Thomson Press adds automated RMGT 8-color perfector offset press

Automation to bring competitive efficiencies in book printing exports

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Thomson Press
L­R: Pradeep Nandgopal, Provin Technos; Stanley Petrus, Krishnadas MP, RB Kashyap of Thomson Press; and Vinay Kaushal, Provin Technos. Photo IPP

Thomson Press based in Faridabad in Delhi NCR is one of the leading commercial printers and print exporters in the country. Apart from every type of printed and bound book, it is a leading commercial and magazine printer associated with the Living Media group.

The commercial printer and exporter follows global standards and certifications for color quality, data security and sustainable operations, and the sourcing of raw materials. Its comprehensive production assets include an extensive legacy of modern digital prepress, digital, sheetfed, and heatset web offset presses, and the full complement of binding equipment for perfect and hard case books, magazines, and commercial print. A perennial exhibitor at the Frankfurt Bookfair, Thomson is a leading exporter of printed books and materials. 

Leveraging, its experience, capacity, and absorption of the latest technology, the current stance of the company is to project its reliability. Its website proclaims, ‘The goal of TP is to become the “World’s Most Reliable Printer.” Our current “On-Time-In-Full” performance is >95%.’

In recent years, its management has fine-tuned the company with its four integrated units into a finely honed quality and on-time production operation. It has kept adding to prepress, digital and offset printing, and binding capacity with the latest technology and would guess that it is close to leveraging Industry 4.0 in a practical and step-by-step manner since it has implemented monitoring and MIS right on the shop floor, creating a culture of productivity and accountability.

New RMGT 8-color perfecting sheetfed offset press

The newly commissioned RMGT 8-color perfecter installed in May was already delivering the numbers when we visited Thomson Press in Faridabad in the third week of June.  

We had the opportunity on our visit to see the press in production including a book printing job changeover and to confer with three of the key production personnel. Our observations are based on our previous visits and familiarity with the company and from our discussion with RB Kashyap, the unit head of the Thomson plant in Faridabad, Krishnadas MP the chief manager of maintenance, and Stanley Petrus, the manager of Sheetfed Printing at the plant. The key takeaway for us in the discussion regarding the new perfecter was the efficiency press and that its purchase entailed an extensive team exercise with the management to justify its overall costs including the full automation features and LED UV curing. 

Thomson, always strong in production data monitoring, has taken several notable steps in optimization in recent years, and the two mentioned during our visit were the staggering of the weekly off days to maintain 24/7 production; and other was the concept of quantitatively monitoring the ‘net on palette’ printed sheets. 

Each 4 + 4 makeready for printing both sides takes seven  minutes on the new RMGT. All the four plates for each side are simultaneously exchanged with the used set of four plates on the cylinders. The old plates are extracted and the new set of eight plates is installed within 120 seconds.  

Automation

With the presets for the quantity and size and the CIP image data already loaded, the press comes to color in less than a hundred sheets. When the automation purchased by Thomson but still to be installed, is commissioned – the press is expected to bring both sides of the sheet to full register and color approval in less than 50 sheets. 

The inline cameras shoot the entire printed sheet on the front and back, and the closed-loop color control measures the color control strips. Within seven minutes of initiating the job change, each side is adjusted and approval is given by the operator. This includes the 2.5 minutes for the blanket cleaning.

A run of 500 sheets is then printed in another five minutes which means that the makeready and printing of both sides are accomplished within 12 minutes. These are the standard times although the Thomson production team and operators, even in the initial stages, are outrunning these levels in daily production. They are doing this even running the press at 12,000 impressions an hour although the machine can print both sides simultaneously at 13,000 iph. 

The fully digital console and press monitors can display every event and production detail. The digital storage of the press continuously stores the real-time status of the press at any given time. This is quite useful in monitoring production and difficulties with certain inputs and materials.

The GEW LED curing units after the first four units and then at the end of the press were installed after our visit. This allows the press operators to print on any kind of uncoated or coated substrate at full speeds and immediately move the palette to the finishing or binding section.

The perfecting breakthrough

It seems simple and logical that an 8-color perfecter for a leading book printer and exporter should simply double output with an enormous saving of time and resources. With the LED UV curing the printed sheets can immediately move to the finishing and binding section. This helps to reduce the work in progress towards zero, saving space and helping to meet export commitments in tight production schedules. 

Ultimately the savings in paper wastage and electricity consumption are also factors in Thomson’s optimization program. Thomson already had three automated RMGT 920 – 4-color presses since 2018, on its shop floor as a part of its extensive fleet of sheetfed multicolor presses from Mitsubishi . 

The newer RMGT machines which are rated at 45 kWh consume 27 to 30 kWh while running at speed. The 8-color RMGT 92 perfecter with short delivery installed at Thomson is rated at 79 kWh and while running at speed, it consumes 48 to 50 kWh. The use of the LED curing units on this press consumes 15 kWh at maximum power. Including the chilling system’s 20 kW power consumption to cool the LED cassettes, the consumption for curing comes to 35 kW.

The new perfecter takes Thomson towards its mission of becoming a green printer since it doubles production, removes work in progress, and can cure coated stock without generating the ozone and ambient heat of conventional UV curing. The efficiencies that the team is realizing and documenting even in the first months of using the new press were difficult to explain to a management that is always keen on the ROI numbers. However, it is a credit to the plant, management, and operation and maintenance teams that they were able to collectively make a decision that has profound implications for the productivity, cost-benefit, and energy savings of the leading book printer and exporter.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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