Adequately Staff Your Press

Properly staffing your press adds to morale.
The trend nowadays with more automation in offset printing, is to staff the press with the absolute minimum.  This trend has the obvious benefit of reducing the bottom line on labor costs.  The sad consequence is that these short-sighted managers do not realize that 80% of their costs come from materials and operating overhead, not staffing.

Case In Point
 I worked on an offset 5 color half web press for about 4 years for a major printer who will remain unnamed.  We were always short-handed.  We ran with 3 people and that included a roll tender and a guy on a log stacker at the end of the press.  Running around like chickens with heads cut-off was an average day.  Waste was about 12%, far above the industry norm.  But to everyone except us, the solution seemed elusive.  Management was too cheap to give another pressman.  And so it seemed, one way or another, our dimwitted management would pay anyways because the sad part is that it cost them much more in waste than it would to have an additional pressman.

A Good Strategy
The best strategy I've seen to staffing presses was at a printer in New York that I visited about a year ago.  They had five heatset Man Roland web press lines and two Komori four color sheetfed presses.  Each press was staffed with 4 people.  A little slim perhaps.  The beauty was that they had extra pressmen as "make-ready pressmen" that would go from one press to the next.  The management was good and got the point: The most savings can come from reducing the make-ready and start-up waste.  The rest was pocket change.  When this system was first implemented, production increased dramatically and waste went down by 6%.

Managers do not save money by being cheap in their staffing.  They can afford to  properly staff presses.  The savings from this will come from less make ready time and waste savings.  If management can reduce makeready times and waste, the payoff is far bigger than the extra $30 / hour they have to pay that ace pressman they hired to make it happen.  Add to this the boosted morale of those who are just happy that they have enough people to do the job right.

The bottom line that print manager have to come to grips with is this:  Downtime and waste cost more than people.  Period!


  1. Anonymous2:45 PM

    4 people per press ? In my workplace we have 2 4 colour and 1 8 colour. Both B1 Komoris. We run with 3 pressman, one on each press. Trust me, after a shift on the 8 col you have earned your wages.


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