Supporting Soldiers With Print

A soldier reinstalls an ink drum in the NexPress as she resets it from transport mode to operational mode. The US DOD maintains a fleet of Kodak NexPress digital presses in several locations around the world.

A soldier sets up the Polar 66 cutter for a job.

Using a Sterling Digibinder, a soldier perfect binds a book.

To produce the printed material it needs, the U.S. Department of Defense has set up several in-plants in locations around the world.

When the United States Department of Defense (US DOD) needs to get a message out to a foreign audience to support its soldiers in the field, it has to act quickly. For this reason, the US DOD maintains a fleet of Kodak NexPress digital presses, along with a contingent of bindery equipment, in several locations around the world. In addition, it is building deployable units, to be stationed where they are most needed.

“Our mission is to mass produce high-quality products with a very quick turnaround period,” notes the US DOD’s print program manager.

The products produced by these print operations might include leaflets, posters or books—even comic books and coloring books, whatever it takes to bring a message to a foreign audience.

“Print is an important strategic tool within DOD,” says the manager. “A small mission for us would be hundreds of thousands [of pieces], and a typical mission is in the millions. When you have a surge, you could end up having 5 to 7 million products coming in on day one that have to be turned around in a 48-hour period. On the second day, you’re getting another mission of similar volume. And this could be in multiple countries.” Uptime is critical within this environment.

“With missions around the globe synchronized based on getting these products, there are no excuses,” notes US DOD’s print program manager. “With our old [offset] presses, we had 2.5 to three hours of downtime between jobs. With our NexPress systems, our downtime between jobs has been reduced to 15 minutes. We end up saving, literally, eight to nine hours within our 24-hour work day.”

A dedicated support team of field engineers has been instrumental in keeping the presses operating at maximum capacity.

“We have tremendous turnover within the soldiers that operate the presses. When we’re lucky, we keep them for two years, so their level of expertise is not what you see in the commercial world,” says the manager. “Our lynchpin is our team of field engineers, which provides a very high level of technical expertise on system maintenance and repair. Trained by Kodak in Rochester, they come back and train soldiers to operate the machines. When we deploy a system into the field, the field engineer goes with it. Because of their dedicated support, our uptime averages 97 percent.”

Related story: A Mobile In-plant Operation

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