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Nine Months After Installing Speedmaster XL 105 Long Perfector, Modern Litho ‘Would Do It All Over Again’

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Press release from the issuing company

Kennesaw, GA – Expectations were high when Modern Litho (Jefferson City, MO) took delivery of an 8-color Speedmaster XL 105 long perfector with CutStar sheeter, Inpress automated color control, and AutoPlate XL last summer. More than six months later, the company’s initial expectations and early impressions have been confirmed, and the company is well on the way to fulfilling a long-term growth strategy focused on short-run, quick-turn production.

Within two months of installation, the new press had logged more than 6 million double-sided impressions, demonstrating greater productivity than that of all three existing presses it had replaced, and making the already-thriving company more competitive on an ever-growing volume of short-run work. Today, both productivity and quality remain consistently high, with the 8-color XL press registering 28.7 million double-sided impressions to date, with a total of 38 million projected for its first year in operation.

"We originally budgeted for 3 percent growth, but actually grew more than 10 percent in 2012 with sales of $17.6 million," said company president Darrell Moore. "We couldn’t have done it without the new press. It’s everything we hoped for and more."


Among the problems Modern Litho hoped to resolve with the addition of a second Speedmaster XL 105 was the backlog created when jobs intended for its existing presses stayed on plate too long—up to 3 or 4 days in some cases—before moving to press. Since the new machine was installed, "Our bindery now gets the job much earlier in the cycle. That takes away a lot of the stress we’ve been dealing with."

Pleased as he is with the productivity of the new press, Moore reserves special praise for Heidelberg’s integrated in-line color measuring system Prinect Inpress Control, which he credits with keeping the company’s quality consistently high and with helping to slash makeready times by up to 25 percent with much less start-up waste.

"Not only can we come up to color within 100 sheets, but we can maintain it for the entire run without stopping the press," he said. "You can’t compare functionality like that to a pressman with a densitometer, no matter how talented he may be."

Other key stress-busters include the CutStar sheeter, which reduced paper costs and increased paper feeding productivity, and AutoPlate XL, which works in tandem with Inpress Control to reduce makeready times via fast, convenient, simultaneous plate-changing. Additional savings come from Inkline Direct, which automatically feeds the press from large-capacity drums of ink, lowering ink costs by about 15 percent..

Working to a common plate size between the two XLs streamlines prepress, greatly simplifies load-balancing, and lends the company a welcome measure of production flexibility. "Most of the work we do on the 8-color is 60-, 70-, or 80-lb. text," Moore explained, "while covers, 5-color work, jobs printing on board or requiring aqueous coating are ideal candidates for the 5-color."

Don’t Fence Me In

While Modern Litho’s success with the new Speedmaster XL 105 has relieved stress in some areas, it has created challenges and opportunities elsewhere. The removal of three existing presses to make room for the new Speedmaster XL 105, for example, gave Modern Litho the much-needed space to reconfigure its workflow for greater efficiency. The company was able to relocate its prepress department directly adjacent to the pressroom, meaning that plates need travel only 20 feet to the press, rather than the previous 200 feet. It also repositioned its bindery such that material coming off the press now goes directly to cutting and folding, binding, shipping, and mailing in an uninterrupted flow of personnel and materials.

The company is planning a further enlargement that would enable it to move its warehouse (paper supplies) to the front of the press, and eventually to add new product lines. Long-range, that could include an expansion into packaging, Moore said. "We’re looking to add 20,000 to 29,000 square feet this calendar year." In the shorter term, Modern Litho will adopt a small-format Speedmaster SM 52 from sister firm Brown Printing, intending to run it alongside the XL 105s during multiple shifts.

Care and Feeding of A Monster

But by far the biggest challenge Modern Litho has encountered is the need to feed its hungry 8-color XL 105. While Moore initially commented that Modern Litho was "willing to trade a little short-term pain for long-term gains in quality and productivity," he now acknowledges that what’s critical now is making sure the company’s prepress department and bindery can pace the output of its hard-charging pressroom.

"When you grow by double digits, it becomes harder to keep up in prepress and the bindery," Moore said. "Since we run our prepress department Monday-Friday during the day but only Monday-Thursday at night, we have to be proactive about keeping the 8-color XL filled for the weekend. The press just chews up the work, so we really have to plan ahead."

On the bindery side, an ongoing issue is getting the right personnel hired and trained. "We have the right equipment, including cutters, folders, and a saddlestitcher from Heidelberg," Moore said, "but we also run faster than many companies, and we need bindery personnel who can keep up."

Fully Loaded for Future Success

For Modern Litho these days, volume is indeed the name of the game. The company is an engine of productivity, running the 8-color Speedmaster XL 105 around the clock, six days per week, and having recently taken production on the 5-color XL from one to two shifts over six days."Despite our volume we do have some spare capacity, and we could step things up to create more if we had to," Moore said 

Modern Litho is able to maintain its ambitious pace, in part, by training and cross-training the 13 operators who run its XL presses. "If one lead operator is sick, the secondary pressman will be able to run the console," Moore said, alluding to an internal process that began with pre-installation training of its four lead operators at Heidelberg’s Technology Center in Kennesaw. Post-installation, "We came back for a few days of additional training to iron out some remaining issues," he said.

The company recently signed up for Heidelberg’s internet-based Prinect Performance Benchmarking service in order to access precise information about its productivity in comparison with competitors worldwide.   "We firmly believe using data from comparable press configurations will help us understand where we are in relation to our peers," Moore said.

"Contemplating a high-dollar investment is always stressful, especially when a new platform is involved," Moore admitted. "We’re happy and relieved that everything has worked out so well. Based on our record after nine months in production, we’d do it all over again."

Modern Litho is a Certified Woman-Owned Business Enterprise offering services ranging from high-performance offset print and distribution for publications and marketing collateral, to production and mailing for variable direct mail and digital print marketing materials, as well as web-to-print. Markets of interest include nonprofits and member-based organizations, healthcare, and others requiring attention to fine detail and deadlines. 


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