The manroland Roland 906, 56-inch, 6-color press with coater installed at Phipps Dickson Integria’s state-of-the-art consolidated facility is providing the company with higher levels of quality and productivity, allowing an already lean printer to be even more competitive in a marketplace where print runs continue to get smaller.
Mike Maassen, PDI’s Director of Printing Technology and Quality Control, said that in 2007 his company began to consider how it might upgrade manufacturing capabilities of equipment that would be 10 years old in 2009. One intriguing possibility was the prospect of adding a 56-inch large format press that could improve productivity and open up new market opportunities.
Maassen himself was intrigued by the idea, but he cautioned management that it would be a mistake if sizing up meant sacrificing the productivity and quality improvements that now characterize today’s computer-integrated 40-inch presses. In particular he needed to know that a 56-inch press could hold tight registration over a range of paper grades and sizes without having to continually readjust plates manually.
The quest for this answer led Maassen and others at PDI on a tour of printing facilities and press manufacting plants throughout North America and Europe. In 2009, Maassen found the answer to his concerns at the manroland plant in Offenbach, Germany.
“I went into their demonstration, walked right up to a 73-inch press and lifted a corner of the cover sheet. An old pressman, wearing a traditional German pressman’s outfit saw what I had done and he said, ‘I know what you are looking for. You’re not going to find it.’ And I didn’t.”
“I was looking for the register being off but the fit was perfect in all four corners and the middle. I had them print on a variety of substrates, types, and thicknesses and use different plate sizes, all with the same results—perfect fit. They never had to touch a plate. I was blown away. This was a large format press. Back in Canada, we had a good 1999, 40-inch press and we were yanking plates all over the place. Now I knew it was possible.”
As far as the purchasing the manroland 56-inch press was concerned, Maassen reported to management that he had no qualms about quality or productivity. The remaining concerns had to do with large-format supplies and infrastructure. Maassen explained that it is not possible to inventory all the papers PDI customers use, because approximately 60 percent of the work commissioned by the company’s advertising clients require non-standard paper sizes. PDI has worked with its suppliers to secure better access to a variety of papers that may be inventoried by the distributor or available on a quick-ship basis from the mill.
On the equipment side, the largest expense was replacing the plate setter with one big enough to accommodate larger plates. Fortunately, PDI had one that was ten years old and due for replacement anyway. This new equipment would be able to support the 40-inch presses too. Another issue involved having wider alleys around the new press to support larger print formats. However, PDI was moving into a new consolidated facility, so the space for the new press could be built to order. The timing for the new large format was right and PDI management decided to move ahead with the purchase.
Perhaps the thing that has impressed Maassen the most about the Roland 906 56-inch press is the quality of the printed product. “There is something about the math of a 56-inch press that just seems to add up. The diameter of every roller versus the cylinders, the way that the water runs off of the press and there’s no leftover water when it comes back around. You don’t have streaks. The repeats are completely gone.”
“I have been in the business a long time. I started out with my dad who was a press mechanic working on every press in town. Then I have had my own career in printing. I’ve never seen a press print this well. Any size. This one is just amazing. Most customers leave here with the same thought.”
Along with the manroland press, the company also instituted a G7 technology certification program, which Maassen says has made a huge difference with color quality and customer satisfaction. With this approach the color curves used in making plates are standardized to produce results that are very consistent (within a Delta E of 5). So customers always get the same colors as those specified by the designer or printed on another G7 certified printer.
Maassen said that when customers come in for press approvals it only takes them 15 minutes because there is rarely any tweaking required. Some customers have gained so much confidence in this process that they no longer feel the need to be present during the proofing.
Compared to their best 40-inch press, The new Roland 900XXL is more than twice as productive on conventional work, because PDI can double up on the larger sheets. An average press run is between 4000 and 7000 sheets, which can be completed in 20 to 30 minutes. Makeready times have also been halved, so PDI can maintain its profitability even as runs are getting shorter. PDI is comfortable quoting runs with as few as 1000 sheets on the 56-inch press. Increased productivity has also allowed PDI to shorten lead times which, along with better color quality, has further improved customer satisfaction.
The large format press has also opened up new avenues of business. For example, PDI is now producing top sheets for three manufacturers in the corrugated industry. Maassen said, “There were only a couple of large-size presses in this area, and once that they saw the quality we were getting, it was relatively easy to add them as customers.”
Based on improved capacity, fast turnarounds, color quality and customer satisfaction, the PDI sales staff is looking to move into new market spaces with offerings that satisfy the needs of a wider variety of conventional and wide format printing customers.