Cost-effective short runs in offset quality
The true potential of a press is sometimes not immediately obvious, so some customers get quite a pleasant surprise when making investment decisions. This was the case with the management team at schäfer-etiketten GmbH & Co KG last year, when they found a model that significantly exceeded the specified performance levels during extensive print tests. The press in question, the Gallus TCS 250, was the front-runner at the end of the selection process. It has been in operation at the German company's print shop in Wolfschlugen since October 2010, combining high-quality results with enhanced cost-efficiency for numerous jobs.
Well-researched investment decision
The steadily climbing prices of substrates, inks, etc. are making aspects such as setup times and waste even more important. At the same time, both customers' quality requirements and price negotiations are getting ever tougher. These higher quality demands have resulted in a shift towards offset printing – especially in the market segments of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, both of which are key sources of business for schäfer-etiketten. “That's why we were looking to boost our production capacity with an offset press that also enables even more cost-effective production of existing jobs,” explains Managing Partner Jörg Gottlieb.
“Prospective customers have rarely arrived at our application centre as well prepared for the print tests as schäfer-etiketten,” recalls Manfred Rath, Managing Director of Gallus-Group Vertriebs GmbH in Langgöns. Following an in-depth analysis of the company's job structure, schäfer-etiketten's Production Manager Jürgen Jachmann selected four different jobs to get an idea of just what the Gallus TCS 250 was capable of. These tests covered both screen and offset printing, together with a variety of surface finishes such as foil embossing and flexographic varnishing. The team from Wolfschlugen had a definite idea of the throughput they expected to achieve with the planned new acquisition. They were interested to see whether a press with a printing width of 254 mm and a speed of 11,000 cycles per hour would be able to meet their requirements.
Fig. 1: (From left to right:) Jürgen Jachmann (schäfer-etiketten), Manfred Rath (Gallus-Group Vertriebs GmbH) and Jörg Gottlieb (schäfer-etiketten).
“It came as a real surprise when our pre-calculated results were exceeded by quite some margin during all the tests in St. Gallen. This was primarily due to the very short setup times. It was amazing how quickly the press was inked up and in register,” says Jachmann. Short setup times are extremely important to schäfer-etiketten because many of the company's jobs involve several different types of labels.
“Anything over 100,000 labels counts as a large order, but when there are eight different kinds of labels, setup times are the all-important factor in ensuring cost-effective production,” stresses Gottlieb.
High-quality products in a variety of colours
The Gallus TCS 250 started production in Wolfschlugen at the beginning of October 2010. It is the ideal complement to the 13 existing presses and was being used in two-shift operation after just two weeks. schäfer-etiketten gets most of its jobs from four key sectors. The two most important ones are cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Together, they account for around two-thirds of turnover. The other two are the food and chemical industries. All four sectors require extremely high-quality labels with special colour combinations. According to Gottlieb, this is exactly where his company's strengths lie. Combining different processes has long been an everyday part of the company's production operations, and both screen and offset printing play important roles in its technical equipment. An estimated 70% of labels are printed on foil materials.
“Over recent years, the quality possible with offset printing has made it increasingly important in many areas, especially the cosmetics sector,” says Jachmann. The print shop has an extremely high-performance model in the Drent VSOP. This reel-fed rotary offset press really comes into its own with long runs. The new Gallus press was intended to plug a gap by offering cost-effective offset production for short to medium runs while still ensuring top-quality printing.
To fulfil this role, the Gallus TCS 250 at schäfer-etiketten has eight printing stations. Five are offset printing units and the other three can be fitted with either screen or flexographic printing units. In comparative print tests, schäfer-etiketten achieved good water-free offset printing results using the wet-offset printing units of the Gallus TCS 250. The conventional process with dampening produced superior ink coverage and the dampening solution helps prevent hickeys.
Jachmann appreciates the impressive accuracy, the sophisticated foil-saving control function and the surprisingly low tool costs of the additional hot foil embossing unit, which works with a heatable magnetic cylinder and embossing plates. Given the high level of surface finishing required by many cosmetics labels, the comparatively low prices of the magnesium embossing plates offer a significant cost benefit.
Using a semi-rotary diecutter makes the press much shorter than one with a flatbed diecutter. In conjunction with a straight web path throughout, this minimises the length of the machine, which prevents unnecessary waste. The press also benefits from automatic register control and video web monitoring – a useful feature given the high quality requirements.
Getting the most out of the press
As a Heidelberg partner, the Gallus Group can take advantage of the Heidelberg Remote System (HEIRES). The Gallus TCS 250 at schäfer-etiketten also benefits from this high-security online connection. If the user so wishes, a service engineer can access the system to provide live support, analyse log files, run diagnostic programs and rectify faults. Rath is confident that schäfer-etiketten will rarely need this service, though, because the company has very well-qualified printers. “As a supplier, we love to see people working at our presses who can really get the most out of them,” he says. Jachmann is happy to return the compliment. He has had nothing but positive feedback from the printers using the Gallus TCS 250 regarding its user-friendly operation and there were no problems at all during the start-up phase.
As a result, Gottlieb is optimistic that the press can cope with a third shift in the longer term. As already mentioned, the company was able to start a second shift after just two weeks of production. This was possible because many jobs were taken over from the other presses and were not completely new ones. Switching these jobs to the Gallus TCS 250 enables them to be completed far more cost-effectively. It also frees up the other presses, thereby creating new capacity.
Fig. 2: schäfer-etiketten uses the Gallus TCS 250 to produce high-quality labels in short and medium runs.
The run length is just one of several considerations when switching a job to the Gallus TCS 250. As Gottlieb explains, “While it is definitely not the right press to use for runs in the millions, 100,000 or 200,000 labels can be produced extremely cost-effectively if the level of surface finishing or other requirements such as combination printing, white preprinting for transparent materials, several special colours or spot varnishing make translatory offset printing the logical option.” This capability satisfies the company's high expectations for the Gallus TCS 250. Consequently, both Gottlieb and Jachmann agree that they would still opt for the same press today.back