Purchasing a Flexo Press: Installation and Initial Runs

Cowan: While the complexity of the press needs to also be taken into consideration, standard equipment can be delivered in as little as six to seven weeks for flexo. Mark Andy has a dedicated group, the Customer Experience Team, that specializes in guiding customers through the entire process, from contract signing to press acceptance, installation and more.

In the world of printing, having a well-trained operator is essential. Even with presses becoming more and more automated, those ease-of-use features will benefit those with the proper training exponentially.

If a printer can send an operator or two to training prior to new equipment being installed, that will make on-site installation training even more effective. The advantage comes in to play in that operators will already understand the basics, so their on-site installation training can go a little more in depth, covering application-specific questions and preparing operators to jump straight into production.

The Retroflex Fox series mid to wide web, paper, linerboard or film with on-press sleeve changes
Photo courtesy of Retroflex Inc

Weyermann: A customer can expect a dedicated project manager to be in constant contact from contract to Site Acceptance Test (SAT). Delivery of a press drastically depends on the scope of the project. Sixteen weeks is a typical lead time from the date of down payment until shipment.

Shipment typically can take anywhere from a few days to up to four to five weeks, depending on the distance (and any oceans to be crossed) between supplier and converter. Installation can again vary: smaller machines, one week; more advanced machines, up to four weeks.

MPS has a hands-on approach. We believe that getting the customers up and running is the most important factor and we strive to support them all the way through the process. The end of the training session results in starting up the production. We have the operator run his or her first jobs while the MPS press support is still around. To make sure they can solve errors and mistakes by themselves, our trainers will deliberately enter incorrect information into the press and challenge each operator to find the errors and correct them. The last part of the training sessions is focused on getting the highest productivity out of the machine.

In a perfect world, this is how we would like to plan our training. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case that we are producing at the end of the week, due to the customer not having live jobs lined up for the press. When this is the case, we will run a standard job to show the complete functionality of the press, to run through our SAT.

Albrecht: When your contract is finalized and production begins on your machine, the lead time to delivery will vary greatly depending on the machine options you have chosen and any special engineering/development required. So, while there is what appears to be a lag time, communication between parties should not stop. During the build phase, the OEM should provide routine updates on status. This would also be a good time to plan for the FAT.

Ideally, acceptance criteria would be agreed upon in the contract, but coordination of details, such as personnel, materials, inks, tooling, etc., should be organized during the build period. It would also make sense to do a site review to help ensure the site of delivery is ready for install. This should include a thorough review of the footprint, access points into the facility, foundation, electrical requirements, plumbing and ventilation.

“Of course, the ideal situation is to have the manufacturer handle everything. Any apparent saving by having a local rigging company handle the installation is often quickly lost in the time delays typically experienced by people not familiar with the equipment.”

Kurt Flathmann, North American sales manager, Allstein GmbH

It is typically the role of the printer/converter to prepare the site, but the OEM should be a welcomed resource to provide suggestions and requirements for proper preparation. Upon completion of the build, an FAT is typically required and suggested. It would make sense for the converter at this stage to have identified a production leader, one who takes “ownership” for the project. This could be a lead operator or a production leader who is assigned to the press and where communications funnel through. Ideally, this leader would be at the FAT and start the process of training and familiarization to the technology.

After delivery and install, an SAT should be conducted. It is recommended that the SAT, at a minimum, be a duplicate of the FAT. This helps ensure that no damage occurred during transit. In the unlikely event that damage occurs during transit, this should be covered through shipping insurance and under warranty to be fixed in a timely manner by the OEM.

When planning for initial runs, much can be learned from the processes used in the medical and pharmaceutical space, which they call equipment validation. The equipment validation consists of three phases: installation qualification, operational qualification and production qualification (often abbreviated IQ/OQ/PQ). Even if you are not in the pharmaceutical and medical markets, the “spirit” of these tests should prove valuable for any production process.

IQ consists of reviewing that all parts of the machine are present and installed safely. The operational qualification reviews that the components of the machine are operating to specification. During OQ, you could also run process capability studies to test out new materials or production techniques. However, these should be R&D tests and not intended as sellable production. The final step is PQ, which takes place with live orders but with a higher level of technical and managerial support, along with a raised level of testing and quality inspection. Once complete, the machine is fully validated and commissioned into your normal production workflows.