Most of us in the printing industry probably remember our first day on the job. I recall wandering through skids of paper, assaulted by the hectic buzz of large, high-speed multi-color presses. Escorted to my new home at the back of the shop, several pieces of old, ugly bindery equipment lay in monstrous wait for me. I had no clue where paper went in or where it came out.
My first job that day had nothing to do with bindery machinery. I had to manually insert a 2-page section into a 4 page piece of sheet music. That was the day I learned that 10,000 was a huge number, because that’s how many finished pieces there were. It took me forever. That was my first lesson on the importance of fast hand labor, manual dexterity, and practice. Slow was frowned upon.
The next day my equipment education began. I was eager, but the process was slow, overwhelming, and occasionally frustrating. With the hindsight of many years of both good and bad experience with all kinds of print finishing equipment, I eventually learned a few ways to speed up the learning process and avoid mistakes. Here are a few of the lessons:
Read the Manuals
I recall taking a new job at a shop with an assortment of folding machines. By this time I had several years’ experience on larger machines and the small pile-fed Baumfolder they had seemed easy enough. I didn’t bother to look at the manuals.
The folder simply wouldn’t feed well on some jobs no matter what I tried. After struggling for weeks, one day I picked up the manual and there in a simple diagram was the answer to my feeder problem. There was one pile height adjustment for light stocks and a second one for cover stocks. I was using one setting for both stocks. Duh. Problem solved. From that day on I never ignored equipment manuals.
If you can’t find the manuals, search online. Or send us an email and if we have one, we’ll send it to you. There are plenty of manufacturer’s online resources available today, such as the FAQ’s and Instructions we have on our own site.
Take a Class
All the major manufacturers such as Heidelberg, MBO, Muller, Baumfolder, and Horizon have training available at their facilities or will send instructors to your shop.
This related story talks about how one printing company boosted productivity up to 80% on their Stahl B26 with basic equipment training from the manufacturer. It’s what you don’t know that hurts you!
The training you get from a manufacturer is likely to be more thorough than training you get from co-workers. On-the-job learning is intermittent and probably doesn’t follow any kind of syllabus. It’s still very valuable but it may leave gaps in knowledge. The manufacturer wants to see you succeed with their equipment. I can say from experience that this is not always the case with some co-workers.
The photo at right shows Matt Loeschorn, (right side) our Operations Assistant at Technifold USA, at the August 2015 MBO Folding School with a fellow student. Three days of manufacturer training gave him an excellent background on folding equipment that we couldn’t have provided in-house.
Talk to a Mechanic
Without a doubt, talking to a bindery equipment mechanic can be one of the most important things you do. A good, trustworthy mechanic will freely share valuable tips, tricks, and suggestions, especially if they do regular work in your shop. They have field experience that you’ll never get and is likely not in any equipment manual, if one’s even available. Keep a running list of machine squawks and questions. Then share them with the mechanic the next time he or she stops by.
If you’re looking for a technician for a particular piece of bindery equipment, send Gina an email here with equipment details and we’ll send you the name of someone who should be able to help.
Get a Part-Time Job on the Equipment You’re Learning
One of the best educational things I ever did was to take a part-time night job working at a trade bindery. It was in the same New York City building where I worked during the day, so logistics were easy. I simply walked upstairs when I clocked out from my day job.
When I started the part-time job, I had a couple of years’ experience and was starting to feel like I had learned something. My first night on the new job proved otherwise. I was given a simple signature to fold and didn’t have a clue. My night time boss quickly figured out my skill level and was gracious enough to slow down the pace and give me some instruction. I learned a lot, fast!
Ask questions of colleagues who also work on your equipment. Ask the manufacturer or vendor. As their customer you’re entitled to some level of assistance. (We always welcome any and all questions here at Technifold USA and will work doggedly to get you the right answer. You can ask us anything here.) Ask questions in online forums. Printplanet.com has several forums devoted to various segments of the printing business including Post-Press and Print Finishing. Use your social media connections to find people who might be able to answer your questions.
Don’t forget however, to respect other people’s time when you’re picking their brain. If you’re asking a busy technician or popular consultant to answer questions, he or she will likely respond. But there could be a cost for extended consultation. Professionals charge for their time, especially if it’s the only product they offer.
In the early stages of learning, a hurried approach won’t get the job done any faster and will increase mistakes. Create a make-ready technique or checklist that works for you. You can still be methodical and fast. Speed comes with experience.
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If you’re new to your bindery department, don’t get discouraged. With a little patience and study you’ll quickly pick up what you need to know. If you have any stories about learning how to run equipment, please feel free to share them below.