On the way to a
Smart Print Shop.
The new Push to Stop philosophy at Heidelberg represents a paradigm shift in the company’s holistic view of print shop processes in a digitally integrated environment. Its aim is to turn printing businesses into print shops that use smart, intelligently organized production environments to achieve an unprecedented level of performance. A departure from the norm – a radical change like Push to Stop – is sometimes necessary to open up new prospects for the future. Heidelberg is using this philosophy to redefine the rules of production in offset printing. To date, operators have had to initiate many parts of the production process manually. In the future, however, they will only need to intervene in the automated process chain as and when required, because intelligent networking and automation will enable machines to organize and execute the production process autonomously. This makes Push to Stop a milestone on the road to autonomous print production. “It’s a paradigm shift that throws the door wide open to higher net productivity,” says Rainer Wolf, Head of Product Management Sheetfed.
„With a high level of automation and standardized jobs, push to stop even supports fully autonomous printing.“
From automated to smart production.
Many offset businesses, even industrial-scale ones, do not even come close to maximizing overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). However, further increasing OEE is an important factor in enjoying future success with efficient production and completing ever shorter job runs profitably. A market survey conducted by Heidelberg revealed some surprising results, including an average OEE of just 25 percent. This figure highlights the dilemma that many print shops are faced with. Even if presses operate ever faster and ever more time is saved during makeready processes such as plate changes, the effectiveness of the production process does not improve as rapidly as would be expected.
Why is that? As Wolf explains, the effectiveness of print production still depends not only on perfectly coordinated processes, but also on operator efficiency. With up to ten jobs per hour on a single press, operators are already at their limits in terms of workload and speed. As a result, part of the machine’s performance potential is wasted while it is waiting for operator input. “Further automation would therefore only lengthen the gaps between steps, so with Push to Stop we’ve turned the entire production process on its head and used digital technologies to make it smarter and easier for operators. They’re now able to keep up with the productivity of the press and make full use of its potential,” he continues.
Navigated and autonomous printing.
The foundation for this is the Prinect workflow, which Heidelberg has turned into an even more intelligent end-to-end system with Push to Stop, because presses can now process and use even more information. Assistance systems read the information from the workflow and relieve the pressure on operators by organizing, performing or visualizing tasks independently. The centerpiece of the press is the new Prinect Press Center XL 2 press control station. It is the interface that enables highly productive cooperation between man and machine and turns operators into process managers for navigated and autonomous printing alike. In both cases, the patented Intellistart 2 software calculates the shortest route between makeready processes. In the case of navigated printing, it shows operators the best way to get from one job to the next. It also initiates makeready processes, which now run independently, indicating which manual activities are required and when. In the case of autonomous printing, on the other hand, the press completes production processes entirely independently.
Thanks to the new Wallscreen XL, operators always benefit from complete control and transparency regarding the production workflow – even with frequent job changes. They see in real time what the press is doing. In addition to this, the Intelliguide feature displays time bars that show which makeready processes are currently in progress, how long they will take and when an operator needs to intervene – to change the ink, for example. Operators can also change the job order in the job list using drag & drop. In this way, up to 30 jobs can be prepared and completed in an automated process for faster, more flexible operation with shorter waiting times.
Target of doubling productivity in ten years
With a high level of automation and standardized jobs, Push to Stop even supports fully autonomous printing based on the Prinect workflow, Prinect Press Center XL 2, Wallscreen XL, Intellistart 2 and the Prinect Inpress Control 2 inline spectral measuring system. By comparing target and actual ink values, the Quality Assist software recognizes when the defined quality parameters are achieved and automatically starts production of OK sheets without human intervention.
The philosophy behind Push to Stop shows the direction in which offset printing is heading – toward industrial or even autonomous production based on digital processes. “Digitization combines intelligent networking with a smart man-machine interface to open up completely new possibilities for improving cost-efficiency and competitiveness,” asserts Wolf. A small number of printing businesses are already achieving OEE values of 50 percent and proving that this is within the realms of possibility. That makes Wolf all the more confident about the objective for Heidelberg. “We’re looking to help our customers double their productivity within the next ten years,” he stresses.