I run a vintage 2000 Mitsubishi—an automobile, that is, not a MLP sheetfed printing press. With more than 150,000 miles and counting, the service warranty has long since expired, but it sure is nice not to have a monthly car payment, especially during the past year’s economic cliff dive.
Essentially, basic preventative maintenance for a driving machine isn’t so different from that of a press. I change the oil about every 3,000 miles, keep the tire air pressure in check, top off the other fluids periodically and hope and pray she gets me through at least one more salty, petroleum-thickening Chicago winter. Each chilly morning, I knock on slowly rusting metal that my old Galant doesn’t start to nickel-and-dime me to death. “Not today, baby,” I urge her. In the long term, keeping them running efficiently saves us money.
Scheduled maintenance can forestall major breakdowns, but demands for keeping production online, especially during peak production periods, find pressroom managers pressured to put off maintenance until later. When “later” arrives, though, that kind of procrastinator thinking can devastate the bottom line. Putting off regular preventive maintenance can lead not only to major breakdowns and days of idle downtime, but a gradual degradation of quality and efficiency to boot. The flip side is that regular maintenance makes downtime predictable.
What steps should printers take on a regular basis to keep their press investments running efficiently? “Keep them clean and lubricated, at the very least,” is the advice from Ray Prince, NAPL vice president/senior consultant of operations management. Many owners go beyond those two basics, of course, employing service options such as remote, dial-in and contracted service plans from press manufacturers or third-party vendors.
Prince, a 50-year industry veteran, said he’s somewhat amazed by the two trends he sees taking place at print firms across the country. “There are those who want to make their equipment last longer in this economy,” he explained, “so they clean and paint, lubricate religiously, make upgrades and generally take good care of it.” Some printing companies even have implemented more intense maintenance schedules. Then, there’s the polar opposite attitude that makes Prince shake his head in frustrated disbelief: “Some people just don’t want to spend money at all right now—on anything,” he noted. And this “if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it” mentality has nothing to do with the size of the firms in question. In a lot of the acquisitions taking place, the owners are buying books of sales and employees but have little regard for equipment, he said.
The Pre-owned Attraction
Used equipment is hot right now, and there’s a lot of it floating around as over-capacity rages on in our industry. The days of “easy credit” are over, and many print shops continue to fail and fall. Of those left standing, it seems everybody is looking for deals and steals. One anonymous printer admits to purchasing “an AB Dick on eBay, cheap.” Prince said there is some good equipment to be had on the auction market, no doubt, such as repossessed presses. But, he cautioned, there is bad equipment out there, too. People see a low price and think they’re getting a good deal on a nine-year-old piece of technology, for example. “But if the previous owner was struggling, the press may not have been maintained for the past three years,” said Prince. “That represents a lot of wear and tear.”
Pre-owned presses need to be maintained as well. Older presses can benefit from the right service and products to ensure they continue to deliver maximum productivity. To help breathe new life into these presses, Heidelberg Systemservice is now offering a significant discount to customers with presses built in 2000 or earlier—if they book service five business or seven calendar days ahead of time.