In January 2016, I started my adventure with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Some of the first rumblings I heard from the staff was that we needed a 40” 4 color press and like magic we would have it made. Of course, I listened, but first I had to get a better understanding of what our operation was doing and where it was heading, should we expand in offset or our digital footprint. There certainly were plenty of options, many of which have greatly changed the face of printing such as larger cut sheet sizes in toner-based devices; inkjet technology improvements in cut sheet sizes and in 29” and web fed with in-line or near line finishing. Which was the right choice, which technology would return the largest bang for the buck? All would require new techniques, new sales and marketing, building modifications, and education of staff and customers.
In review there was 3 digital operations with very little being outsourced due to larger than standard cut sheet sizing, Additionally, since we managed the fleet of 480 MFD’s across campus that limited the potential of growth needed to support the expense of upgrading our digital operations. Any adaptation of new technology had to help us address more than just our current need and future need but also had to better utilize our current manufacturing status. We did see that our large offset was still a major player in our campus market because we were either printing or procuring most of the campus printing needs even though we did not have the Right of First Refusal. We achieved this by making sure we serviced our client’s needs for quality, timely delivery, fair pricing and most importantly made sure the customer was getting the best deal and protection from our professional experience. Even with having two 40” 2 color presses and a 6 color 29” we were outsourcing several hundred thousand dollars a year. Possibly we could pull some of that back inside with upgraded technology and equipment.
In the end, the smart thing appeared to be expand our offset footprint instead of our digital, get rid of two 40 plus year old presses and install a 6 color 40” with a coater. Almost a year later we presented our business plan to upper management showing the current need, the potential future need and a positive ROI that would almost pay for the press just by keeping a little more than half of our outsource spend inside. Included with the plan was the acknowledgement that we estimated the cost of the press to be no more the $875,000.00 for a late model Man Roland. Additionally, we needed the equipment to support our current large bindery with folders that supported 40” product. Part of the preparation showed that most of the jobs being outsourced had common specifications; run lengths too long for digital production; often required coatings throughout such as gloss or soft-touch; of course tight time frames. I submitted our plan to our Vice Chancellor who in December 2017 presented our proposal to the Board of Regents for a 6-color press with coater, with straight 6 and 4/2 perfecting capabilities, of $875,000 or less. We also had over $1,250,000.00 in our equipment reserve to cover the expenditure, the board accepted and the hunt was on.
While in the developing stages we had been in contact with several printing equipment brokers, and it seemed like every few weeks a press meeting base specifications would turn up on the market. Of course once we had permission to seek the press the market had shifted and nothing seemed to fit our needs. In the meantime, we had sold our two 40” presses and were somewhat involved in helping the buyer of both presses, disassemble, load and ship making the floor space for the 6-color press we had not found yet. We suspected that our existing floor would provide enough space for the press though we were confident that it was not structurally sound enough to support the press. We already knew the both size and weight of a new press based on our specifications so we asked facilities to provide an estimate of costs to modify the building.
In March 2018, Tony Pastore of Pastore Printing Machinery advised us of a Man Roland Hi-Print 706 press with a coater in Germany within our price range. We hired a third party Man Roland machinist in Germany to inspect and test print the press. His report confirmed that the press was in good order and we proceeded to engage in the contract terms. We now knew the electrical, press dimensions and power requirements to develop an accurate engineering plan. While we were getting print test samples from our prepared and furnished G7 images, facilities had an engineering firm drill core samples. They found the concrete floor to be 6” thick and the soil relatively problematic. In short, they indicated to support the 138,000 lb. press, we would need to excavate a pit of 15’ x 75’ x 6’ and backfill with lean concrete. The world stood still…of course in review I thought that was overkill, and asked facilities for another core sampling by a second engineering firm. $8,000.00 and 6 more weeks I had a report now that said the soil was stable, that we would only need to excavate a 2 foot deep pad and had the engineers report as to amount of rebar required.
In July 2018 we had fully accepted the terms of the press purchase and the owner allowed the broker to begin disassembling and preparing the press for shipping in August. About this time, we were advised that facilities would have the bids back late October and have the work to the wall and floor completed by mid-January 2109. The press would be shipped in late September, which meant it would have to sit in storage for a couple of months at least and that storage space would need to be climatically controlled. For the protection of the rollers, I had them pulled and crated for extended storage to prevent them from having flat spots.
It took some time, but we found storage at the airport that was climatically controlled, dock high and could accept 4 forty foot containers. We were given the specifications of the forklift requirements. Pastore Printing Machinery provided someone to unload the containers. Good thing the building was climatically controlled, because it was minus 30 degrees outside. We were able to unload two containers a day, and since we knew the press needed C02 cleaning, we made sure to leave the printing units so we could clean them and the delivery. Speaking of the delivery, Man Roland had warned us that the delivery unit was so long, we would have to cut a straight path from the exterior to the interior to get it in the building, they were right. We had to open one interior wall, which we rebuilt after we moved the press in. We were able to pour the pad and level it in 1 day, 15’ x 75’ x 2’, let it cure for 30 days and then coated the floor with a sealant.
Finally in Mid-January 2019, we begin moving the press in, of course it was snowing so everything had to be tarped, first the delivery, then coater, and two units at a time. The installer was positioning and leveling the press components as they arrived.
Moving the press took a week, the press was so level that all 6 units could be turned by hand. We knew that we had to move power around and install new breakers to accommodate the need of the press. Since the Man Roland was a press made for Germany, we had purchased a power conditioner to convert to US power. We then realized that the dryer required a special power convertor to increase the power, which slowed things down another two weeks to locate and purchase.
We were hoping that our house air would be enough air for the Man Roland though there was enough air to run the press but not to operate in perfect mode. In researching boosting our two compressors, we discovered we would have to rebuild them so we chose to purchase a 40 horsepower screw compressor just for the press and leave the other presses and bindery on existing house air. While waiting on this compressor, we began wiring the press and soon discovered that not all the wires were properly labeled, which turned out to have a major impact in delaying the installation process. Our original installer had some issues come up and Pastore Printing Machinery made arrangements to bring another qualified press machinist to finish the install. We knew that Man Roland would have their electricians come and convert the press from European to US standards (to read operate in English) for safety and to upgrade our p-com (the brains) and software licensing up to date. All and all our building expansion to accommodate this press will be about $350,000.00 which includes adding air conditioning, humidity control and of course structural.
The press had come with a Lithec unit, which we needed training on so once the press was properly wired, rollers installed and properly set. We had a technician come in to make sure the unit was working properly, software license up-to-date and that we had the proper color bars. This unit reads the ink swatches on the fly and makes adjustments automatically every 6 sheets. It cannot be used in conjunction with the console reader, but you can use either one of your choice. The console scanner from Man Roland had maintenance performed and tested. In the end of June we had Heidelberg come to fingerprint the press profile to G7 and began printing on different test substrates to test whether or not it was in compliance. All the printing tests went well, and the testing showed that the 40” press matched our existing 29” press without any issues.
We were having some issues changing the press in and out of perfect mode. At one point we were stuck in neither, we knew it had worked in Germany so something must have jostled loose. As it turned out, a couple of wires had been misconnected, and an air value and an electrical component had failed. We have fixed those issues and the press easily goes in and out of perfect. As of the last week of July 2019 we began printing on live jobs, printing on 100 bs. gloss book text 28” x 40”, 80 bs.,70 bs. 24” x 26” and 25” x 38”.
Though we knew it was going to be a challenge, like everything else, there always seems something that goes wrong, nothing worthwhile is not without a little pain. We had also expanded our bindery by purchasing and additional large folder to fold 16 pagers and added 2 people on 2nd shift in bindery only to discover (happily) that we will likely need to more people to handle the new workload.
In retrospect, we had increased last year’s volume by almost $500,000.00, so we will now be looking at having to expand prepress by two people, bindery with two more, mail with one and from the looks of it we will be adding two more to our digital staff as well. It appears word of mouth alone has helped us to expand our operation. We are looking for new volume from some of our existing university clients, new business from our partnership with State of Nebraska Printing and of course our sister Nebraska universities in our system.
John Yerger has been in printing all of his life starting with a family newspaper and Printshop. John has worked in almost every aspect of printing from hot type to cold, letterpress, flexography and offset, sheet-fed and roll-fed. With over 35 years in private sector printing and 12 years of experience in higher education, John has more 28 years of senior management experience specializing in growing and restructuring print operations to maximize profits and revenues.
He has used his experience to consult with other operations to better manage their workflow and make their operations more productive in Texas and Arkansas. Under John’s management, Stephen F. Austin State University earned the 2014 IPMA Print Center of the Year Award. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Printing Services hosted the IPMA Roadshow in 2019, and will host the 2020 ACUP Conference. John supervises printing, 3 digital printing centers, promotional products, over 480 MFD’s, and Mail services with a staff of 48. John has increased sales volume and been ranked in the top 10 higher education in-plants in the last two years increasing revenue for 3 of his 4 years at UNL, creating a self-sustaining operation.