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FLEXO Magazine : June2010
in recognition of its biodegradable polyethylene and other sustainability efforts. The bottom line: Plastic Packaging has a long-standing culture of cutting-edge technologies, efficiency and waste reduction. That makes the smartGPS technology a perfect fit. “Our greatest challenges are managing customer lead times and global competitive situations,” said Preston Bryant, vice president of manufacturing at Plastic Packaging. The company ’s rapid expansion has led to the purchase of more than $16 million in capital equipment, including presses, laminators and pouch converters, since 2006. Not long ago, the company embarked on a mission to purchase its third press. But unlike other presses, this machine had to help it expand into new markets, in particular the ever-expanding private label industry, where, according to Bryant, short runs and multiple SKUs are the rule. “Once we decided to explore the possibility of purchas- ing another new press we did a six-month study of the latest advancements in press technology,” he told FLEXO. The decision to invest in smartGPS, Bryant explained, was easy after seeing it in action. “ We sent a team to Germany to see the smartGPS technology first hand. Upon return, we made a presentation to our board of directors and were given the purchase approval.” Right from the first startup, the company saw a boost in capacity and, more importantly, flexibility. Bryant said, “The press itself, with the ability to turn jobs over quicker, allowed us to increase our capacity. It also gave us the ability to move jobs into our schedule more quickly. We have the ability to run jobs back-to-back, and run like jobs together.” The new press, an eight-color F&K 14S, also exhibited the consistency and repeatability necessary to meet Plastic Packaging’s customers’ quality demands, as well as the firm’s sustainability needs. AdApting to AdvAncements According to Bryant, the smartGPS technology did not come without a learning curve. He noted that some additional focus on the prepress side of the business was needed to ensure jobs were set up to take advantage of the system. “ The job history storage and retrieval feature is a great benefit for repeatability. We focused our operators on entering data, as well as trusting and following job history information. That meant those operators running the press all had to be computer savvy, and learn to operate more as a technician, rather than a craftsman,” he said. In truth, though, Bryant insisted the time needed to train employees on the new press was not dissimilar to others they had purchased. “ The main difference was the smartGPS. That training has been ongoing, including how to deal with smartGPS, how to make our ink match, and the auxiliaries in terms of having them ready when the job is there.” There were concerns among the staff as to how easy it would be to adapt to the system, Bryant noted, but said that, if anything, it was because changeovers were happening much more rapidly. “ They had to step it up because this press moves work through so quickly. Our operators needed a pit crew mentality. We need everyone working together rhythmi- cally where you can keep things moving on the press. Every- thing now needs to be staged right away—you can’t wait until the job is finished running to start looking for what you need for the next order,” he said. The smartGPS-equipped press has been dedicated to short run, private label business, or any other runs that are well under 100,000ft. In fact, Bryant estimated the average run on the new press to be 25,000ft. The company aims to triple the number of jobs run daily on the smartGPS-equipped 14S. “ You want to move a lot of setups on that press. And that, as I said, requires a pit crew mentality. When one job finishes, the next has to be up and ready. The press is so fast, that the human factor is the only limiting factor.” After all was said and done, many of the employees of Plas- tic Packaging were “ wowed” by the advancement brought by the smartGPS technology, Bryant insisted. “ Our lead mounter said he was amazed by the precision of the new machine. The hardest thing to adjust to was the fact that there are no shortcuts. The procedures must be followed dead on. Once everyone understood this, they have had no issues.” Technologies & Techniques www.flexography.org june 2010 FLeXO 27 At a recent Bobst group/Fischer & Krecke gmbH open House in germany, a demonstration was run on an F&K FP-15-s in which one job was started, stopped, changed over to a new job, and then restarted. All art courtesy Bobst group/Fischer & Krecke gmbH. FLX_June2010_mech.indd 27 6/10/10 9:38 AM