To use a clichéd analogy, as doctors are to human beings, service engineers are to machines. As the healthiest of people are prone to medical emergencies, so are the best of machines. The risk is more so if it happens to be pre-owned. A healthy lifestyle does help. And since prevention is better than cure, it would be prudent to listen to what service engineers have to say about machine maintenance.
Like good doctors who do not discriminate against their patients, according to Ashok Taneja of Delhi-based GSA Graphic and Print Solution, a service engineer doesn’t discriminate against machines, whether new or pre-owned. Taneja says the responsibility of a service engineer is to keep the machine up and running so that it can offer the best possible productivity for its owners.
However, when it comes to machine owners, Taneja has a different experience. He says if a machine is new, it is usually well taken care of. However, if it is a pre-owned kit, owners and operators are usually less careful.
At the same time, new machines come with warranty and service contracts from the manufacturers. Yashwant Joshi of Mumbai-based Ritefit Parts and Equipment explains the dynamics.
“If maintained properly, brand-new printing presses are expected to give no troubles for the first five years. However, often it is seen that the people working on these machines are not qualified enough to handle such machines. This is because print shop owners employ cheap manpower or promote their existing staff just to motivate them. Then the trouble starts and the possibility of breakdown increases,” Joshi says.
There is another scenario where the agency doesn’t install the new machine properly or do not use proper equipment during installation to cut cost. This results in a bad installation, which leads to a machine breakdown.
Ashok Taneja on checking pre-owned
◆ Get the machine inspected by an authorised engineer
◆ Take the print trial if the machine is in production condition
◆ Most machines have an electrical history stored in the operating console. Have it checked
In the case of pre-owned, Joshi suggests that the installation should be done through the manufacturer. “However, usually manufacturers or their agencies do not have enough manpower to handle so many installations or breakdowns on the field. Thus, freelancers enter the picture. These technicians are usually not trained properly; most of them learn on the job. There are few qualified technicians on the field who are trained by manufacturers but they are not enough in numbers. Again, to cut cost, print shops employ cheap technicians and the end result is bad installation and breakdowns,” he says.
Joshi says the key for running pre-owned is preventive maintenance, the way we do it for motor vehicles. “But no one wants to follow the rule or spend time and money. So you have number of breakdowns and downtime,” he says.
Of course, new machines have warranty and service contracts from the manufacturer. Thus, Joshi suggests printers to go for new machines whenever possible, as it involves less hassle compared to pre-owned. “However, do make sure that for installation and maintenance, the company or the agency has enough trained staff and spare parts backup so as to save on downtime if it occurs,” he says.
Yet, investment in a new machine is not always feasible. In that case, while selecting a pre-owned, Joshi suggests the following steps.
First, after you have identified a machine yourself or through your agent overseas, make sure that you make the purchase through a reliable overseas supplier. Conduct some background research on the credibility of the supplier. Do not transfer any deposit in advance unless you are certain.
Second, when you go to inspect the machine, take a well-trained or experienced technician with you. The cost of the inspection is negligible against the cost of the machine.
Third, before dismantling and shipping the machine, send your machine operator to have a look at it while it is in production. This will help build confidence in him to run it smoothly at your print shop.
Ashok Taneja: Dont discriminate against a pre-owned machine
Joshi says people generally prefer machines from Europe or America, adding, “European machines are well maintained while American machines have more impression counts.”
Taneja, on the other hand, says before deciding on a pre-owned, a printer must be absolutely certain why he is getting the machine. For example, if he wants to use the machine for commercial purposes, the requirements would be very different compared to the requirements for packaging printing. So knowing the exact purpose helps.
The second important pre-requisite is the budget. The budget will decide how young a pre-owned machine a printer can afford.
In the next step, the printers must study the technical history of the machine, to ascertain whether the machine is in working condition, and to ascertain how much it can perform.
For buying a new machine, Taneja says the most important aspect to consider is the budget, which will help identify the machine and the machine supplier.
Following these rules, if you thought you are ready to bring a printing machine home, hold your horses. There are technical issues that need your attention.
In the next step, according to BN Tiwari of Noida-based Worldwide Service and Consulting Group, a buyer should get inspection reports from trained and experienced technicians or agency.
Tiwari also suggests a buyer to check all electrical, mechanical spare parts, and accessories. “You should also check the print quality of the machine by actually printing on it,” Tiwari says, adding, “Also ensure proper markings during machine dismantling, especially of the cables, connectors, joints, gears and so on.”
Joshi says during the machine inspection, a technician must check the physical condition of the cylinders on each unit. He must also check if the bearers are in a good state and the condition of inking and damping rollers. “Also check if the machine is oiling properly, and physically inspect if all parts on feeder and delivery have wear and tear. One must also check if the chiller is working properly, all compressors are in working condition and give right pressures, and all electrical and pneumatic functions are in good working condition,” he says.
Joshi suggests that a prospective buyer must take out solid prints from all the units. “If possible, try and run 40-gsm and 400-gsm paper and board to understand how the machine can handle them,” he says. “If it’s a UV machine, please check if coater is working properly and if all the lamps are in good condition.”
BN Tiwari’s buying advice
◆ Get the machine checked and tested in running condition, under production with trained and experienced technicians
◆ Take large amount of videos/ photos of the machine during dismantling, along with last printed samples
◆ Take videos/ photos of all accessories before and after dismantling of the machine
◆ Get all commitments to be done by suppliers in writing, no verbal commitments. All accessories should be mentioned in the sales contract
◆ Take warranty of all cylinders, gears, and machine main frames for minimum five years for any types of faults
◆ Appoint a trained/experienced technical advisor during the commissioning of the machine
Tiwari says a trained, dedicated and experienced machine operator and a trained engineer can successfully run any pre-owned machine unless the machine is scrap or there are any major accidents.
Taneja also supports the role of a good service engineer in the proper functioning of a pre-owned. Therefore, he stresses the importance of installation/ service by professional engineers and by a company who has mechanical/ electrical as well as application team.
Taneja says an operator also has a vital role to play in the running of the machine. “He should be well-experienced having all printing knowledge. Most of the time, when a machine breaks down, the cause is often simple, which can be fixed by an engineer over the phone. For this to happen, the operation should have the proper technical know-how so that he can communicate the problem precisely and exactly,” he says.
Yashwant Joshi: care for your press as much as you love your motor car
Tiwari says cleaning and greasing of the entire machine every 15 to 20 days is a must for machine life and for preventing breakdown. He says the owners should also train their operators, supervisors, regularly on printing technology, quality, machine functions and maintenance. Also, the quality of rollers, consumables should be up to the mark.
Taneja lists down a series of activities which he says can help reduce machine breakdown by 30-40%.
First, the operator must be well-trained. Second, the shopfloor, the area where the machine is kept, and the machine itself must be kept clean. Second, regular preventive maintenance should be done based on charts. The chiller and its unit should be kept clean, while cylinder bearers should be cleaned regularly and the machine should be kept lubricated. Also, the shopfloor should have controlled electric power, and there should be supply of pneumatic air, which is moist-free so that pistons, valves aren’t damaged.
Taneja says preventive maintenance plays a vital role in avoiding machine breakdowns.
Yashwant Joshi on machine parts needing maintenance
Rotary valve; forwarding suckers and lifting suckers; feeder belts and runners
Rubber inking and damping rollers; damping motors (if they are old DC motors); cylinder grippers and shafts must be lubricated regularly. Bearers must be clean. Cylinder packing must be checked. Ink cleaning blades must be changed periodically
◆ See if joggers are working properly. Powder unit and delivery must be cleaned regularly and must be lubricated. See if blower fans working properly and sheet breaks are clean and vacuum is proper, and feeder and delivery piles function properly.
◆ Main motor must be cleaned with air and carbon brushes must be checked. Inching motor belt must be checked. Main motor belts must be cleaned and checked. All ink duct motors and keys must be cleaned and checked periodically
Tiwari too suggests the same medicine — regular oiling, greasing, cleanings in every 15 -20 days; annual inspection and servicing of machines by trained engineers every six months, and changing old, worn-out parts as soon possible.
Joshi echoes the same sentiments. “Conduct regular periodic preventive maintenance by trained technicians to reduce breakdowns,” he suggests.
Now the question is how to build machine knowhow among service engineers?
Tiwari suggests that new service engineers should start by working with senior and trained engineers. They should also attend installations of old and new machines.
Tiwari believes that for a service engineer, hands-on training is more important while institutional basics are also required.
Taneja says today information is readily available over the internet. It’s the responsibility of a service engineer to keep himself abreast with the recent developments. “Engineers should make it a habit to write everything down — what he is doing and what needs to be done before working on the machine,” he suggests.
He believes institutional training is always the best. “On-job training is an added advantage in terms of handling the machine/ tools but also how to communicate machine knowhow with the customer,” he adds.
Taneja concludes that the most important aspect of preventive machine maintenance is the documentation of the past activities. “We have observed that most presses do not keep the history of machine breakdown as well as the action taken. It doesn’t matter who has fixed the machine, but the activity should be recorded. By making a record, an engineer/ owner can predict the parts which need to be kept in stock as well as can make plans to avoid major breakdowns,” he says.
Joshi says a service engineer should observe the machine in production. He should also attend seminars or exhibitions to update the knowledge, plus read technical magazines. “He should also discuss the problems with other technicians or machine operators,” Joshi concludes.