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More flexible than previously with two presses
Dutch printer Vis Offset installs its first Rapida 75 perfector press
All over the world the graphic arts industry is in the throes of a radical transformation, and the Netherlands is no exception. According to statistics released by the Grafische Bedrijfsfondsen (GBF, the agency which administers pension schemes for the Dutch graphics/media industry), at the end of 2008 the sector had a total of 40,555 registered employees covered by collective wage agreements. On 31 August last year there were 3,687 fewer - a 9.1 per cent decline in just eight months. Which means that at present there are still 36,868 people employed by trade printers, screen printers, newspaper publishers and printers and the outdoor advertising industry.
This year employment in this sector is expected to be approximately 20 per cent below the 2008 level. However, a closer look reveals something else behind these figures: while employment is dwindling, productivity continues to climb rapidly.
Vis Offset is a typical example. The company has been supplying printed products to the retail trade since 1949, along with magazines. Founder Arie Vis started off doing duplicating work for his father's administrative office. He was joined soon after by his brother Jan. In 1954 the two siblings decided to expand into smallformat offset, and were among the first to do so. Nowadays the company is run by two of the brothers' sons: Arjan has followed his father into the technical side of the business, while Daniel - also like his father - is in charge of sales and administration.
In August 2009 Mijdrechtbased Wifac, KBA's sheetfed and commercial web press agent in the Netherlands, installed the first Rapida 75 perfector press in the town. Says Arjan Vis: "We signed the contract with Wifac in November 2008, when the crisis had already broken. If we had to make a decision today it would be no different." At that time Vis Offset employed twelve staff, but this has since been reduced to ten.
Daniel Vis explains: "A press operator and a print finisher both reached retirement age. We had been printing on a mono press that was almost twenty years old and on a twocolour press that had served us well for ten years or more. When we came to take a closer look at our order structure, we found that a large proportion entailed two passes, for recto and verso production. Armed with this information we set to work and came to the conclusion that a fourcolour press with a perfecting capability would be the best choice. In the end we opted for the Rapida 75, largely because what struck us particularly about this press is that it can perfect at maximum speed. Another point in its favour is that job changeovers are remarkably short because the impression cylinders and blankets can be washed simultaneously."
Vis Offset generally runs just a day shift, and management would like to keep it that way. Says Arjan Vis: "The Rapida prints up to 15,000 sheets per hour. But even more important than its maximum speed is the time required to prepare the next job, and the speed with which it runs up to colour. This is where we save both time and waste. One of our customers has his letterheads printed with four PMS colours, which means the press must be cleaned as thoroughly yet as rapidly as possible prior to impression. This is one of the Rapida's main strengths, alongside extensive automation."
But when a company replaces two older presses with one single new one, isn't it taking a considerable risk, like skating on thin ice? Not unnaturally, the two cousins devoted a great deal of thought to this issue. "If a really serious problem were to arise, we could always turn to Wifac," explains Daniel Vis. "Much more important for us is the enormous flexibility we have today, which allows us to take on much bigger contracts. An added advantage is that the fast runup to saleable colour means there is very little waste, so we can insert rush jobs more easily into the production schedule. Press operators don't like having to stop in the middle of one job in order to do another, but with the Rapida that's no longer an issue."
Arjan Vis agrees: "Don't forget this press has twice the output of the previous two combined. While our sales figures have not yet doubled, we have gained enormous time savings. One press operator is now doing the work of two."
Wifac and KBA's specialist installation team erected the Rapida during the company's summer break. "We always close down for three weeks in the summer. That may sound like a luxury, but it means our staff can take the number of days off that they are legally entitled to, and we have found that business is normally slack at that time of year. The old presses were dismantled and removed on 17 July, and on 13 August the Rapida printed its first job - without a single hitch. Right from the start we had complete confidence that everything would run smoothly. As a smallformat offset operation we were already well acquainted with Wifac, and they have never disappointed us."
"Initially our press foreman found that the Rapida 75 took some getting used to - as soon as the machine was up and running he had virtually nothing more to do," declares Arjan Vis. "At times the press crew still find this hard to believe, but they are delighted with the Rapida's print quality. Regardless of whether it is handling lightweight paper or heavier grades, the results are immaculate. On top of this its ease of operation and practical level of automation, with semiautomatic plate changing and washing, save our operators a lot of work. They also reduce our consumption of fount solution and cleaning cloths."
Vis is a dedicated offset printer and has no intention of changing. "We print jobs for customers from all over the country. I cannot believe that a market with annual sales worth 7.5 billion euros is in danger of vanishing at a stroke. While we are obviously aware of a shift towards the internet and digital print production, we certainly do not see ourselves as the last of the Mohicans. Our investment in the Rapida 75 is an investment in our future."
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