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Equipment uptime & press lifespan

Nov 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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Recently I was asked to comment on “uptime” of sheetfed and web offset lithographic presses. The question came from a printer during final negotiations with a press manufacturer.

“Uptime” can mean a lot of different things to different printers. Usually we mean the amount/percentage of time the press can print. This figure is dependent on many factors that will influence the “uptime.” Items that keep the figure low are:

  1. Waiting for a customer.
  2. Waiting for plates.
  3. Waiting for ink.
  4. Plate remakes.
  5. Press operator mistakes.

The list keeps going.

The upshot

Now let's look at what will increase “uptime”:

  1. Remote service.
  2. Press operator training.
  3. Following the manufacturer's maintenance schedule religiously.

A friend of mine did a study a few years ago on the amount of time a press was down, and the figure he came up with was a grand total of 12%. It is interesting to note that the press was down due to the press itself (breakage) for only 2% of the time. This 2% figure applies to presses under four years old. Once again, good maintenance is imperative.

I have seen an increasing number of printers opting for a manufacturer's quarterly inspection and maintenance. This is an increasingly popular request due to keeping the equipment operating at its optimal level. It's also popular because so many items are electronic and computer controlled on today's newer presses.

This brings me to the last issue: How long can the press last? I have seen presses that have been abused and not maintained, which I would say are in need of major rebuilding, at 100 million impressions. I have seen presses that are 12 years old with well over 500 million impressions, which print exceedingly well.

Raymond J. Prince is a leading expert in pressroom technical and operational issues. He is vice president and senior consultant, operations management, NAPL (Paramus, NJ). Contact him at (605) 941-1492 or e-mail