There's only one way a print shop makes money: When the presses are running. When presses are idle, jobs are delayed, worker productivity plummets, and customers start screaming.
Excluding system failures, the biggest culprit behind downtime is the make-ready process. That's when operators shut presses down to adjust paper size, ink settings, and feeders.
Make-ready limits how many jobs printers can fit in an eight-hour shift. But some press manufacturers offer technology that cuts make-ready time to zero. They're called, appropriately enough, zero-make-ready (ZMR) presses.
"The time it takes from form to form, plus how many signatures of waste you create form to form, is critical," says Paul Riportella, VP of technical services at printing press manufacturer Timsons Inc., Schaumburg, Ill. "A printer wants to minimize make-ready time and waste, which maximizes profits."
That's music to any printer's ear, especially in today's tough economy. Timsons's entry is its T48A, a ZMR press for short- and medium-run book manufacturers. The T48A operates either as a single-color ZMR press with two units atop each other, or as a two-color traditional press.
When operating as a ZMR machine, one printing press runs while the other is idle, and available for make-ready tasks. Press operators can change plates on the idle printing unit without reducing production capacity.
"You end up with about 25 to 30 signatures of waste per form, and zero loss of time," Riportella says. "That's significant compared to 90 to 100 signatures waste from [a] standard book press."
SAVINGS FOR CUSTOMERS
Printers can pass the savings onto customers, making their pricing more competitive, without hurting profit margins.
"Just like everybody else, we're slashing and burning prices," says Nick Antonopulos, engineering manager, Cadmus Communications, Port City Press division, in Baltimore. "[Our customers] are seeing it in their quotes and their turnaround times."