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Nov 1, 1998 12:00 AM

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Effective maintenance can be the hidden difference between a cost-effective, profitable printer and a competitor that is on the brink of production disaster.

One characteristic of a plant in trouble is poor equipment maintenance, lack of a maintenance budget (or an inadequate one), reliance on operators to perform unsupervised preventive maintenance and a fix-it-when-its-broke operations mentality.

Conversely, profitable operations almost inevitably have a structured maintenance program with documented procedures, proper recordkeeping and management-supervised implementation. They also have an adequate budget plus a prevent-the-problem-before-it-occurs approach to business.

"To accelerate throughput and make money, there must be a focused effort to eliminate both the sporadic and chronic downtime losses impacting graphic arts industry equipment," maintains Kenneth E. Rizzo, Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF) senior consultant. "Graphic arts companies must install effective maintenance and operational control systems to be able to eliminate unexpected downtime losses. Once time is lost, no one can get it back," observes the consultant responsible for GATF's current emphasis on the value of production maintenance.

Iron-oriented equipment manufacturers prescribe preventive maintenance procedures, usually centering on lubrication, detail settings and tolerances required for various components of their machinery. These procedures are designed to achieve the best running results and the maximum possible quality levels.

Equipment suppliers commonly offer operator training as a part of a new purchase package. Preventive maintenance procedures generally are included in this training, but often on a perfunctory basis.

Most printing operations managers acknowledge the importance of preventive maintenance, but frequently are not proactive in ensuring that these procedures are carried out on a regular schedule. Front office management's verbal commitment to preventive maintenance may not be in touch with the realities of the day-to-day press and bindery/finishing operations.

While profit leader companies and the industry's largest web operations most often pay strict attention to preventive maintenance, the bottom line for the majority of the industry is that inadequate attention to this area represents a significant profit leak as well as a source of customer dissatisfaction stemming from late deliveries or less-than-perfect quality. Maintenance often is viewed as a necessary evil rather than the cost-reducing profit enhancer that it can be.

"Printers that do manufacturer-prescribed preventive maintenance typically out-produce plants that give maintenance short shrift," declares Spencer Mieras, Heidelberg Web's vice president of customer service. "Our experience is that printers who dedicate part of a shift or even a full shift each week to maintenance will out-produce an identical operation that does not shut down or pull presses out of production for maintenance on a regular basis. This is particularly true for printers running 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week. Plants that do maintenance on a regular schedule perform better than plants that do not," insists Mieras.

Echoing a similar perception from the sheet-fed side, Larry Kroll, Heidelberg director of consulting and training, notes that the equipment investment printers are making is growing increasingly larger. As presses become more automated and more productive, maintaining uptime becomes critically important in order to realize press performance and ROI expectations. Kroll urges printers to put as much care and thought into the maintenance of equipment as is given to the purchasing decision.

"The printing industry, by using highly automated, faster-than-ever, easier-to-operate equipment, is trying to achieve zero defect levels and predictable quality," notes Richard C. Holliday, president of the consulting firm 3P, Inc. "It is printing to customer specifications and standards while moving toward printing by the numbers." And yet, Holliday continues, the preventive maintenance necessary to achieve those objectives often is neglected.

"Any good press operator, for example, knows how to crutch an ailing press. A little shim here, a force-fit there, running at some mysteriously determined optimum quality/ productivity speed." Holliday observes, " Today, if you are going to move forward with the concept of printing-to-the-numbers, you need to know that your press is performing up to the optimum predetermined operating specifications.

"That automatically means you don't let the press go until it breaks. Sometime, long before equipment has developed a production-disrupting problem, it is operating out of tolerance--out of optimum condition," asserts the consultant.

Plant operating audits conducted by PrintCom Consulting Group indicate that it is not unusual for printers to operate press and bindery equipment obviously in need of repair. Preventive maintenance is not performed and repairs are deferred, leaving operators struggling with what can be categorized as "defective" equipment.

"Printing equipment out of optimum condition often requires the press operator to nurse equipment through its idiosyncrasies. That's not printing by the numbers. It's not running under the conditions that will yield the best possible quality and the highest levels of productivity," insists Holliday. "Bindery equipment must be fine-tuned and in optimum condition to avoid the parade of stops and breakdowns that limit throughput. The difference between a bindery that is running smoothly (as well as profitably) and one that is struggling to get a quality product out the door on time often can be tracked to proper maintenance," notes Ralph Box, vice president of sales for Muller Martini.

The most astute bindery managers start their emphasis on maintenance with the installation of a new machine, Box observes. These managers want their crews and maintenance personnel to be on hand during the installation so that they can see the machine assembled, adjusted and started by highly skilled and knowledgeable factory technicians. This approach to starting maintenance training for both press and bindery equipment operators helps create crews that understand the inner workings of their machinery.

One of the keys to profitable continuous maintenance is the establishment of a life-to-death equipment maintenance log. This log is used to record periodic preventive maintenance, including replacement of expendable items such as rollers. Sign-off sheets are used to detail what was done and by whom. All procedures are then checked or verified by supervisors. The log also can include a chronological listing of all major repair work and parts replacements. Whether kept in the maintenance log or elsewhere, this information should be recorded accurately andrecords kept for the life of the machinery.

The maintenance log provides an easy-to-use management tool to ensure that proper preventive maintenance is accurately done. The track record on the log can provide information useful in preventive maintenance as well as diagnosing specific equipment performance problems.

Many companies, however, do not maintain such a log or keep any type of maintenance or repair records. If records do exist, they often are illegible, incomplete or fail to provide historical data required for diagnosing problems. Then, too, there are plants that keep good records but fail to use the data constructively.

Establishing an adequate recordkeeping system is the first step toward creating a preventive maintenance program. Maintenance procedures and requirements should follow the recommendations outlined by equipment manufacturers.

The second step is to perform the maintenance on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, recording the work done. Some plants even require lead press operators and bindery operators to turn in their maintenance record sheets weekly with the submission of their time cards.

The third step is to understand and utilize the data gathered in recording repairs and major maintenance as input for analyzing equipment performance and diagnosing repetitive problems.

Preventive maintenance tasks should include daily and weekly lubrication, functional setting adjustments and cleaning operations. And although preventive maintenance begins with these activities, it doesn't end there, according to industry consultant Clint Bolte. "Analysis of repairs and quality defects is like putting the pieces of a mosaic together," says Bolte, describing the development of a more advanced maintenance philosophy.

Operating inputs relevant to preventive maintenance include ultrasonic testing, temperature monitoring, vibration monitoring, lube oil analysis, infrared/ heat monitoring, lube oil analysis, infrared/heat monitoring, sound monitoring, pressure testing, motor testing and statistical process control (SPC) charting of all these variables.

Today's generation of pressroom and bindery equipment is increasingly coming equipped with microprocessor-based controls. This makes it possible to link computer-aided maintenance control systems with production and operational management systems. For example, Titan Software (Monroeville, PA) offers software that integrates condition-based data such as vibration analysis, with conventional process monitoring and control data. The Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, FL uses Titan's products to issue and control maintenance work orders on its five Goss nine-unit Colorliner web presses.

Multi-plant yearbook printer Herff-Jones (Indianapolis, IN) uses software from Data Stream (Greenville, SC) to control its maintenance activities. This includes a corporate spare parts inventory that enables all plant locations to obtain critical parts from sister operations during an emergency.

Modules of business information and production control systems can readily be adapted to provide maintenance control information, according to Donald H. Goldman, senior vice president & chief information officer at Master Graphics (Memphis).

For example, preventive maintenance scheduling can be integrated into a system's production scheduling component. Downtime and its causes usually are recorded and can be tied into a maintenance operation scheme. Downtime causes can be summarized in most information systems and then the data is statistically analyzed. Spare parts inventory records can be handled in inventory modules. Information also can be gathered and analyzed by setting up maintenance as a department in most business information systems.

While this approach may not provide every possible nuance of maintenance control and analysis, it can go a long way toward achieving that goal, Goldman asserts.

Recognizing the growing importance of maintenance, GATF has established a Total Production Maintenance (TPM) Registry Certificate Program designed to help printers identify productivity interruptions and to systematically eliminate those problems.

The program was developed by Ken Rizzo of GATF. It focuses on the "Big Six Losses"--areas of major operational and mechanical loss that typically occur on equipment used in the printing industry.

The first step of the TPM is to analyze the typical equipment downtime losses and categorize them by their individual components. This focus includes both the equipment's operation and its maintenance. The key to TPM is eliminating the operational and maintenance causes that contribute to the Big Six Losses (see sidebar).

Poor operational control, non-existent training and educational programs, inconsistent operator techniques and a fix-it-when-it-breaks maintenance system are the usual causes of the Big Six Losses, according to Rizzo. The GATF TPM program focuses on reducing or eliminating these issues. (For more on the first preventive maintenance audit in a printing plant, see the article on Mid-City Litho on page 76).

To eliminate the Big Six Losses, equipment effectiveness is maximized through a TPM program by:

* Implementing an autonomous maintenance program; * Developing and implementing a scheduled program for maintenance department;

* Increasing the skills of operations and maintenance department personnel; * Establishing an initial equipment management program.

In an autonomous maintenance program, an equipment operator's basic cleaning and lubrication responsibilities expand to encompass activities that truly help to prevent breakdowns. Autonomous maintenance also requires equipment operators to become the "eyes and ears" of the maintenance department.

An effective scheduled maintenance program has three major components. 1. Development of an organization-wide effort to proactively begin eliminating the Big Six Losses. 2. Clear and concise recording of all equipment maintenance and breakdowns. 3. A periodic management review to determine the effectiveness of the TPM process.

The TPM program consists of three prime elements. The first is a textbook designed to help printers identify productivity interruptions and systematically eliminate them. The book is recommended for both the company that wishes to initiate a structured maintenance program and for those wishing to improve upon an established program.

The second element is a three-day GATF-conducted TPM training program in its Pittsburgh facility. The program teaches participants how to detect the Big Six Losses and how to overcome them. It also covers determining proper equipment operation through effective auditing and verification testing.

An on-site implementation program consists of four non-consecutive week-long programs and constitutes the three elements of the program. Each week consists of teaching one of the major principles of TPM. There is a minimum of three weeks between each week of instruction. The last week of the program prepares printers for the TPM Registry Audit.

The TPM Audit/Registry Program, available only to GATF members, consists of a one-day off-site review of all documentation and a three-to-four-day on-site review of prepress, press and postpress operations. If the audit results are satisfactory, the facility will be awarded a TPM Registry Certificate and use of the TPM logo valid for one year. Refresher audits are required to maintain registry after the initial year.

Almost any analysis of pressroom and bindery downtime and its causes reveals that maintenance issues are siphoning away what should be printers' profits. Customer quality complaints and late deliveries often can be traced to press or bindery equipment problems, which are, in reality, a result of maintenance problems.

Virtually all printing machinery manufacturers strongly believe that an investment in maintenance will enhance productivity and profitability. And we suggest that printer profitability improvement programs include a hard look at the company's maintenance practices.

Start by reading a TPM book or participating in GATF's Total Productive Maintenance Program. Whatever you do, maintenance needs to be an integral part of any printer's operating plan.

Ken Rizzo's TPM textbook, "Total Production Maintenance: A Guide for the Printing Industry," is available from GATF. The book details specific procedures important to any scheduled maintenance program and offers ready-to-use checklists. The 212-page book sells for $50 to GATF members and $65 to non-members.

The three-day TPM training program is next scheduled for March 8-10 and June 7-9, 1999. The program fee is $795 for GATF members and $945 for non-members.

For more information, contact GATF, 200 Deer Run Road, Sewickley, PA 15143; (412) 741-6860; Fax: (412) 741-2311.

Ken Rizzo of the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF) has developed a list of six operational and maintenance causes that contribute to loss within a printing plant.

1. Sporadic and chronic equipment failure/ breakdowns. Sudden and unexpected sporadic breakdowns usually are infrequent and result from the deterioration of the mechanical and electrical operating components. Chronic breakdowns, which are the result of defects in equipment, tools, materials and operating methods, occur frequently, resulting in small amounts of lost time.

2. Makeready and equipment adjustments. With shorter run lengths and more makereadys, reduction in makeready time and new job adjustments, emphasis is being placed on time-to-good counts.

3. Equipment idling and minor stops. Material abnormalities and slight machine malfunctions that can be overcome by replacing materials or resetting press components.

4. Reduced running speeds. While numerous reasons are advanced for running presses and bindery equipment at slower than rated speeds, less than label-speed operations represent a productivity loss.

5. Defective product. Defective end products, for whatever reason, must be treated as a loss and, therefore, eliminated.

6. Reduced equipment yield--start-up losses. Start-up loss is lost time after the makeready is complete and production sheets/ signatures are being counted, but at a reduced speed. These losses generally are accepted as a process variable, but account for considerable productivity loss.