Bringing in a new automatic press is a major undertaking for any shop. But when your needs, volume and business plan dictate bringing in two new machines at the same, the considerations and ramifications to your existing operation can be exponential.
But with planning, preparation, flexibility and the right supplier partner, getting a new automatic—or, as in our case, multiple automatics—doesn’t have to be a production headache or even slow down your printing. We found this to be true firsthand when we installed both a ROQ ECO and a ROQ YOU in December 2016.
We added the presses at the end of the year so we could take advantage of the tax deductions, plus, it’s a time when we’re typically not that busy. We had one automatic running that could handle the work and getting the new machines in the winter would give us three months to get used to working with them before things got busy.
We looked at quite a few things in our operation upfront that could impact the functioning and success of the new presses. Simply in terms of layout, we already had a press and a dryer. They weren’t moving; so, we had to figure out a way to fit two additional presses into a space that was really only big enough for one. We also had to figure out how to get more electricity and more air to operate the equipment.
Quite a bit of electrical work was required. Initially we figured we were looking at about $12,000 worth of upgrades just for that, but I had a background as an industrial electrician, and we came up with an approach that got it down to $4,200.
We put in one new electrical panel; but to avoid running a massive amount of power and needing two new panels, we did something different. Instead of running one drop to the press and feeding all the flashes through it, the way it’s usually done, we ran separate feeds for the flashes and the presses.
This saved us about 100 amps of service and kept us from having to add a second electrical panel. It ended up being a whole lot cheaper, although there are potential disadvantages. With the individual drops, there is a cable hanging above the flash that would get in the way if you wanted to install ventilation hoods for the fumes. Plus, if the cable disconnected mid run, it could fall into the moving press.
On the plus side, we don’t have to unplug the flashes to move them! There are a number of factors to consider, this one made more sense for us.
Another area where we had to upgrade was the air compressor. We had bought a brand new one in June and had doubled the capacity of our previous unit and then some, figuring that would hold us for a while. But it turned out that because of the separate lift cylinders on each arm of the ECO Press, the requirements were greater than even the new compressor could handle; so in December, we had to buy another one.
The original unit is a rotary compressor. It drives everything until the demand becomes so great that it can’t keep up; then the new secondary unit kicks in to handle the shortfall. The rotary compressor is quieter, and by using it as the primary unit, the louder piston compressor doesn’t have to be running all the time.
In anticipation of the increased print throughput, we also made changes to our dryer. One of the reasons we had chosen that unit was because it was modular. Not having to buy another dryer was a big factor in being able to buy the two presses.
We added 12 feet to the belt on the front of our dryer and another 4 feet on the back so that we would be able to feed it from all three presses. And since we’d be feeding a lot more work into the dryer, we added a 4-foot heating section to increase our capacity by 50 percent.
The plan was to have the dryer upgrades in before the presses came to make placing them easier. But we ended up moving press installations forward and we had already had the first press in when the dryer parts arrived.
We also bought a bigger double washout sink and water filtration unit, even though everything we use is drain safe, just to be on the right side of things. In addition, we replaced all the lights in our production area with LEDs, which required rewiring the fixtures. And just for good measure, we painted the ceiling and walls.
It was a stressful couple of months. The shop layout had to be redesigned. For instance, we had to move the computer to screen unit (CTS) to the warehouse (where we built a new dark room) to make space for the manual press.
We planned everything as carefully as we could; we had the placement of the presses down to plus/minus one inch because there was literally no room for error. We measured everything and recreated it in Adobe Illustrator so we could virtually move things around for the best fit.
But no matter how much you plan and prepare, there are bumps in the road. When it finally came to press delivery, we encountered several small hiccups. Everything arrived at once and because we don’t have a loading dock, they had to load the presses on a flatbed truck turned sideways.
This was in the middle of a blizzard and the parking lot was covered with ice so we had to off load everything at the neighbor’s place. Then we came back the next day, after using 50 pounds of salt to melt the ice, and moved everything to our warehouse.
The technician came in the next week, and we began uncrating under his supervision. Then, we discovered there was as shipping error and we received the wrong skid (nothing to do with Ryonet, it was the freight company that dropped the ball), but Ryonet stepped up and got the right parts to us in time for installation as scheduled.
Two of our staff worked with the Ryonet tech exclusively on installing the YOU; and from start to finish, it took only six hours. That gave us two days to train on it until the arms for the other press showed up. We got the ECO up and running next day.
Nonetheless, even though we were all itching to put the training into action right away, we held off until we had a set of procedures in place for running the presses. I felt this was important because the first thing you learn is what you tend to revert to when there’s a problem.
I wanted to make sure that everything we did with the press was done according to the proper procedures, including resetting the counters, entering the job number, using the registration pallet, etc., so the operators would build “muscle memory” for doing it a certain way.
It took the better part of a day for us to put those procedures together. We had a checklist already, which we modified and added to for the new equipment. There is a checklist for every job we print that is filled out and filed.
I also kept a log that detailed the installation with comments. So when Ryonet asked for feedback, we were prepared to contribute our two cents. Overall, it was a phenomenal experience and sharing its ups and downs can only help streamline it for the future. Ryonet was great to work with and bent over backwards for us. I look forward to collaborating with Ryan and his team in the future as it is a great way to ensure growth and improvement for all of us.