Shop Efficiency and Equipment

By R.O. Vandercook from The Inland Printer, May 1912

Equipment too great in quantity but deficient in quality is the cause, in many a shop, of the unsatisfactory showing made in the cost-of-production records. The pruning-knife needs to be applied to the printing plant fully as often as to the grapevine, and the dead, vitality-destroying material cut off, that the plant may produce lusty fruit.

In the printing plant, every case of useless type, every defective machine, every bit of worn or imperfect material, is a continual tax on its financial vitality. Not so much from the space occupied but from the fact that every piece of material or machinery demands more or less attention and absorbs time whether it is producing anything of value or not. Many a dollar’s worth of valuable time has been lost because worn material has been mixed with good. Many a dollar has been wasted in make-ready because of a worn press. Many a dollar has been wasted in the time of a run because of some easily corrected defect in the press.

Shop equipment is a big subject. Let us get busy for a time on one department—the job-press department. Listen to this conversation between a business doctor, hereinafter called D, and a printing-office boss, hereinafter called B.

D.— “I find that during the past week your six presses, with three feeders and one Gordon pressman, have not produced, all together, 1,500 impressions per hour. You work nine hours a day or fifty-four hours per week. Your total output for the week is less than 70,000 impressions. Your labor cost for pressmen and feeders was $ 38. This makes the average labor cost for your Gordon presswork more than 50 cents per 1,000 .”

B —”But last week was not a fair average week. We had no long runs, but a lot of hard forms requiring long time in make-ready.”

D— “I must take things as I find them. I believe, with the proper equipment and system, with the same feeders and pressman, the labor cost would have been less than 25 cents per 1,000 for the identical work you did last week. I mean also that the same high grade work would have been maintained.”

B— “I can’t believe it, but I want to be shown.”

D— “I find that there is not one of your Gordon presses but that has the platen cam badly worn. Jobs that on a firm, rigid press would require only a few minutes for a good make-ready now take your pressman, who is a good man, half an hour or an hour to make ready. If your pressman had not been as good as he is and able by skilful make-ready to overcome the defects of the presses, the poor work would have brought the condition of your presses to your attention.”

B — “Then I shall have to buy a lot of new presses. But, as you said, the quality of work seemed so good that I thought, of course, the presses must be all right.”

D— “No, you will not have to buy new presses, though it would certainly pay you to do so rather than run your presses as they are. I am sure that four rigid and firm presses will do nearly double the amount of work that is turned out by your six worn presses. It is not necessary for you to go to the expense of new presses. It is now a comparatively small expense to fit in new cam wheels and mill out the cam ways, and this is the major repair that your presses need to put them in as good working condition as new presses. New grippers and new impression screws are also needed on some of the presses, but they can be furnished at a small expense. If a press is firm and rigid under impression, it seldom is necessary to touch the impression screws. True up the platen and lock the impression screws firmly. Give more or less impression by using more or less hard tympan. It is only on rare occasions that the impression screws will have to be touched .” 

B —”You say my pressman is a good man. Then why did he not call my attention to these facts ?”

D— “The man who never complains of the tools furnished him and is never hunting excuses for poor work and does his best to get good work out of the material furnished him is always a better man than one who is always trying to excuse himself by blaming his tools and is continually running to the boss with expense requisitions. The management should know that the tools are in good condition. A manager who does not inspect all details of his plant should get out of the business before the sheriff gets him. You should have seen the defects pointed out in your job presses just as soon as your pressman .. How could he know but that there was some reason, which was none of his business, why you did not want the obvious defects corrected? If nothing else, your time records should have told you that something was wrong, and it was up to you as manager to make investigations rather than to expect the workmen to act as talebearers. A competent management will have to ask but very few questions; but don’t hesitate to ask your men questions. A good man will give straight and valuable replies to pertinent questions when he would never talk unless requested to do so by the one who has the right to ask the questions .” 

B— “I expect my foreman is competent to attend to all those matters of detail .”

D— “That reminds me of an advertisement I once saw for a foreman. The advertisement was a long one, stating just what ability the required foreman must have and what was expected of him. The editor of the paper in which the advertisement appeared commented on it, saying that all such men were not hunting jobs as foremen—they were all successful managers of their own shops or receiving a manager’s salary from some large firm which could afford to pay them what they were worth. You, as manager, give your general orders to your foreman. His job is safer if he follows your orders than if he is continually arguing with you. One of your general orders is that a press proof of every job be submitted to the proofreader and foreman, who are both on another floor and away from your Gordons. You gave this order to insure a better grade of work. Your foreman would consider himself ‘fresh’ if he should intimate to you that you had not the intelligence to see that the time of holding the press, the time of correcting ing press -proof revises, of making changes in the form after it is made ready, costs a lot of money. If he thinks of it he will probably dismiss the subject with the mental comment, ‘Well, if it does cost a lot of money I guess it is worth it, for the boss must have a good reason for doing it.’ If you had a modern proof press in your composing-room, all this time for press-proof revises could be saved. Under your mallet and planer and Washington hand-press method of proving, it is impossible for your reader to detect bad material.

“Let us follow the course of one of your large Gordon forms. A corrected proof is pulled on your Washington, on fine, smooth, enameled paper. The comp gives it enough squeeze to bring it all up. The spongy packing on the Washington and the kind of paper used for proof will bring up stuff that the most skilled pressman can not properly print on the hard paper the job is to be run on when the form is on a regular press. The form is 0.K.’d by the customer, locked up, and sent downstairs to the press. Your pressman works on it an hour or so, doing his best to get the effects that he knows will be required. He sends up a press proof. The proofreader and foreman go over it. They know that if it were possible to bring up properly on the press all the material in the form, your pressman would have done it. The form is ordered back to the composing-room. The imperfect material is picked out and a hunt made for material that will do. The form goes back, and another hour or so is taken for change in make-ready. The value of time in changing defective rules and type in a form after it is locked up is much more than the cost of new and perfect material. With the proper system of proving in your composing-room, all defective material can be detected on the first proof and the said defective material thrown immediately into the hell -box, where it belongs. Good pressmen may spend several times the value of the letters or rules in time inbring ing them up on the press so that they look pretty good. These letters and rules get thrown back into the cases to keep on sucking time and money until so badly worn that the pressman’s skill can not make them do .”

But we are getting into the subject of composing- room equipment, which will be taken up at another time.

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