How to increase productivity and generate profits has become the most important issue for printing company management. Innovation through DX — Digital Transformation — across the entire production process is key to solving this problem. But what goals should we set for DX? Where should we start?
DX involves building new business models by unleashing digital technology along with reassessing and improving the existing business framework and production systems. Under the unprecedented adversity of the Covid-19 crisis, the imperative to rethink the way we work is urgent. It may not be easy to visualize how DX might work for your company, or you may think it unrealistic. However, DX for printing companies is no longer just a pipe dream. There are a number of companies that have already achieved it. This article introduces the key points of Komori’s proposal for the Smart Factory created by DX.
Komori’s concept of a Smart Factory is to improve the entire production process through visualizing and eliminating bottlenecks, which includes connecting the devices that are fragmented among processes. KP-Connect Pro is the core software that integrates and manages the management information system (MIS), prepress, press, and postpress and digitizes the printing factory. Developed on an open platform, KP-Connect Pro can be connected to the systems of various manufacturers and vendors, meaning that it can be freely and seamlessly combined and linked to both new and existing devices.
KP-Connect Pro’s simple approach to DX can be summarized in four points.
Centralization of production data by connecting all processes and machines in the factory.
Visualization of data for ease of understanding.
Streamlining of the workflow by optimizing production schedules and immediately distributing them to the printing site.
Automation of production machines in each process.
As the trend toward smaller order volumes continues, the use of older, large-volume, analog methods (paper and telephone) to communicate puts pressure on profits. This is because the cost of communicating information in-house remains constant regardless of the size of the order quantity, while sales per order are decreasing due to shorter runs. To produce profits from small-run printing, information must be integrated through digitization, and information transmission costs must be minimized.
KP-Connect Pro collects and records all production information accurately and in real time. It consolidates the schedules and production results information into a single database, and makes that information available to the departments, processes, equipment, and people who need it, when they need it, and in the form they need it.
KP-Connect Pro visualizes the present, past and future production activities.[Present] The real-time progress of each process step can be checked from various points of view. (Note 1)
Operators can monitor the progress of previous and subsequent processes as well as the state of preparation of necessary materials (final film, plates, paper, printed sheets, etc.) and make efficient preparations for makeready.
Large-format signage informs the operator of schedule variances in real time. In case of delays, operators can take prompt action, which leads to increased motivation for more efficiency.
From their desks, operation managers and supervisors can check for any production problems or schedule delays. If they are connected to the company via a VPN, they can even work remotely.
(Note 1) There is a time lag of up to one minute before the screen is updated, depending on the timing of recording to the system.
Order completion time can be visually reviewed on a job-by-job basis, allowing problematic jobs and the problems to be shared at daily and weekly review meetings.
The system frees the printer from tedious analog totaling processes, such as production page count graphs and loss analysis, and automatically generates reports.
Automatic linkage with MIS enables management of daily gross profit and the cost and expense of each ordered item, which was previously difficult.[Future] With integrated scheduler and production load charts, the status and availability of each process can be accurately determined, enabling prompt responses to customers regarding delivery dates. Visualization of the production schedule also leads to specific measures to increase added value and productivity, such as in-house production of outsourced projects and the allocation of support to other departments.
KP-Connect Pro is characterized by its ability to manage all processes, including postpress. By consolidating process management tasks that were previously performed separately for each process and site, production throughout the factory is optimized. In particular, automatic scheduling optimization removes dependency on “islands of individualization,” significantly improving efficiency and labor-saving.
In addition, KP-Connect Pro dramatically reduces the time and effort required for distributing Excel-created schedules to job sites in paper form, communicating changes, and making phone calls. Schedules and information are delivered digitally to the printing site, where managers and operators can immediately use the data. This is particularly helpful when there is a schedule change or change in printing specifications.
Komori’s Connected Automation concept aims to maximize the productivity of the printing company by connecting machines and production systems equipped with manpower-saving and labor-saving technologies. KP-Connect Pro, as core software, can be automatically linked with various systems such as MIS, prepress, press, postpress, and logistics using CIP4/JDF and CSV data.[Prepress Automation] The KP-Connect Pro scheduler on the printing process side can send plate output instructions to the RIP. Plates can be output when needed, minimizing inter-process bottlenecks such as plate waiting and plate retention. [Press Automation] KP-Connect Pro’s simple automatic scheduling function presents the operator with a printing sequence that optimizes press makeready efficiency based on paper and ink information. In addition, job, ink and paper information is automatically set on Komori offset presses, eliminating the need for manual operator input and significantly reducing preparation time, especially impacting short-run printing. [Postpress Automation] Komori’s Apressia CTX cutting system receives the postpress JDF created by the RIP via KP-Connect Pro and automatically generates a cutting program. This cutting program automatically sets the orientation and cutting dimensions of the printed sheets, eliminating the need for operator input, even for irregular multipage jobs.
These are the four main aspects of DX as seen by Komori. DX in the printing industry is now technologically feasible. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the key to surviving in the coming era is to move forward with DX as quickly as possible. Komori will work with everyone to address this issue, contributing to the development of printing companies and the industry as a whole.
From now on, addressing environmental issues will be an urgent priority, and the manufacturing industry will be required to decarbonize. Promoting DX will also reduce the carbon footprint. As DX improves productivity, the energy used to achieve the same sales will be used more efficiently, resulting in a vast reduction of carbon emissions. Improved productivity will also reduce waste of paper and other materials.
Komori will continue to develop the technologies demanded by the times and support the challenges undertaken by printing companies. Improving the productivity of printing presses, connecting all processes, and increasing the efficiency of the entire plant will protect the environment in the future. Komori will promote DX in printing companies, contribute to the improvement of production sites and the generation of profits, and propose solutions to the world to realize a decarbonized society.