With significant growth in 2022, Ontario based book printer Maracle, began their journey to upgrade print capabilities. Their sales grew by 30% and they were unable to accept all the work their clients wanted to print in the 2nd half of the year. Under the new leadership of Alec Couckuyt, they embarked on a solution to replace one of their three digital presses, an older HP Indigo.
Who is Maracle?
- Maracle is a midsized, privately owned, commercial printer serving Canadian and US customers, running a 2-shift operation
- Core products: books (mainly educational), magazines, financial reports, planners, manuals and other commercial work
- Services: design, editorial, printing, finishing, fulfillment
- Core strength: high quality work, fast turnaround times, short to medium volume run lengths, full-service capabilities
- Current equipment: one 8-color 40-inch offset perfector press (80% of their volume), cold set web offset (15% of their volume), one Indigo and 2 monochrome toner presses (digital 5% of their volume) along with a wide range of finishing equipment
Time to Switch Lanes
Maracle began their due diligence to find a replacement for their aging HP Indigo including looking at cut sheet toner and inkjet devices. Their decision process was focused on application flexibility and productivity. They narrowed their selection options down to one inkjet device and a digital toner press. As they were finalizing their decision, the plant was running at capacity. That meant either outsourcing or refusing customer work they could not complete on time. Maracle then began experiencing intermittent downtime on their older perfector press. With this interruption in production So the due diligence paused their inkjet analysis to shift their investment focus on stabilizing the offset device, which runs 80% of their volume.
Throughput Drives New Solutions
A cross-functional Maracle team pivoted to evaluate new 40-inch offset presses. They planned on weighting their decision with fifty percent of their focus on equipment capabilities and fifty percent on the importance on local service and maintenance support. The team considered four major equipment manufacturers. Overall, they were both impressed and surprised by the high levels of efficiencies and automation from the newest offset presses.
The new presses included automated plate loading, washups and other settings. These resulted in significantly less time for make ready and an impressive reduction in paper waste. After visiting other print facilities running the new presses, they expect a new press will reduce make ready time by 50%, plus a 30% productivity gain with a new 40-inch perfecting press. This reduction in both labor and time to press, dramatically changed their thinking about how a new offset and digital/inkjet platform can function to boost their overall productivity and time to market for their customers.
The new presses include AI built into the front-end software. The AI benefits reduce time and paper waste when setting up jobs. Maracle expects heavy coverage jobs like many of their magazines, will come up to color with as few as 100 set-up sheets. This will provide a significant paper and time savings over their current press using 500 sheets on average. The new 40 inch press will include a migration to process-less plates which will also contributing to shorter job set-up and less labor.
Offset vs. Inkjet
Armed with significant productivity improvements from a new 40 inch press, the team revised their calculations for the break-even point between digital and offset. With automation, they expect 1000 sheet jobs can be run profitably on offset, down from the previous breakeven at 2000 sheets. This change made Maracle look at digital presses in a different light.
B2 is no longer their dominant digital prerequisite to complement their offset production process. They are now reconsidering a roll fed inkjet platform to replace the cold web and potentially other digital and inkjet presses that will provide lower cost and faster turnaround for their short run work. They plan to run detailed cost and throughput models with both continuous feed and cut-sheet inkjet. They expect near line finishing will best complement their bindery. Their goal is to determine the best digital press that will position them for growth over the next 3-5 years.
Responding to Growth
As their book and magazine volumes continue to grow, Maracle wants a hybrid production facility that enables them to say “yes” to more work and meet customers’ turnaround demands. If they invest in inkjet to replace the cold web, they could enhance their offerings with versioning for magazines, catalogs and other applications. They see their value in assisting clients with end-to-end solutions. That means clients will rely on Maracle to take charge of the complete process flow – from ordering, content QC, press approvals to finishing, fulfillment and shipping.
They know inkjet is likely the best option for a new digital press. Automation and efficiency is making them take a hard look at their entire workflow across offset and digital jobs to map the best path forward with cutsheet or continuous feed.
Alec Couckuyt shared the benefit of leveraging his cross-functional team with perspectives from all key departments to evaluate the solutions. They have made the decision criteria more robust in determining the best path for their future state operation.
And the winner is . . . stay tuned for the next story highlighting Maracle’s selection of new offset, digital and inkjet solutions and the impact of automation on their company and their clients.