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Feb 1, 2010 12:00 AM
While the economy has been rough on U.S. printers as well as OEMs, we're seeing a greater emphasis on service programs. “We're all, as manufacturers, trying to get away from a reactive situation by designing programs to be more proactive — to get in ahead of time, prevent problems and offer solutions,” says Marsden Davies, Service Select manager, KBA North America (Dallas).
Patrick Callahan, director of press service for xpedx (Cincinnati, OH), agrees that tough economic times have increased focus on press maintenance as a way to increase press lifespan and performance. “During the boom times, it was not uncommon for some presses to run full-out until problems cropped up. But that mindset is changing, now, which is a good thing. If you want [a press] to perform well over the long run, you need to continuously monitor and maintain all of its critical operating components.”
Ron Cardone, vice president of worldwide service for Presstek (Hudson, NH), concurs that from his customers' perspective, the right service offering will reduce downtime, improve productivity, reduce costs, improve the quality of the printed piece, extend the usefulness of wear-and-tear parts, and improve the residual value of equipment.
“There always are opportunities to cut waste, eliminate bottlenecks and optimize internal processes,” says James P. Dunn, president, Heidelberg USA (Kennesaw, GA). “That said, a prolonged economic downturn brings a fresh urgency to these issues, along with automated workflows, lean manufacturing and process improvement, training, and preventive maintenance. We believe the future belongs to printers that understand their role in the Information Age and are prepared to back it up not only by investing in state-of-the art technology and training, but also by engaging in a top-down/bottom-up intensive program to utilize these tools to their highest and best advantage.”
KBA provides a personal service contact from the pre-installation planning stage through the warranty period and, if arranged, over the lifetime of the press. New presses arrive with a one-year warranty and maintenance schedule for operator tasks (cleaning filters, etc.) and KBA-performed tasks (routine greasing, mechanical maintenance on components such as grippers). Operators receive comprehensive training on the maintenance of the machine, including press accessories. Newer KBA presses come with scheduled maintenance tasks integrated into the controller software. Operators of older presses rely on the manuals and can arrange for periodic maintenance by KBA technicians.
Outside the warranty period, KBA customizes service programs through KBA Service Select based on the user's needs and budget. These include 24/7 remote maintenance, in addition to phone support; machine audits from a “Quick Check” of critical components to a complete mechanical and electrical press assessment; training; workflow optimization and upgrades; and analysis of production numbers and performance, as well as print quality and color control.
“We look upon preventive maintenance as the cornerstone of the customer's needs,” says Davies. “We build programs to solve problems, and we sell service to provide solutions. Preventive maintenance is just a part of what we offer — the value-added portion. The return on investment comes from uptime and all the skills that are necessary to make sure [the press] runs efficiently.”
While often training is done in-house, KBA also offers factory training, especially for new machines. “The cost of bringing in a technician to do routine maintenance is high,” Davies notes. “Training operators to do it themselves is invaluable.”
Newer KBA presses can report everything that happens on the machine, via the console. Service Select analyzes the data, talks with the printer and designs a program around their conclusions. “The biggest gains made are when the machine is up, making it run as efficiently as possible, making sure the operators are running it the best that we can,” says Davies. “That's what we do on a regular basis.”
“Our customers are asking for more robust programs because they realize preventive maintenance helps increase productivity and uptime,” says Rodney Strasser, director of Systemservice product management for Heidelberg USA. Systemservice spans everything from technical services using the latest diagnostics technology to individual maintenance programs, equipment relocations, press evaluations, training and overnight availability of Heidelberg Original Service Parts. “In addition, our Partner Program is a suite of products to help reduce repair costs, maximize machine availability and provide maintenance once a year — a fitness check to see where you might need improvements and to detect possible failures before they occur,” he adds.
Heidelberg introduced new Systemservice pricing and a two-year warranty on Heidelberg Original Parts in 2009. New products and policies include expanded regular service hours and discounted “Smart” pricing for service booked seven calendar or five business days in advance, on presses manufactured in 2000 or earlier. Heidelberg will warranty any Heidelberg Original Spare Mechanical Part for a period of two years, provided the part is installed by a Heidelberg technician. The electrical parts warranty has been extended to one year, subject to the same conditions on installation.
To help prevent mechanical issues, Strasser says, “We recommend web-based Remote Diagnostics service. We dial into the machine via the Internet and can diagnose the problem with the operator, and recommend solutions. Also, once a year we do a press inspection with specific lubrication and filters.” An eCall feature automatically triggers an alarm when the press indicates there's an impending service issue. “The operator selects a button on the Prinect console, and the information on the fault is sent to Heidelberg for analysis and diagnosis,” he explains. “Then, Heidelberg calls back with possible solutions to the problem. It takes several steps out of the process.” Heidelberg reports that in up to 70% of cases — such as setting, application or process errors — the problem can be identified and resolved the first time the service expert and press operator speak together on the phone, eliminating an onsite service call. Remote Diagnostics and eCall are part of Heidelberg's comprehensive Systemservice 36plus package, which is included in the sale of most presses.
The company also provides press maintenance training on Heidelberg presses, onsite or through its Print Media Academy. For scheduled maintenance, detailed in the press manual, the touchscreen control console includes a maintenance menu. “[For older presses,] we recommend the maintenance to be at the same interval as on a new press,” Strasser notes. “In the end, those three hours you invest in preventive maintenance will reduce downtime.”
With a diverse customer base that ranges from smaller print shops to 100+ employee operations, Presstek has remained committed to the idea that a solid service program is instrumental in maintaining a strong relationship with clients.
“Whether times are tough or not, our customers need flexible service plans, rapid response when issues arise, and they need to feel they have a partner they can trust. That always has been our objective,” explains Cardone.
A key component of Presstek's service package is its Guardian Support program, an online tool that offers remote diagnostics from its Technical Service Engineering team. The program allows most service calls to be resolved without the need for an onsite visit. “If an onsite visit is required, the remote diagnosis and parts dispatch system dramatically improves first-time fix rates and response time,” says Cardone. In addition, Presstek has invested in an automated service dispatch and scheduling system that calculates and registers periodic maintenance calls automatically based on machine type and contract status.
“We will create a custom preventative maintenance program to fit almost any specific equipment configuration or customer requirement [for new or used press purchases],” says Cardone. “During a Preventative Service Visit (PSV), Presstek lubricates all bearings and gears, adjusts the internal feed and delivery transport, calibrates the Printing Density Control System, aligns the cylinder, cleans lenses, and inspects the internal components of the press.”
The manufacturer recommends more frequent maintenance visits on older, high impression equipment. Cardone adds, “[Presstek is] always ready as the expert to unravel technical problems, provide the correct diagnosis, and keep our equipment up and running properly.”
xpedx and a national network of Ryobi dealers employ Ryobi-certified press technicians in the United States. These technicians undergo continuous training and are certified by Ryobi. xpedx provides rapid-response service to all Ryobi press owners in the United States. It also provides comprehensive press operations and maintenance training on a printer's own press and on Ryobi presses at the xpedx Technology Center in Cincinnati. A large Ryobi parts center in Memphis ensures parts are avail-able to printers via overnight delivery. When necessary, press parts can be air expressed from Ryobi's parts warehouse in Japan.
The company recently expanded its service operation and soon will offer re-mote diagnostic support for 24/7 online monitoring of important press functions, generating immediate alerts to pressroom managers and xpedx on any problem or potential problem. “It will give us the ability to know about a problem and start solving it, even before the customer picks up the phone,” says Callahan. “xpedx provides total service, maintenance and press operator training to our past, current and future customers so they can protect their investment in the press and maximize ROI,” he adds. “When it comes to service, we want printers to know we're here as their partner.”
xpedx currently does not sell programs to supplement the press warranty. Instead, it provides in-depth operator maintenance training when the press is delivered, focusing on issues such as proper startup and operation of the press, safety features and components, lubrication and general press maintenance. All training links directly to the press operating manual and Ryobi press service and maintenance documentation. xpedx also offers customized service and maintenance training at its technology center.
“The key components printers must perform maintenance on regularly are items that handle every sheet or every other sheet, including the infeed, gripper shafts, cam followers and grippers,” Callahan explains. “Other things that require regular maintenance include ink fountains and unit grease fittings. The operating console on the press provides continuous monitoring of all levels, and provides instant response and alerts when needed.” He adds that presses can perform without major problems or downtime for decades, as long as they are continuously serviced and maintained.
Komori America (Rolling Meadows, IL) recognizes that while some printers have purchased new equipment during this difficult economy, others are focusing on maximizing the output of their existing equipment.
“With Komori's upgrade and maintenance programs, we make sure the customer gets the highest production and efficiency numbers possible with their existing equipment,” says Alex Wekerle, national service manager. “Besides the maintenance that is recommended by the manufacturer, we always suggest scheduling a Komori technician at least once a year for a thorough checkup. During the warranty period there are scheduled wellness checks that are automatically system generated.”
Through its maintenance programs, Komori provides a customizable press performance analysis (PPA) that identifies current press issues and recommends upgrade possibilities to increase press productivity and efficiency.
Wekerle believes a critical part of press maintenance is replacing worn parts. “Printers should focus on ink fountains and rollers,” he says. “If left alone to wear beyond spec, they will cause print quality issues and increase waste.” Wekerle also suggests operators pay attention to basic wear items in the feeder and delivery, such as suckers and guides, warning that worn parts can cause excessive trip-offs, causing the press to run inefficiently.
Komori operates a National Parts Center at its Illinois headquarters that stocks more than 260,000 factory approved parts and components, ensuring Komori customers receive reliable parts to keep their equipment in top operating condition. All in-stock parts ordered by 7:00 p.m. CST are shipped the same day.
Whether replacing key parts or running routine maintenance checks, Wekerle says client feedback affirms that maintenance programs bring positive results to its clients.
“Clients are reporting that they are coming up to color quicker; they are having faster, more accurate, uneventful plate changing; and their feeders are more consistent, allowing for fewer sheets to get to color,” says Wekerle.
Mitsubishi offers a week-long training course to all new and current users at the MLP USA Inc. headquarters in Lincolnshire, IL. “It's a classroom and on-press training for all press operations and basic maintenance,” explains Mike Abbeduto, director of customer service. “And when we're onsite starting up a new press, we devote as much time as needed to all crew members for maintenance. Increasingly, it's a three-shift operation, so we'll come back on our nickel and work with the other crews.”
MLP USA offers customized press maintenance programs — monthly, quarterly, biannually or annually, depending on the cusomer's needs. “We have people on the desk and modem support for electrical issues,” says Abbeduto, “and we're about to introduce WebEx support — a higher level for remote diagnostics [that enables a technician to] take control of an operator's press from our facility.”
Mitsubishi press users are responsible for cleaning and greasing the machine, and ensuring the consumables are up to the standard specifications. Abbeduto notes the gripper shafts as particularly important components for the press operator to maintain regularly. “One of the things we see on a regular basis is impression cylinder gripper shafts in the coating unit,” he says. “Aqueous coating spills can cause great havoc. They need to make sure there's no coating on gripper shafts or on grippers themselves to keep good sheet transfer. Aqueous coating dries as hard as a rock. That's a normal housekeeping thing a lot of people are unaware of.”
“Newer presses have some features that aren't on the older presses, but the maintenance schedule is pretty much the same,” says Abbeduto. “We recommend a thorough inspection every three months, for 24/7 operations.” The company offers a mechanical inspection for a flat rate, evaluating the press from feeder to delivery for potential problems or repairs, as well as performing maintenance to prevent them. Parts are supplied directly through MLP USA.
“With the current economic pressures facing printers and publishers, we've come up with some creative new approaches to make it easier to keep up critical service and maintenance schedules and to access the specialized expertise and skill sets we provide,” says Dave Sarazen, service vice president for Goss Intl. (Durham, NH). “We're introducing extended warranties this year, along with flexible plans for purchasing blocks of technical phone support hours.”
Sarazen emphasizes that Goss users have access to a 24/7 technical support call center staffed with 24 people who specialize in three categories: electrical, mechanical and Goss Contiweb splicers and dryers. They typically resolve service issues over the phone, but also dispatch resources and parts as needed. Modern Goss presses come standard with the capability for remote monitoring diagnostics and support.
“Often in these times, with in-house staff reductions, we'll find that maintenance has been neglected,” says Sarazen. “So we'll work with a customer's staff to perform service and ensure the proper maintenance is done on the machines. Or we might come in on a quarterly basis to audit and check on the work that customers have done. We can also go in and, if they don't have in-house resources, perform the maintenance ourselves.” He notes, “Auxiliary content such as register control systems and closed-loop color, we typically refer to the auxiliary supplier.”
Goss now offers online training courses for several of its press and folder models. Additional courses are being added based on the success of the format and on requests from publishers and printers, according to Rick Aubin, who oversees Goss Intl. training programs in the United States.
Another new option is a “fixed block of service hours” program, which Sarazen explains incentivizes the printer to utilitze Goss technicians' expertise for everything from maintenance to a press rebuild or training. “This highly flexible arrangement provides a reduced hourly rate, paid in scheduled installments, and customers can draw on the hours as needed on an annual basis,” says Sarazen.
Emphasizing the direct impact planned routine maintenance can have on uptime and productivity, Sarazen cites a customized Contiweb FD Paster maintenance program Goss initiated in December 2008 for the New York Times, following the installation of a large Goss Colorliner press. After kickoff maintenance training, Goss arranged followup visits every three months. “We go down to review the maintenance work they are doing,” Sarazen explains. “Also, we address any new issues or concerns that have come up.” The benefit for the Times is better uptime and productivity. Sarazen says, “Sometimes, just showing up on a quarterly basis gets them focused on maintenance.”
The Management Board and Supervisory Board of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg) recently announced its decision to restructure the company into “Heidelberg Equipment,” “Heidelberg Services” and “Heidelberg Financial Services” divisions beginning April 1, 2010. “The new corporate structure will result in a more targeted market approach and enhance the efficiency of the services we offer customers,” says CEO Bernhard Schreier.
Heidelberg is planning to significantly expand the “Heidelberg Services” division, while the existing “Press” and “Postpress” divisions will be incorporated into the new divisional structure. The “Heidelberg Financial Services” division will continue in its present form. See www.heidelberg.com.