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2009 FORECAST: TECHNOLOGY, TRENDS, TACTICS

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Section 2—The Print Production Process

Wide Web Offset: It’s All about Performance Kai Schüler, Director, Web Project Management manroland Inc. 630-920-2067 kai.schuler@manroland.us www.manroland.us.com

News media is delivering the message on a daily basis: The economy is in a crisis like most of us have never seen before. Without question, the printing industry too is in a crisis situation. With the industry changing drastically, printers are faced with the challenge of adapting to new market conditions. Time of crisis is often a time that escalates the emergence of new technology. As printers globally try to figure out where the bottom may be in this dropping economy, some are getting their ducks in a row to strategize about the next bold steps to bring them ahead of the crowd when we get out of the current economic downturn. The printing world will be different then. What is going to make printers successful in the new market conditions? What role will offset printing play going forward? If the past drupa show is any indication of where the industry is going, it will be a strong future for offset. “It’s going to be an offset drupa” as Patrick Henry from What TheyThink.com predicted, and the industry is proving him right. The driver in today’s print media production is efficiency. Performance is on printers’ minds as they seek to raise revenue and cut costs. More than ever, digital automation and performance will spell the difference between winners that continue in business and those that pass from the scene. So the question is: How can press technology help printers become more efficient and be a winner? It all comes down to economic formulas. The formulas seek to determine how much we can get out of one web press, how much we can get with one press crew, and ultimately what is the best cost per copy we can get. Labor cost is the main cost driver in today’s industry after paper and consumables. Wide web addresses printers’ concerns regarding their efficiency formula as follows: Crew size. Printers are excited to find out that today’s wide webs (and

ultra-wide webs) are being operated with basically the same or even smaller crew size than traditional single-width, single-circumference presses. The impact on cost per copy is apparent. Makeready time. Another part of the formula is a reduction in nonproductive time and material waste. Equipped with the identical high level of automation as the smaller webs, changeover times are minimized. On older equipment, the question was if changeover occurred

inside or outside of one hour. Today, the question is if this can be done inside or outside of twenty minutes. Best practices also play a key role in this category. Uptime and waste rates. Automation also addresses the subject of

material waste by keeping systems under control and delivering a consistently high level of performance and quality. Last but not least is the ability with those systems for deep remote analysis, troubleshooting, and optimization. No press system today is complete without a comprehensive support and optimization offering from the manufacturer throughout the life of the press. Printers are encouraged to research this aspect as much as the technology behind it, whenever making investment decisions. Growth opportunities. An old school response from printers to grow-

ing demands for output in both pages per hour and number of signatures was to install multiple of the same single-width or single-circumference presses. The complications that come with this approach are multi-faceted: • Multi-web configurations bring complexity • Increase in press crew adds to the operational cost • Decrease in uptime of complex multi-web system reduces efficiency With a single width and possibly double-web strategy, it is possible to grow a web offset business into a portion of the sheetfed market and also to gain some efficiency over traditional scenarios (single-web, single-width, single-circumference—single everything). Other growth opportunities, however, cannot be realized with this strategy. Take the area of high volume as an example, traditionally a stronghold for gravure printing in the past (Figure 1). Wide Web Already Shaping the Printing Industry

In increasing numbers, printers are adapting to shifting markets with investments in wide web technology. A novelty of ten years ago, wide web technology today is everywhere, in commercial web as well as book, directory, and inserts, as well as newspapers. Large-format in sheetfed shows that going wider is applicable in almost all areas. As a response to changing market demands, press manufacturers are further developing wide web high-volume presses. High volume can mean different things to different printers. It can be high output in terms of pages per hour, or it can also be high efficiency that shows in maximum number of pages per makeready and job changeover. Think back to the year 1999, when 38-inch presses were everywhere and 57-inch was the wide format for web offset. With more advanced technology (for both press and prepress), it started with a number of gravure printers that were seeking to invest into offset. A piece of anecdotal evidence: it took a burned down gravure plant to trigger the investment in the first 72-inch wide web offset presses in Europe. Today, those installations were followed up by literally hundreds of installations worldwide.


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2009 FORECAST: TECHNOLOGY, TRENDS, TACTICS Section 2—The Print Production Process

The Next Step

With 66-inch to 81-inch wide presses everywhere, the industry is getting ready for the next step: In November 2007, the first of a breed of 88-inch wide, single-web, high-volume, high-efficiency presses started operation. It took only a short time of exploring the boundaries of this concept to transform this new generation of press into proven technology. Multiple presses of this format are each producing up to 3.2 million pages per hour. It is only a logical consequence that the industry is getting ready for the startup of the largest class of web offset presses. Presses with 100-inch web width, as well as 112-inch web width are in the pipeline, awaiting their debut shortly. Projected output is 3.84 million pages per hour. A target output of presently 4.3 million pages per hour is indication that this will not be the end of the journey. The Key Drivers

What are the key drivers for this development? The appealing features of this new press generation are once again efficiency and performance. Efficiency in printing is all based on key questions: How much

can we do with one press? How much can we do with one crew? What is going to be the cost of a page produced? Ultra-wide presses are typically single-web configurations, which gives a level of simplicity that caters to higher sustained level of performance. With 96-page formats, a press crew that is basically the same size compared to 16-page presses, the labor cost per page produced is greatly optimized. Pair single-web concept with basically the same high level of automation (compared to traditional 38-inch presses), and press crews are making ready for 96 pages every time they change over jobs. It is obvious that this concept maximizes efficiency in makereadies, which is a must in a market with declining run lengths and increased number of versions and titles. First and foremost, printers want reliable equipment. Specification is one thing; what counts is a proven track record of sustained level of highest performance. Printers can’t get involved in experiments. With close to 300 high-volume LITHOMAN presses in the field (installed since 1996), wide web is a proven concept. Driving this success is a

High Volume Offset Printing Wide Web 96

number of pages LITHOMAN IV 32 / 48 / 64 / 72 / 80 pages 96 gravure printing

LITHOMAN III 32 / 40 / 48 pages ROTOMAN S 24 / 32 pages

ROTOMAN 16 pages DICOweb 8 / 16 pages

run length © manroland AG, 2008

Figure 1.

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Section 2—The Print Production Process

proven technical uptime (typically above 92%), highest sustained speeds (currently up to 17.5 m/s or 3350 fpm), and a high level of automation for maximum makeready efficiency and minimal waste. In the past there were concerns with the consistency and process control in wide web offset. Gravure traditionally had an advantage in this regard. Today, however, full process control was achieved by technology; in-line color density control is only one example. When control systems are well integrated into the press, it allows for minimal waste and quality to the highest expectations in web offset. Scan time for color controls becomes increasingly important with wide web; therefore, systems with minimal scan times greatly increase the makeready efficiency of wide web. Wide Web Is Versatility

A strong reason for this shift toward wide and ultra-wide webs is versatility. Technology allows press manufacturers and printers today to put together system solutions that excel in every area desired. Configurations include single or multiple folders and the capability to produce long-grain and short-grain on the same press without any limitations in speed. In-line pre-settable glue systems, stitchers, and trimmers boost efficiency by allowing finished products right off the press. Versatility means also a large variety of paper stocks, as well as press consumables like blankets, ink, etc. Last but not least, wide webs have a proven track record with applications in every market segment. This is important to printers, as trends in media production, advertising, etc., can be shorter than durable goods investment cycles. Wide webs address those shifting market demands. Wide Web Wins

In conclusion, wide web has already influenced the printing industry significantly. It all comes down to economics, and wide web has a clear efficiency advantage. They allow printers to optimize cost per page by increased return from one press and one crew. Wide webs are versatile, in that they cover a large spectrum of the changing market, and those printers with adaptable technology will have a strong advantage going forward. Smaller webs, double-web presses, as well as gravure presses aren’t going away. What is going to change is the share that each of those technology platforms are securing. Indications are that wide web offset will carry a lot more weight in the future.

The Sheetfed Pressroom Horizon Bill McLauchlan, Senior Technical Consultant Printing Industries of America 412-259-1795 bmcl@printing.org www.printing.org

Let’s walk through the aisles at the latest GRAPH EXPO and see what’s on the minds of our friends in the manufacturing sector. This show seemed a bit different from the printing shows of the past few years. Most conversations were centered on two topics: the economy and attendance at the show. What was the Dow doing and when was it going to recover? The attendance was somewhat lower than in years past. Many companies, who in the past would send six to ten people from various departments, were now sending one or two. But even with the lower attendance numbers, the pervasive feeling was the people who did attend were quality people—the decision makers or at least the people who influenced the decision makers. These observations are from a recent column on GRAPH EXPO. Interestingly enough, “The quality of attendees is higher [this year],” observed Michael Ring, chief marketing officer and VP of sales at digital printing system provider Xeikon, Punch Graphix Digital Printing Solutions. “We can more easily identify who to talk to.” Sharon McKenney, marketing manager at folding equipment manufacturer MBO America, said traffic was excellent, “Attendees are coming from around the country. And [they] aren’t window-shopping. They’re looking for solutions.” These factors, of course, have a great effect on the purchase of the equipment and these manufacturers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to display their equipment. There are always rumors this press manufacturer or another had sold some outrageous number of presses at the show. It didn’t seem to matter these numbers were never authenticated. The conversations were always positive and the numbers were always high. Attendance was always high and records were the norm. Everyone was thrilled because the demonstrations the manufacturers’ crews worked so hard on were so well-received. Never mind the fact that several manufacturers chose not to display equipment. Several of the major players set up sales offices manned by their sales staff but no hardware—definitely a sign of the times. Ten or fifteen years ago, the big five of press manufacturing—two Japanese and three German—would have never thought of coming to a print show without at least one press on the floor. The newest press with the latest do-dads and doohickeys were always there. We were amazed at the things the very clever engineers developed. Long ago it was automatic roller washers, automatic pre-set of the feeder and delivery, setting pressures with just a push of a button. Life was good and we just marveled at what new toys seemed to pop up at every new show.


Wide Web Offset: It’s All about Performance