Purchasing a Flexo Press: How to Negotiate and Bargain for a Wide Web Machine

FLEXO Magazine’s 11th Annual Press Buyer’s Guide looks at the path to purchase from multiple steps:

In this article, find out what to consider when negotiating the purchase of a new wide web press.

FLEXO’s Questions: What should printers ask for and how should they ask in issuing a formal contract? What is typically offered? How can a converter have it amended? What’s common? What’s extra? What might be truly unique? What finishing options might be worth exploring?

Consensus: Agree in writing on price, delivery time, payment terms, aftersales support and warranty. Press buyers may want to incorporate 100 percent print inspection systems, and automatic register and impression set point technology, into the contract. The press can be designed to accommodate certain features at a later date, provided that potential is known ahead of time. Take time to:

  • See the machine in operation
  • Bring typical jobs to test
  • Propose a technology that cuts downtime, changeover and waste
  • Look to take operator error and guesswork out of the equation as presses adjust to address print inaccuracies without human intervention
  • Utilize alternative forms of energy
  • Evaluate your options—lease or buy
    Uteco’s Diamond HP 112, with specifications it was made to be printed at (left)
    Photo courtesy of Uteco

Offering Commentary: Pavla Kusa, commercial director, SOMA; Tom Hatzilambros, sales associate, North America, Uteco; Perry Lichon, president, Retroflex Inc; Rodney Pennings, director of sales, Paper Converting Machine Co (PCMC); Alexander Rabassa, area manager, Yago Luling, technical advisor and Josè Luis Soriano, area manager, Comexi; and Preston Neetzel, technical sales manager—flexo, Koenig & Bauer (US).

Kusa: The process of negotiating terms for a contract is an extremely serious and tedious one.

Certainly one of the items up for negotiation is the condition upon which a printer will accept a press. Usually it will consist of printing two or three representative jobs and comparing them to existing presses.

Do not make a decision on a press based solely on hearsay. You must invest in travel time to see the machine operating, test it, and help determine the best options. Some people like to bring new, unusual jobs that represent those from new market segments. Avoid the temptation to do so. Bring a few typical jobs you would like to have the machine produce on a daily basis.

Remember that the price is not just a one-moment, static decision. When someone is buying a flexo press, it is about a partnership. It is important to evaluate the quality of the partner. The best price at the beginning might not ultimately be the best when considering long-term performance and service/maintenance over the next five years.

I have a basic rule for inline finishing. The quality of the product I print is much more important than the vagaries of the technologies I place inline, after the press. Consider two to four processes and determine how to best utilize them. It is better to order finishing as offline options, which allows you to focus on the most important piece: the press. Consider your business. For example, if you will be running the press 24/7 to produce diapers, then it makes sense to install inline finishing to eliminate all the time you might have to stop the press.

Retroflex’s K Series mid web press runs paper or film with on-press sleeve changes.
Photo courtesy of Retroflex

Printing something 24/7 is unusual, except for the largest of printers. It is best to calculate the percentage of jobs that require you to utilize some sort of finishing—for example, laminating. However, if only 20 percent of your jobs require lamination, but the rest of the jobs will be something different, the use of inline finishing will decelerate production. It might be best to consider an offline option.

You will likely consider larger and smaller finishing options. However, compared to the press most of these are inexpensive. Focus on being most effective on the one machine—the press—not a number of inline options. It’s better to run most of these finishing devices offline.

Hatzilambros: The Uteco sales network is constantly pushing new customers or existing customers to buy new machines to improve their plant efficiency and sustainability by taking advantage of new technology. Before making an offer, it is important to understand what type of technology is currently in use and propose a technology that cuts downtime, changeover and reduces waste.

In the case of converters that have machines with advanced technologies, the offer shifts to product improvements given by auxiliary and/or supplementary technologies with high added value, such as better-performing camera systems for the detection of errors or an extra inline or downstream group that improves the quality of the product without having to resort to another machine.

Lichon: Retroflex offers a wide range of press features and configurations. However, each configuration or feature may have a potential price and ship date impact on the overall project. Buyers should know their timeline and budget, as well as their desired terms and conditions, and share that with the supplier at the start of the quoting process. Having the specifications firmed up prior to placing the order is the smoothest way for all parties to work on a project.

While making changes midway through a project is certainly possible, it can come with price and ship date adjustments, depending on the particular change requested. The press can be designed to accommodate certain features at a later date, provided that potential is known ahead of time.

Up-close view of web path on Koenig & Bauer EVO XG press
Photo courtesy of Koenig & Bauer

Pennings: The latest generation of flexographic equipment has integrated AI (artificial intelligence) features, which have created machines capable of more consistent printing with less variability. This allows products to be brought to quality specifications at rapid speeds while also producing less physical waste, which benefits an organization’s green efforts.

AI technology, such as camera-based automatic impression and register systems, takes operator error and guesswork out of the equation as presses adjust to address print inaccuracies without human intervention. Similarly, recent anti-bounce innovations utilize algorithms to monitor, adjust and address bounce in real time, helping to reduce both run times and unnecessary waste.

Advanced technology in flexographic facilities is key to not only reducing waste, but also reducing the amount of energy used. Newer presses feature regenerative drives that allow printers to utilize the equipment’s own inertia to store energy for a later time. As you slow down and stop a machine, that energy is absorbed, stored in capacitators and used when the machine returns to the motoring phase. This means that once a piece of machinery is up and running, it is essentially running on free, preserved energy.

Other recent innovations, like compressed air dryers, which are powered by electricity rather than natural gas, have enabled printers to utilize alternative forms of energy, such as solar power. Compressed air offers another benefit that forced air cannot: heat as a byproduct. As the dryer releases the air, it simultaneously produces hundreds of degrees of additional energy needed for the drying process, creating a more cost-effective and energy-efficient solution.

Comexi: Alexander Rabassa, area manager suggests insisting on specifying, “the highest printing quality with the minimum waste and quick changeover.” Your objective: “Dramatically increase production efficiency and equipment amortization, in turn further positively affecting the plant’s own success story.” He offers, “The Comexi F2 ML, a top-range press and the biggest member of the F2 family product line, is perfect for the demands of the polyethylene market, offering quality at high speeds, large repeat prints and a great degree of adaptability, without forgetting the ergonomics and intended use of the press.”

Paper Converting Machine Co’s Flying Splice unit, affixed to the rewind section of a press
Photo courtesy of Paper Converting Machine Co (PCMC)

Like other executives, he recommends that when speed is a factor, press buyers may want to incorporate 100 percent print inspection systems and automatic register and impression set point technology into the contract. “Such features afford real, precise and repetitive setpoints with a minimum loss of web and time, as well as adaptability to new market challenges.” To further justify the idea, he stresses, “The world is evolving faster than ever, that’s why Comexi is constantly developing and implementing new technologies, allowing us to offer clients the latest in advancements that provide better solutions, and improve efficiency day after day.”

Yago Luling, technical advisor of the Manel Xifra Boada Technological Center (Comexi CTec) notes, “Expanded gamut (EG) printing continues as a main point of interest to most converters, though many still require education on how to move forward.” José Luis Soriano, area manager in Latin America, points out that given the reality, many converters are evaluating the possibility of implementing EG in their plants. He encourages converters to demand information on the complexity of implementation, the advantages of the process, and also its limitations—which in many cases are not clearly defined.

Neetzel: There’s a range of key considerations you need to bear in mind when setting objectives for purchase negotiations. These might include: price, value for the money, delivery, payment terms, aftersales service and maintenance arrangements, additional services and a warranty that states what specifically is covered for what period of time.

It’s important to know specifically what is and is not included with the press purchase. These items should include the total cost including shipping, freight, duties and taxes (DAP or DDP), and installation. Is rigging equipment included for offloading and placing the equipment or do you have to provide this service?

How long is the warranty and what does it cover? Decide what type of payment terms you require. You may want to consider a lease option. At Koenig & Bauer Flexotecnica, we work with our customers to develop a long-lasting relationship that meets their particular needs.