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Panpa Bulletin : March 2006
March 2006 PaNPa bUlletiN | 47 PreSSiNg MatterS Planning a new investment in presses and mailroom systems is not an easy task nowadays. There are so many dif- ferent configurations, like single or double or triple width presses, and technical options available that can create headache and sleepless nights. But planning new technology is only one side of the coin -- and probably not even the most important one. If you planned for new invest- ments in production technology recently, did you also think about the influence of such an invest- ment on your workflow and on the job descriptions of your work- ers?Is it sufficient to replace an old plate making system includ- ing film recorders, developers and plate making equipment with a modern CTP (Computer to Plate) system and then just run it? Or can you imagine that there is much more involved? Many newspaper printers who have the latest CTP generation on board with automatic plate qual- ity check and supported by a so- phisticated workflow system that tracks all pages and plates from editorial down to press operation went quite far in terms of a new workflow organisation. Not only had the film disap- peared but the entire plate mak- ing department. CTP plate pro- duction is so highly automated nowadays that the pressmen can handle it themselves. Plate mak- ing becomes an integrated part of the printing department. The lesson to learn here is that you must not only look into technology when planning a re- investment but also you should look into the options of streamlin- ing the organisation. Modern newspaper offset presses are highly automated as well. They include functions like automatic cut-off register control (a great help especially in case of tabloid production), automatic colour register control and even automatic density control. In ad- dition those presses are usually equipped with ink zones preset- ting (based on RIP data), pre-ink- ing systems as well as ink/water control by sophisticated start-up curves for different combinations of ink and paper. These are not only highly complex automatic systems that increase the speed and ease of handling. Those new systems have a high impact on the opera- tion and on the job descriptions of the pressmen as well. Modern automated presses should be started automatically without much manual invention. But look at what normally happens when a press is started in the evening: The pressmen look at the first copies and start to use the con- trol desk for 'playing keyboard'. They move density up and down again in different ink zones, often much faster than the press can react. At the end of the pressrun they mostly end-up with the same density settings that have been 'recommended' by the automatic system. Again, what can we learn from this example? Modern automatic presses need different operation and different operators. Those people who run the press should concentrate on the management of the different press-runs per shift, the edition changes and the production schedules. They should not try to improve the print quality by individual and subjective interventions. Their job description will be the one of a 'press run manager' who makes optimal use of the machine he's got.On the other hand you will need specialists that are exactly doing the job of system optimi- sation and maintenance. You will need former 'pressmen' to opti- mise start-up curves, create new ones if needed, calibrate the CTP systems and the soft-proof moni- tors at the press and similar work. These people will not run thepress but provide the best possible tools to the 'press run managers'. They will probably be called 'print sys- tem optimisers'. By thinking about the impli- cations of modern automated presses we already created two new jobs. There will be more if you continue to think about your new technical investment. It is also obvious that only if you match new technology with adapted workflow methods and training for new jobs you can gain the best possible effect from your investment. And something else is that you will be able to much better motivate your employees, because they will feel that they can work in an optimised envi- ronment with the new machines. The same is true for modern mailroom operations. The mail- room with all its features of stor- ing, buffering, inserting, folding, stitching, gluing, addressing and trimming besides just regular stacking can be an extremely complex logistical system, even more complex than a press op- eration. Shall we leave such a complex system to unskilled and unmotivated people? Since the mailroom turns into the finishing department of the print factory where the final product is created and not only just 'mailed' to the readers we will need experts on logistics management in the fu- ture besides a highly skilled main- tenance staff that can guarantee a high availability of the finishing systems. Yes, we will probably still need some helpers in the mailroom and at the press as well. But those jobs will more and more be taken away by the machines and their automatic systems. The automa- tion of the paper storage and logis- tic systems in many modern press operations is a good example. In most cases manual interventions only happen during unpacking and splice preparation of reels. Everything else is automated. You will not buy new produc- tion technology every year, but if you plan an investment, do not only think about new machines and presses, think about new op- tions of workflow organisation and training for new jobs first. Because this is what can be most beneficial for a production plant: optimal organisation and skills that go hand in hand with seam- less operation of production tech- nology. The new press can only give great results if it is operated by people who exactly understand how to handle their new tool. Manfred Werfel is the research Director and Deputy Ceo of Ifra. New investments require new jobs While an increasingly automated workplace makes things more effcient, it also impacts on traditional jobs. Manfred werfel explains. the lesson to learn here is that you must not only look into technology when planning a re-investment but also you should look into the options of streamlining the organisation.