An interview with Dariusz Szymendera, the CEO of Print Systems, in connection with the introduction of own-manufactured cleaning equipment under the brand name QUICKER to the market.
Where did the idea for starting the production of machines come from? Until now, you have been operating on the market as a distributor.
DS.: It was a difficult and important decision, which we have been considering for several years now. Until now, we have only used external companies that produced equipment for us. These were mainly foreign suppliers from Italy, Luxembourg, Turkey and Poland. Many of them continue to supply equipment to our customers. In the concept of machine production by Print Systems, we focused on the so-called peripheral equipment. These are not printing machines, but rather those that support printing processes. That’s how the QUICKER brand of equipment for post-print cleaning of plates, anilox rolls and press parts. We outsource the production of ultrasonic cleaners for raster rolls to our external partner. A number of factors contributed to the decision to start our own production of machines for plates and parts. In cooperation with suppliers, it was crucial for us and our customers to provide feedback on the performance of machines, possible improvements and modifications in order to be more effective in meeting their expectations. Unfortunately, many of these comments were not taken into account and were not implemented during the production process. The arguments of the suppliers were mostly that we were the only company that wanted to introduce such a modification, and it is not profitable in serial production. The consequence would be imposing high limits on the number of machines that we would have to buy after the modification. At Print Systems, we know very well that each customer/printing house is different, has individual needs and pays attention to different functionalities. With our own production, we are able to adjust every machine, to a certain extent, to the needs of our customers. This gives us a big competitive advantage. We are responsible for the entire process from the development of the functionality of the machine, through production, to the professional servicing of the equipment. This requires a larger commitment of our resources but brings enormous benefits to the end customer. This is our priority.
How long did it take to develop the project? How exactly does this process look like?
DS.: You could say that the process is continuous. We started the design works from the post-print plate cleaner. For a long time, the Sales Department and Machine Construction Department have been gathering all the useful information. Both positive and negative user feedback on peripheral devices used in printing. They were the basis for the first concepts of the construction and functionality of our machines developed during the brainstorming process. We have collected and analyzed data on recurring failures from the Service Department. We had a lot of conversations with customers about their specific needs and expectations. We were observing global industry trends in process automation and, of course, we were monitoring the activities of our competition. This is how the final idea of our equipment emerged and the design work began. We concentrated on simplicity, functionality and ecology. We opted for proven industrial solutions. We also wanted to give the machines an attractive look and eliminate the most common imperfections of this type of equipment. Our goal was to make our equipment durable, resilient and user-friendly. Today, in hindsight, I am sure we have succeeded.
The first prototype of the plate cleaner was developed and installed for testing in a large packaging printing house. During the first week, the tested machine was working to its maximum capacity. It cleaned more than two and a half thousand plates! Already at this stage of testing, we discovered some issues that needed to be improved and eliminated. The machine was returned to us. It was dismantled, modified and sent for further testing. This time to another customer with different expectations. The feedback was positive and there were only a few details left to be improved. The cleaner was modified. Today, the device meets all the expectations of end customers and is already on the market. The first purchased machine went to Italy, the next ones are installed locally, in Poland.
What innovative solutions were used in the plate cleaner to meet customer expectations?
DS.: The main disadvantage of photopolymer cleaning machines available on the market is that they get pulled in during cleaning. Some of the plates that go into the cleaner are deformed and do not have a perfectly flat form, e.g. due to solvent-based inks or wear. In this case, the cleaner pulls the plate under the shaft. For example, the operator inserts five plates and only three of them come out clean?! In this situation, you have to stop the machine, pull out the blocked plate, and if it is damaged, you have to prepare a new one. The losses for the printing house resulting from machine downtime, additional work and material in the form of a new plate are enormous.
We have managed to completely eliminate the possibility of pulling the plates in because in our equipment they are transported on a special mesh. This innovative solution required a completely different construction of the machine, provided that other functions such as thorough cleaning and drying are fully maintained.
Another modification is the reduction of the amount of liquid used in the cleaning process. First of all, the plate is cleaned in several sections of variously operating brushes, from rotary to flat ones. This solution ensures high efficiency. The cleaning process takes place in a closed circuit. In the next stage, the plate is dried simultaneously from the top and from the bottom and then falls completely dry into a special basket. We can, of course, open the circuit if the customer requests so, but only in a printing house that has a sealed container for disposal and meets the environmental requirements specified by law.
We have not used a display in this device. It turned out, after speaking to our customers, that it was completely unnecessary. Our machine is controlled with a single knob, which only regulates the speed. The rest of the parameters are set individually by our technicians and adjusted to the needs of the customer. This applies, for example, to the speed of individual brushes.
We have completely eliminated the liquid and water tanks built into the machine. The operator does not have to pour liquids anywhere. Now, they simply connect the original OUICKER liquid container directly to the device via a special system equipped with a tube and a connector fitting the liquid container.
Another innovation is the possibility of connecting the device to the Internet. With the help of a special built-in router, we will be able to remotely make a preliminary diagnosis of possible failure of the machine and suggest appropriate solutions.
What other peripheral equipment do you produce?
DS.: Another machine is the high-pressure printing machine parts cleaner. Its innovativeness comes from the use of high pressure to remove dirt from printing machine parts. Thanks to this technology, we use very little liquid in the cleaning process. In traditional cleaners, the use of the solution of chemicals and water is enormous, counted in hundreds of litres per hour. In the case of our product solution, it is tens of litres. Our prototype device is about to undergo the first phase of testing and will soon be delivered to the customer for the first start-up in real-life operating conditions.
What really sets the offer of QUICKER equipment apart on the market.
DS.: In my opinion, the comprehensiveness, in the true sense of the word. Our equipment is designed to meet the needs of large flexographic wide and narrow web printing houses They are suitable for highly efficient operation with heavy loads. At the Labelexpo 2019 trade fair, there were many competitive companies presenting their products. Taking into account the efficiency of our machines, the ones presented at the trade fair look more like toys and cost much more. In addition, QUICKER is a brand that offers everything a printing house needs for post-printing cleaning of plates, anilox rolls and parts in one place from a single supplier. The offer is completed by dedicated chemicals, which work perfectly with our equipment, guarantees effective cleaning and long, failure-free functioning of each machine.
In terms of technical support, we offer flexible servicing packages. It is the customer who decides, taking into account their own capabilities and resources, what level of support they need to smoothly implement the processes of preparing key elements for printing. Our technical service is responding to customer needs and possible failures on an ongoing basis. We have a highly qualified team of specialists at our disposal. Some of the repairs are done on-site at the customer’s premises. The printing house will receive a replacement device in case we are unable to quickly repair the machine. We also have a special website for reporting servicing, repairs, replacement of spare parts or ordering consumables. The site works in a desktop version as well as a mobile app. Every machine sold is marked with QR codes linking to the servicing website in the places that are crucial from the point of view of exploitation. Using the app, the operator can watch an instructional video on how to properly change the liquid or how to turn the machine on/off, set parameters or perform a minor repair. In serious situations, through the app, it is possible to report a failure, track the progress of the report, contact our online technicians and quickly solve problems. The benefits of cooperation with Print Systems for the end customer are measurable and the offer is unrivalled on the market. This is a truly unique offer of support given our previous experience with many machine suppliers. Most of them are companies that exclusively produce machines. They do not know the nature of work of a printing house and do not understand the key printing processes. Our advantage is that we are in constant contact with our customers. We supply photopolymers to printing houses on a daily basis and we know what the printing process looks like. We understand the impact of the cleanliness of equipment, parts, plates and anilox rolls on the quality and repeatability of printing.
In addition, we offer various forms of financing. From the traditional purchase of a machine through a long-term lease, where the only cost of the printing house is a fixed, monthly subscription fee. The subscription includes a fee for using the equipment without any limit of hours, chemicals, consumables and servicing. After the contractual lease period, the equipment returns to us and the customer can order a new machine.
For many years we have been a master distributor of TOYOBO plates, machines and specialized chemicals. Now we also feel responsible for the entire process of preparing the plates for printing. If the customer sees any areas of improvement in this respect, they can contact us and we will use our knowledge and experience to comprehensively solve the problem. We will prepare detailed calculations related to the profitability of the implementation and control of the cleaning process, including indicators of use and efficiency of human capital.
It would be good to mention how and where you intend to reach potential customers.
DS.: The plans are ambitious. We want to be a global supplier. Currently, we are intensively building a distribution network through foreign partners. We are looking for companies that are organized similarly to us, have a similar profile of activity on the local printing market and similar competences. We are interested in partners who have technical service and will be able to provide quick help in case of problems. Of course, we will train them, pass on the know-how and the entire package of information materials, so that they can react very quickly and professionally. Our internal sales structures are focused on direct sales and development of distribution in Europe.
Thank you for the conversation.