(This article originally appeared on Inkjet Insight.) 

(sung to YMCA)

Printers! There’s a thing you should know!
I said, Printers! To keep track of your dough!
You can make more, and I’m sure you will do
What you need to increase revenue!

It may not make you want to sing, but you should be doing hardware maintenance because it will build the infrastructure for longevity and efficiency, enabling the production of the best quality print. The strategy for hardware maintenance should include goals for preventing unplanned downtime and minimizing planned offline occurrences. When maintenance is performed on a vendor-approved schedule, machines tend to last longer, replacement part cadences can be minimized, and print quality tends to be more consistent.

Maintenance is not free, however. It consumes time, money, and personnel, impacting the total cost of creating the print product. Understanding how different maintenance strategies affect your Total Cost of Operations and your Total Cost of Print involves ensuring you are capturing the correct data in a normalized way and putting it through the same analysis you would do if you were considering a capital investment.

Start with how you calculate your costs today to see what you are including. How do you account for unplanned downtime? How are you accounting for planned downtime? If these are missing from your TCO and TCOP calculations, you may be underestimating the costs of goods sold. Test that in your shop by doing a postmortem on the last few jobs that were on press when it went down.

  1. What was the original contract price or estimate on the job?
    1. What was included in that calculation?
  2. What was the actual cost of the job when costs associated with job onboarding, prepress, print, finishing, post-press quality control and delivery, change requests, and machine downtime are accounted for?
    1. If you use a Budgeted Hourly Rate for labor and ancillary costs, look at that rate and how it is calculated to see if it reflects the current operating environment.

Now look at what caused the unplanned downtime and consider the impact of delayed maintenance or poor maintenance practices. In a February 2022 Forbes article, the authors noted that many plants run on a run-to-fail model where maintenance is only performed when something breaks. They make the case that research proves the value of preventative maintenance in significantly reducing failures and enhancing uptime.

This is an excellent time to consider your approach to inkjet press maintenance and elevate the importance of press hygiene so that unplanned downtime is reduced. That returns capacity to the press room, often reducing bottlenecks that cause missed deadlines.

With the value of maintenance established, review your maintenance model to verify that you are correctly accounting for that cost in your calculations. If you are paying for maintenance, look at your fixed maintenance cost versus variables. Are they all handled in your Total Cost model? If you are self-maintaining or using a hybrid model, do the same exercise to see if assumptions about the time team members take to perform the work is in alignment with the budget. If maintenance is taking more time or not performed as anticipated, it might be time to look at another strategy.

Life with inkjet presses can be lucrative, but the burden is on you to ensure you capture all costs associated with maintaining the machine as well as running it. Carefully review your vendor’s offers for complete maintenance to determine if that is a more efficient and reliable approach to machine hygiene. Review all contracts carefully and do a postmortem at least once a year to understand the differences between expected and actual costs, which can impact your cost of goods sold.