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Commentary & Analysis

Does OEE Apply to Digital Presses? This study says Yes

What is OEE and why should you care? How does this metric – Overall Equipment Effectiveness – play in the world of digital printing? Those are questions addressed in a new report from jzarwanpartners. We’ve got a summary of findings for you!

By Cary Sherburne
Published: August 8, 2017

Lately it seems I have been hearing a lot about overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) as an important metric in flexo printing. Plate and other vendors are touting the ability of their products and processes to enhance OEE and thus improve productivity, throughput and profitability. I was interested to see a study on this topic for digital presses, produced by John Zarwan of jzarwanpartners, and thought a summary of his findings would be of interest to our members.

What Is OEE?

So first, what do we mean by OEE?

Overall Equipment Effectiveness, or OEE, according to Zarwan’s report, is a performance indicator that quantifies the contributions of individual pieces of equipment within an operation. OEE combines three key production elements—equipment availability, performance, and quality—into a single metric. It measures the time equipment is fully productive, establishing a relationship between the maximum that can theoretically be produced and what is actually accomplished. This metric gives print providers a powerful tool that can be used to measure and improve operations.

From my own experience, I believe this to be a very important metric. While digital presses have greatly improved in reliability in the more than 25 years I have been following this market, I still hear from printing operations that sometimes it seems like the vendor’s technician is a staff member, they are there so often. This occurrence varies from vendor to vendor and press model to press model, but its frequency does affect press utilization and the ability to meet deadlines and revenue objectives. And it certainly should be a consideration when buying a digital press.


In his research, Zarwan examined the OEE of three digital presses: the Canon imagePRESS C10000VP, Ricoh Pro C9110, and Xerox® Color 1000i Press. He investigated their effectiveness in an operating environment. Are the presses available to print? Do the presses perform as promised? Do they meet expectations for quality? He collected relevant job information from a number of establishments running these presses and found that all three presses achieved high quality with very little waste, but as expected, differences in availability were mostly related to press breakdowns and the amount of time required to repair. He also found that the greatest amount of variation in availability had to do with press performance – how fast the machine printed compared to its rated speed. We know there are a lot of variables here, since vendors always say “up to” when quoting speed numbers!

And the Findings Were …

Zarwan found the OEE of all three presses to be acceptable, but with room for improvement. The figure below summarizes the results.

For a deeper understanding of this topic, I recommend that you read the full report, which goes into great detail about not only OEE but overall operational excellence, with lots of good advice. He states, “It should also be noted that OEE is the product of three factors, not a simple average of them. The OEE calculation therefore rewards consistency and punishes variability. For example, 10% x 90% = 9%, while 50% x 50% = 25%, even though the simple average of each is the same (50%). So if the cost of an error is high, then slowing down to achieve higher quality may be more important than maximizing performance or availability. This would likely result in a lower OEE, but that may be acceptable given business or customer requirements.”

In addition to using OEE as a decision criterion in buying a new press, Zarwan also points out that OEE can be used as a way of identifying and changing processes that negatively affect the operation, such as eliminating waste or shortening job setup and changeover. Of course, these factors may affect analog presses more than digital presses. He adds, “The ability to improve OEE through workflow changes for a digital press is more limited. A printer can try to schedule jobs with similar types of substrates, make sure the press is maintained and calibrated properly, or alter the standard number of proofs produced. RIPs can be optimized. Operators can be better trained. Beyond that, however, it basically comes down to equipment performance.” Which is why the study results are so interesting, especially if you are in the market for a new digital press.

To get your free copy of this important report, simply email Zarwan at jzarwan@johnzarwan.com!

Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries.

Cary Sherburne is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us.

Please offer your feedback to Cary. She can be reached at cary@whattheythink.com.



By John Zarwan on Aug 08, 2017

Thanks for the summary Cary! One important note is the paper focused on the differences among the equipment. Each participating printer received a more detailed customized report that took into account more of their operation. There was a greater variation in OEE depending on their work flow, scheduling and other non-equipment related practices that affect OEE.


By Eddy Hagen on Aug 09, 2017

And OEE is something that every printing company should look into. Not only flexo and digital.
Over a decade ago, when I was at VIGC, we had a pilot project to calculate and compare the OEE of sheetfed offset printing companies. The results were an eye-opener... OEE was low to very low. If I recall correctly, even the highest didn't reach a 25% OEE.
(please note that those were the days when job changes/setup were still rather time consuming and made the press unavailable for actual production)


By Robert Godwin on Aug 10, 2017

OEE is important but is absent in the sales process. Printers claim buyers remorse if they can't reach the maximum throughput cited by the manufacturer. The OEE is reality in YOUR shop, no one else's. It would/could be very misleading to apply these results to any other shop. Reality is what you are able produce, not what anyone else promises.
I do love the recognition that "the vendor’s technician is a staff member". Do vendor's make more money on support than on the actual sale of the press?


By John Zarwan on Aug 10, 2017

Robert Godwin is absolutely correct that OEE is shop-specific, by definition. I tried however to focus on the machines and eliminate workflow and work-related factors as much as possible. Lots of short run jobs will have lower OEE than longer run work, regardless of type of press. Similarly, for digital, heavy or specialty substrates will reduce machine performance. In this case, all three locations had a similar mix of work (and I eliminated from calculations clear outliers).


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