Preparing for a New Press
Stephen Amitrano is manager of Print & Mail Services at Burlington County College in Pemberton, N.J.
Jon Bedsted is Unit Head, Print Publishing, at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Terri Bischoff is assistant director of Publishing Services at University of Southern Indiana.
Gordon Ryan is director of Design, Printing and Fulfillment Services at the New York State Bar Association in Green Island, N.Y.
How did you evaluate presses?
Gordon Ryan: We selected three presses to evaluate. We then visited multiple printers with each vendor. This was a critical part of the evaluation process. Asking questions and getting feedback from press operators actually running the equipment is crucial. I found the operators to be honest of both the positives and negatives of not only the press itself but the support from the manufacturer. Gaining information on how the press performed a year or two after installation and overall maintenance requirements was important.
Stephen Amitrano: Most importantly, I wanted a press that specifically fit the needs of our shop, knowing that it would perform cohesively with our current workflow and expanded future workflow. I looked for a press with a relatively small footprint, and a sheet size that was different from our other two presses, but still sensible for today’s common finished sizes and run lengths. I also needed a press with the latest technology to achieve quick makereadies with little waste. Standard and optional equipment included semiautomatic plate changers, automatic cleaning devices for ink rollers and blankets, and an upgraded console with ink volume setting software, which dramatically reduces labor involved in adjusting ink fountain keys prior to printing. I visited other printers and even flew out to see a press demo at the xpedx Technology Center in Loveland, Ohio.
Terri Bischoff: We mainly researched online, talked to equipment reps, and visited another printer that had a Presstek 34DI. We also researched another university that had a similar operation to ours and had installed the same press to get an inside perspective. I had previous experience working at a commercial printer that had a Heidelberg DI press and liked the digital/offset hybrid technology. We liked the direct-to-plate imaging technology, waterless inks, registration quality and small physical footprint of the 52DI. We also have other Presstek equipment in our print shop and were familiar with Presstek’s quality and service.
Jon Bedsted: We had our hearts and minds set on a particular German press. (My employer doesn’t allow me to mention brand names.) We did visit one of our commercial printing vendors to see the same machine in action. It was very helpful for our press operator to talk to their operator. Prior to this, most of our research was on the Internet. To help us decide, two important factors were versatility of the machine and availability of service technicians.
What would you do differently if you were buying a press today?
Ryan: So far no regrets; everything is going as planned. Having the experience of running a similar offset press in the shop already certainly helped. There was a much smaller learning curve. We also took the time to get everyone on the team involved early on in the process. This helped to clearly identify all of the important features needed, as well as share any knowledge and experiences with the variety of manufacturers.
Amitrano: The acquisition was very successful with no regrets. We vehemently researched presses, vendors and options before making a final decision. We were also lucky enough to have skilled press operators capable of running live jobs during training. Before you buy, talk to your press operators about what you (or they) want in a press.
Bischoff: This has been a great fit for us, so I don’t know that we would do anything differently. It helps to talk to other printers that have already used the type of press you are considering. It’s important for the press operator to talk with other experienced operators to see what is going to be involved with learning new equipment, technology, maintenance, troubleshooting, etc.
Bedsted: We wouldn’t do much differently. Maybe ask more questions.
Did you encounter any unexpected installation issues?
Ryan: The installation and training provided by Komori was excellent. A pre-installation meeting was key in that it clearly identified all of the tasks that needed to be accomplished. Each task was assigned to either the vendor or the customer, and an appropriate timeline was established. This allowed us to properly schedule all subcontractors and manage the overall process, as well as coordinate the availability of supplies for the new equipment. Having a firm understanding of when all of the many components were scheduled to arrive was critical, as often one missing piece could delay the entire installation.
Amitrano: A wall had to be removed for the press to fit in the shop, but it was expected and pre-planned.
Bischoff: Not really. Presstek sent a team to evaluate our shop before installation and worked out any physical, electrical and logistic issues with our campus architects and electricians to get the pre-installation work done on time and without incident.
Bedsted: It wasn’t unexpected, but it was costly: we had to cut a hole in our pressroom floor and pour footings and a two-foot pad on which to set our new press.
What have you have learned that might help other press buyers?
Ryan: We are happy that we did not cut corners on automation. The automation features such as color control and management, ink roller preset, auto plate loaders, auto blanket and ink roller washers, high pile delivery and paper preloading are critical to ROI.
Amitrano: If you push data from prepress workflow to press console, make sure the vendor provides IT support to evaluate, install and test the systems. Consider your platesetter. Can it handle the plate requirements of your new machine? Be sure to allow ample space around the press for paper skids and operator access. Prepare for lighting, electrical requirements and floor weight specifications. A great press is only as good as a great press operator. Before you buy, will you have someone to run it? Know your production times and associated material costs. You need to stay competitively priced—and not lose money doing so.
Bischoff: Make sure the company you purchase your press from knows what your expectations are as far as operator training, print color and quality, technical support, and what your future goals are with the press. Also, consider how installing a new press will impact your current bindery capabilities. Upgrades in that area may be needed.
Bedsted: All of the presses we’ve ever purchased, we’ve used for 20 years. My recommendation: buy quality, and buy features and capabilities you believe you’ll use for a long time. A paid-for press is very cost effective (up until the point when new productivity features significantly out-perform the older machine).
Have you gotten the type of work and volumes that you expected?
Ryan: We are able to turn jobs around much faster while producing a higher quality product. When we have a very large job we will often will print the job in-house and send out just the finishing. Before installing the new press we would send out the entire job.
Amitrano: Yes, and the volume has steadily increased since our purchase.
Bischoff: Yes, this was a great fit for our operation and the type of work we have been asked to produce. We have converted and redesigned many jobs that were one- or two-color to four-color process to meet the changing demands of our clients.
Bedsted: Yes, we have plenty of work for the press. While more work has evolved to full color, we still do a fair amount of two-color printing. We’re about to pull the plug on a 20-year-old press and run two shifts on the new press. I’m fortunate to have print buyers as part of my group. So, it’s quite easy to identify types of work going to commercial vendors that fit our machines nicely. As we’ve added output devices over the years, the amount of money we spend on printing with vendors has decreased significantly.
Examples of work you brought in-house because of the press:
Ryan: We now produce high-end brochures and booklets with aqueous coating, as well as long-run pieces that previously may have been sent out.
Amitrano: We produced many full-color projects on our two-color presses and digital color devices, but they were costly and time consuming. The Ryobi 524GE allowed us to compete with the highest levels of quality. We print respectable volumes of full-color brochures, newsletters, annual reports, postcards, and calendars that we would never have been able to do without our new press.
Bischoff: With the growing demand for full-color printing, we were outsourcing about 80-85 percent of our four-color jobs, and have been able to bring almost all of that work back in-house. Our two-color press continues to produce all our stationary needs and other jobs that we have not converted to four-color printing.
Bedsted: Medium-run, full-color work. We’ve had a full-color xerographic printer (110 cpm) for several years, and it handles the short-run jobs cost effectively and with high quality. The press allows us to cost effectively accommodate larger quantities (2,000 to 20,000 or so). And with good color management practices, we’re able to get the work coming off all of our full-color devices to match each other very acceptably and also match our vendor’s output.
Could you have handled this work with a digital press instead?
Ryan: No, the run lengths and sheet size require offset printing. Because the makeready times with the new press are so efficient, we do put some work on the press that had previously been printed digitally.
Amitrano: We have a Konica Minolta C6501 digital color copier that produces beautiful images on many types of stocks. I love our color copier, and I would never be without one. That said, unlike the presses, we could never have a digital device without a maintenance contract. If static printing wasn’t in such high demand at our facility, I would consider investing in a digital press. Could we handle most of our work on a digital press instead of our offset press? Absolutely not. Could we go to offset only? Absolutely not.
Bischoff: Probably, but I like the quality and feel of offset printing as opposed to toner-based printing. Toner-based printing can often pose bindery problems and may not register as well as offset printing. The DI allows us to print small quantities (500 minimum) and still be cost effective. The DI combines the best of both technologies.
Bedsted: We did investigate a couple of the digital (DI) presses, but didn’t like the slower speeds and pricing models. The press we purchased has made us very productive with 13,000-15,000 (sheets per hour) production speeds and five- to 10-minute makereadies. A year and a half into the ownership of our press, we love it, have no regrets and believe we bought the right machine for our needs.