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Dec 1, 2000 12:00 AM

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In the face of increasingly shorter runs and turnaround times, printers discussed how they've improved makereadies at the Research & Engineering Council's 26th annual "Progress in the Pressroom" seminar in Chicago.

At web printer Fry Communications, Inc. (Mechanicsburg, PA), paid performance and plate changers are shaving time off makeready. Press operators are awarded fixed bonuses when the presses run well, while a semi-automatic plate changer has reportedly cut makeready by 50 percent. When combined with benefits from digitally preset ink keys and a 100 percent CTP environment, Fry has experienced $102,000 in labor savings and $75,000 savings in waste reduction.

And at R.R. Donnelley's book printing division in Roanoke, VA, the focus is on automation and quality management. The printer's goal when investing in automation has been to prepare the equipment satisfactorily before start up, not adjusting it during the run. This equates to high repeatability, less human intervention, and increased speed and productivity. The result, says Eric Jensen, prepress and press manager, is "sanity: doing the same thing the same way and not expecting different results."

Quality management is a big part of the division's makeready success. Continuous improvement teams are encouraged to analyze the printing process and prove theories with hard data. As Jensen tells his employees, "It's not what you think; it's what you know." Each of the company's divisions also has a "blackbelt," an employee assigned to analyze and find solutions to problems. The success of these approaches at the Donnelley plant can be seen in the improving makeready times, which have been cut from 0.96 to 0.54 hr., almost a 44 percent reduction.