with the best makeready times have CTP. And having a fast makeready dramatically improves productivity.

Know your targets

Set clear goals for waste, spoilage, makeready time and running speed. For sheetfed (for a 6-color, 40-inch press under four years old with anilox coater, automatic plate mounting, extended delivery and in good repair), spoilage should be targeted for the plant at 0.5% of sales. Waste — both makeready and running total — should be at 3% or slightly less. Makeready time is 15 minutes or less. And now for the hard one — running speed. The target should be 95% of rated speed. For new presses it is 100% of rated speed for all runs over 1,500 impressions.

How can you achieve these goals? You'll need:

  • An ink tailored to the press speed.
  • Good flat paper that has been jogged and aerated.
  • A fine-tuned feeder and delivery.
  • Rewards for press operators who achieve or exeed the objective.

Rethink your production. Ask the following questions:

  • What is the prime cause of delays?
  • What is holding you back from running fast?
  • What is the pace of the plant?
  • How fast can a press operator get an answer?
  • Have you tried a European makeready — using only fresh, unprinted paper?

Accentuate the positive

Finally, create a positive atmosphere. Years ago, I did an audit at a plant that had six large bulletin boards near the employee entrance. Each clearly showed every piece of bad work the company shipped. It also included clients' letters of complaint. What a downer to see that every day! I asked the president to remove the Wall of Shame and replace it with a Wall of Fame featuring positive feedback. Also, I encouraged him to enter some print contests and win. The president declined. The productivity in that plant is still horrible. Don't let that happen to you!

Raymond J. Prince is a leading expert in pressroom technical and operational issues. He is vice president and senior consultant, operations management, NAPL (Paramus, NJ). Contact him at (605) 941-1492 or e-mail