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FLEXO Magazine : August 2009
PLANTS & PROCESSES PRESS BUYER’S GUIDE MBS butt splicer on a Gallus press. All art courtesy of Martin Automatic. Investment/Enhancement Automation Drives More Production from Existing Equipment By Craig Thomson ith the world economy in a funk, and the domestic policy agenda full of new and challenging ideas, there is no lack of subject matter over which company owners and management can be anxious. To name just a few—the rising costs of materials, overseas competition, taxation and regulatory issues, obtaining credit, health insurance, environmental concerns. W Whether the economy begins to see recovery this year or next remains to be seen. But whatever conditions we face now or in the future, converters and printers need to focus on the primary questions that really do not change. The fi rst question is forward-looking: What else can I do to stay profi table or become more profi table? At the same time, a second question must be addressed: How can I do better what I’m already doing well? These are not mutually exclusive approaches. Both have to be addressed, as does a third question: What tools do I need to • Roll change automation effectively extends the service life of older presses while creating opportunities for new business in the long term. • Printers, having replaced their unwind stands with automatic splicers, report immediate material waste reduction of at least 3 percent to 6 percent. • Measured in throughput, improvements from automatic roll changing can be impressive, with reported increases in the 11 percent to 33 percent range not uncommon. 66 FLEXO AUGUST accomplish both of these? And in fl exo printing, as with other web-fed processes, a sound answer to both questions may be automatic roll changing. Printers can use automatic roll changing to address the near-term issues (how to do better what I’m doing now) and long-term issues, such as how to get more production out of existing equipment. Roll change automation effectively extends the service life of older presses while creating opportunities for more and new business in the long term. REDUCING COST In a sound economy, when orders are strong and margins are easier to come by, wasteful processes and habits tend to be overlooked. If there is a silver lining to a soft economy, it is that a business slowdown causes printers to look more closely at ways to drive down costs and eliminate wasteful practices. In web-fed presses, material waste is generated any time the press is stopped, whether for manual roll changes or other reasons. In a typical narrow web fl exo press, for example, a manual roll change will waste at least a press-length of material. The amount may be substantially greater, depending on the type of press and the type of work being done. Automating those roll changes can result in signifi cant savings. It is not uncommon for printers, having replaced their unwind stands with automatic splicers, to report immediate material waste reduction of at least 3 percent to 6 percent, sometimes more. That number is often signifi cantly higher (but some printers will not report the actual cost savings because they are embarrassed to admit that they had been living with such high waste numbers for so long). 2009 www.flexography.org