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Coldset Powerhouse Ripon Expands To Heatset With A New Stacked Rotoman

Press release from the issuing company

Ripon, Wisconsin — Ripon Community Printers, one of the country’s leading coldset facilities, has expanded into the heatset market, with the commissioning of a new 16/32 page ROTOMAN web press. The eight-unit two-web system is the first stacked conventional ROTOMAN to be installed in North America. It’s now running three shifts a day as the centerpiece of a new 24,727 square foot annex Ripon added to its main 210,000 square foot facility. Russ Welch, Lead Web Press supervisor and MAN Roland project supervisor at Ripon, says the installation went smoothly: “Working with MAN Roland was a very rewarding experience. The group as a whole responds quickly to questions and is open to changes in making the installation successful.” Ripon’s press crews spent considerable time with offsite training to upgrade their coldset skills to the heatset paradigm. The company sent two groups of operators to GATF/PIA headquarters in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, to get hands-on experience on the training facility’s ROTOMAN. Recalling his week at GATF/PIA, first shift foreman Jeff Miller states: “Being there was a priceless experience. To work with this technology before it got to our plant was excellent – a true eye-opener. On the last day, our group was able to do a complete setup and print a press test. It was like working on the Space Shuttle.” Separately, Ripon’s three heatset crew leaders and its maintenance chief spent seven days at the MAN Roland factory and training center in Augsburg, Germany to learn the ins and outs of ROTOMAN’s folder. “This was the best folder training we could have gotten,” says second shift crew leader Gabe Schmudlach. “We were able to bar the folder manually with a roll of paper on a dowel to better understand how it works. We did various folder setups and were able to troubleshoot problems.” Key members of the heatset team also spent time offsite at auxiliary equipment suppliers. Ripon’s ROTOMAN system incorporates MegTec splicers and dryers and QuadTech controls and material handling equipment. “All this offsite time and effort is paying off big,” Welch declares. “It has allowed our operators to concentrate on the printing side of the start-up and less on the equipment. The biggest factor to an easy transition is our people. We have a highly skilled and motivated group of press personnel.” Ripon involved several of its pressroom supervisors and operators in its search for the right heatset press right from the start. They literally traveled the world in their fact-finding mission. “We had a good team of employees who made site visits and asked questions of all the possible vendors,” says Andy Lyke, one of the company’s owners and its president. “We are very pleased by the thoroughness of their investigation, which have helped us ask smarter questions.” Ripon geared up its ROTOMAN and its crews to three shifts a day gradually with onsite training from MAN Roland instructors. Since ROTOMAN is the most automated press in its class, much of the on-the-job education focused on the press’ PECOM controls and Power Plate Loading (PPL). “The automation is working great,” Welch reports. “The ink key presets are allowing us to do first makeready on a new job in as low as 2,000 impressions in a 32-page two-web format. Couple this with the component presetting and the Power Plate Loading and you have an awesome combination.” Ripon is printing a wide variety of products on its ROTOMAN, ranging from black plus spot colors to four-color process. “With this mix of different ink set ups, the folds have been varied as well,” Welch says. “We have run tabloids, quarterfold and double parallel with great success.” In terms of market appeal, ROTOMAN is providing its worth as a stepping stone for coldset accounts that are looking to transition up to heatset quality. “The quality levels have been extremely varied,” Welch says. “They have been as low as uncoated four-color to high-end, 175 line screen four-color work on coated offset sheets.” Since the ROTOMAN went online, sales are up and many of the company’s coldset customers have expressed enthusiasm about sending their heatset projects to Ripon. The trend reflects well on Ripon’s plan to create a “one-stop shop” for its clients. “We decided offering heatset printing would be a natural addition for us and our customers since we already have the expertise in prepress and postpress,” Lyke explains. “With our reputation as one of the top coldset printers in the U.S., we felt it was important to enter the heatset market with the best equipment we could find, which is why we purchased the MAN Roland.” Ripon’s newly expanded 234,727 square foot facility provides electronic prepress with computer-to-plate, on-demand digital printing, sheetfed production, hot glue perfect binding, saddle stitching with inside/outside ink-jet imaging, mail list processing and fulfillment. The recent addition of high quality heatset capabilities to the comprehensive mix already has had an impact among the company’s competitors. “One printer is scratching his head wondering why we want to get into the market,” Lyke remarks. The company’s current numbers and future projections indicate that there is cause for that concern. Ripon generates annual sales of more than $38 million with a staff of 350. It plans to add an additional stacked web offset press and an inline cover press in its new extension. Meanwhile the company is celebrating the successful start-up of its first heatset press. It recently hosted a Commissioning Party that brought together Ripon press crews, MAN Roland’s installation and training teams, and top management from both companies. “We've had an excellent relationship with MAN Roland,” Lyke declares. “We truly feel like they have been our partners every step of the way.”