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Four Rapidas and flying job change for Meppel

Euradius Group in the Netherlands ramps up book production

(PresseBox) (Würzburg, ) The Euradius Group in the Netherlands has squared up to mounting competition with the purchase of four Rapida 106 press lines featuring KBA's new Flying JobChange automation module at subsidiary Ten Brink. KBA is unique in offering flying plate changing in sheetfed offset, and the associated productivityboosting options for shortrun production are the focus of KBA's presentation at this year's Print Forum in Stuttgart on 29 January.

The Euradius Group is active in many sectors of the graphic arts market. Ten Brink and HooibergHaasbeek, one of the companies that relocated to Ten Brink, print books, magazines and business stationery under a single roof in Meppel, while Printforce in Alphen aan den Rijn delivers a range of other printed products. Euradius also has operations outside the Netherlands, for example Cross Media Solutions and Stürtz in Germany and Eurasia in the Middle East.

This major capital investment was the final component in an ambitious project that united four printing plants under a single roof. On 2 December 2009 the headline on the title page of the Meppeler Courant read "All systems go at Ten Brink printing plant!" For Meppel, which was once the graphic arts capital of the Netherlands, this was a major event, safeguarding as it did around 260 jobs. According to the newspaper, the 'icing on the cake' was the fact that this new entity had invested heavily in new press technology: four identical Rapida 106 fourcolour perfectors for twobackingtwo, with DriveTronic SPC dedicated platecylinder drives, DriveTronic Plate-Ident preregistration and a software package for switching flying plate changes to printing units 1 and 3 while a monochrome perfecting job is printed on units 2 and 4, then vice versa for the next job. The presses, which have since gone live, are the first in the country to feature this unique capability.

Too many books left on the shelf

HooibergHaasbeek specialises in literary books. "Books are generally impulse buys, and that impulse is stimulated by seeing the book in the shop and leafing through the pages," says Ed van den Ham, deputy sales director of HooibergHaasbeek. "A book standing on a shelf or lying on a pallet in a warehouse is dead. In fact a book on a pallet is not just dead - its costing money."

He continues: "Editions have been declining for years, and production times have been steadily shrinking." Which is why, according to Mr van den Ham, publishers are busy searching for alternative business models. "You can only afford to maintain a large stock of books if you produce a bestseller from time to time." Publishers today prefer to print short runs rather than run the risk of having a deadweight of books lying around."

Books on demand with Flying PlateChange

So just what is required to produce short runs of books in a minimum of time and at a profit? Euradius opted for automation of the production chain and the installation of four KBA Rapida 106 perfector presses featuring dedicated platecylinder drives and a flying job change capability (KBA Flying JobChange).

With Flying JobChange, the plates on the printing units not required for the current production run can be changed and the press made ready for the next job rapidly and more or less automatically, with virtually no down time. This substantially enhances net press productivity.

Managing director René de Heij says: "Our press fleet has enabled us to corner some twenty per cent of the market. The Rapidas' cuttingedge technology is a major advantage, since it allows us to address a market shift towards shorter print runs and faster turnaround. Thanks to the new flying job change capability we can match output to demand. Our press downtimes are virtually zero."

In the months preceding the press installation De Heij and his team had to resolve a number of knotty issues. How do you integrate four disparate companies, each with its own culture, into one healthy enterprise? How should the new logistics system be organised? How can disruption to the production routine be kept at a minimum? The solutions were eventually found after some long and strenuous working days.

The pre-press department has four 70/100 ctp platesetters. These are needed to maintain an uninterrupted supply of plates to the fleet of nine KBA presses, which have a total of 45 units. With so many plates being changed at such frequent intervals, mistakes can easily occur. To eliminate this risk each plate is automatically furnished with its own individual data matrix code prior to leaving pre-press. With the aid of this code - KBA calls the module it has developed internally Plate-Ident - the system recognises whether the plate is new or used and to which printing unit it has been assigned. The module also checks whether the correct language version is being loaded.

Continuous printing

Operations manager Hans Kleijn had his hands full while the presses were being installed. "We are working on an integrated production chain that starts at order reception and ends when the contract has been completed and the goods delivered. "If you're printing on an industrial scale, the individual links in the production chain must be 100 per cent coordinated, and this demands highly sophisticated systems. We connected KBA's LogoTronic Professional software directly to our management information system. So on my computer I can view all the relevant management, production, purchasing and logistics data in real time. We have automated wherever possible."

Three minders for two presses

Ink feed to the KBA presses, for example, is via a central pumping system. The Rapidas were erected in pairs, side by side, with a raised platform in between so that the operators can move to and fro. This enables three minders to operate two presses.

The press crews in Meppel work in three shifts, and there are plans to expand this to continuous production. At present Ten Brink is training 23 press operators to handle the new presses. Says René de Heij: "In our line of business, job losses are inevitable. For those affected this is a bitter pill to swallow, but at the same time everyone is well aware that, however tough this may be, we simply have no other choice. The only way to maintain profitability is to streamline operations and invest in the most advanced equipment and processes on the market. This is what we have done in Meppel."

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