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  • Accelerating Delivery for Parts & Service

    by Noel Ward, Editor@Large

    Ask yourself a question: How dependent is your business on the support available for the equipment and technology on your shop floor? If your company is like most others in our industry the answer is probably something like, “More than I’d like it to be.”

    To minimize the stress and moments of panic that come with an unexpected equipment failure, you probably have a series of procedures in place to help ensure you can still meet deadlines and SLAs when things go sideways. Every shop I’ve been in has steps, processes and procedures that are followed when the dragons come to call. And while those are underway a few people are usually on the horn to a supplier or three, trying to fix the problem.

    It’s essential to have such procedures ready and when you need them it’s vital to have partners who can help ensure you get the replacement parts or products you need as quickly as possible. And, in our age of prompt delivery, the bar is set nearly as high for business-critical products as it is for many consumer goods. Wondering about this, I picked up the phone to chat with Tom Fitzgerald, product manager at KBA North America, a member of Koenig & Bauer Group. The firm recently celebrated their 200th anniversary and is the oldest German manufacturer of high quality printing presses with the broadest product range. Tom gave me some insights into how this leading press manufacturer is addressing such challenges a year after Koenig & Bauer and Iberica AG S.A., the second largest European producer of flatbed die-cutters recently joined together

    After these two leading firms formed KBA-Iberica Die Cutters, packaging manufacturers, and especially folding carton printers, began to receive their important products from KBA North America since the Dallas-based firm was named the exclusive North American distributorship for its flatbed die-cutters. Koenig & Bauer’s commitment to customers and its understanding of their parts and service needs are driving the company’s brand-building strategy in North America, perhaps most notably with its expanded offerings as well as parts and service in the post press market. The Dallas facility was already home to the extensive parts inventory for Koenig & Bauer sheetfed presses, newspaper web presses, flexographic presses, special presses for metal-decorating, and now contains more than 250,000 parts for their die-cutting division.

    Proactive parts
    KBA-Iberica is on a path to offering same-day shipping on the majority of die-cutting parts while taking a unique approach for any parts that may not normally be needed. “When a die-cutting part is not in stock, our mission is to expedite the order so it gets to the customer quickly,” explains Fitzgerald. We duplicate all orders for our in-house inventory, especially if we come across a rare occasion where a part is one we don’t normally stock in Dallas. We’ll immediately place an order with our factory in Barcelona for the part required and also an excess of the specific part for future customer needs.” Combined with prompt delivery, this strategy minimizes the distance between North American customers and Koenig & Bauer headquarters in Europe, providing fast response to customer needs. In addition, US and Canada-based service technicians have been trained specifically on rotary and flatbed die-cutters to ensure prompt service is readily available for those devices.

    Featuring some of the fastest presses on the market—with speeds of up to 20,000 sheets per hour—Koenig & Bauer has long been recognized as a leading press manufacturer. In conjunction with flat-bed die-cutters, Koenig & Bauer recently showcased their latest innovation in rotary die-cutting—the Rapida RDC 106— at an open house in Germany toward the end of last year. The rotary die-cutter stands for ultimate performance in inline die-cutting and their expertise with sheetfed Rapida technology makes it possible. Koenig & Bauer’s individually tailored die-cutting solutions bring printer’s printed sheets into shape and provide for smooth downstream processing of the final product. Building on an established presence in commercial offset and folding carton printing (among other segments) the company enhanced its value to customers with its line of highly automated, operator-friendly flat-bed and rotary die-cutting systems, some featuring makeready times as short as 10 minutes.

    Single source
    The advantage for print providers is that Koenig & Bauer provide a sales, parts and service resource for some of the fastest printing and finishing systems on the planet. By comparison, most other press makers don’t offer leading-edge finishing systems and all support must come from two or more separate companies. And, when a part fails, it can be challenging to obtain the needed parts in a tight timeframe.

    I thought that sounded great as a talking point, but to most North American printers KBA-Iberica has either been an unknown quantity or not thought to be an option because parts and service were not always immediately available. So I asked Fitzgerald how that has changed. I was surprised to learn that in 2017 alone, KBA-Iberica’s North American sales exceeded those of the past five years, showing the confidence print providers have in the Koenig & Bauer brand. He also noted that some customers told him they had not considered KBA-Iberica machines prior before they knew the parts and service would be coming from Koenig & Bauer. Fitzgerald says the machines drawing the most attention are the Optima 106 and 106K, the I-Press 106 and 106K, all of which appear to offer levels of performance that should make them appealing fits for many different size print operations. Accustomed as I am to finishing systems for sheetfed digital presses, the speed and performance of these industrial strength machines is always fascinating to me. And they offer so much for the dollar.

    But still, parts and service for any presses and finishing systems remains mission critical. In fact, the demand for post-press parts is equal to or even greater than for sheetfed parts. Not long ago I was in a print shop and noted how one of its big offset presses was down even though the job queue looked as if it stretched out a few days. I was surprised because the press was a common enough machine, albeit a few years old. Parts were on the way, I was told. But there was tension in the air as time burned and immovable deadlines loomed. I’d seen this before in print shops and I always marvel at the backup strategies in place to keep things moving. Now I look at Koenig & Bauer’s array of parts for its various presses and finishing systems, its commitment to customers, and the goal of being able to ship most items within a day of the order and admire how it fits with the “we need it now” nature of today’s printing business. Koenig & Bauer’s claim “we’re on it.” gets to the heart of their values and competencies and ability to address these demands in the industry.

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