As we’ve noted before, many of our customers have been deemed “essential” in the fight against COVID-19. Last week, one reached out to us to say that they had been contacted by the White House COVID-19 Task Force about dramatically ramping up production of medical devices in anticipation of enormous demand. They wanted to know, could we deliver a catheter printing machine in two to three weeks?
EPS has built medical product printing machines for many customers, so the technical challenges were slight. The greater challenges were logistical in the “new normal” of physical distancing. How would we conduct the Factory Acceptance Test (FAT)? How would we perform the standard installation, which usually involves sending a technician to the customer’s facility for onsite installation and training?
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted every aspect of the global economy, but perhaps nowhere more so than in the manufacturing sector, where working from home just isn’t a possibility. We’ve written in the past about our efforts to “flatten the curve” and keep our employees safe and healthy, and we are continuing to follow CDC and state guidelines as they evolve. Our sales department is working from home but continuing to communicate with customers. Our software engineers are also working remotely. Additionally, EPS is investigating opportunities under the CARES Act, passed by Congress to encourage companies to retain workers during the COVID-19 crisis, in order to ensure that we can continue to offer our full range of goods and services, from industrial inkjet printers and pad print machines to custom pad print pads and laser-engraved pad print clichés. We have not reduced our workforce. Our capabilities remain undiminished, and we will do everything we can to keep our team intact.
Our assembly department is also adopting best practices to discourage the spread of the virus. Our production floor is large, as are our machines, so physical distancing has always been the case for us. Similarly, nitrile gloves have always been standard equipment, since ink can be messy. Isopropyl alcohol is a standard item found on every work bench. Masks are available for any who wish to wear one. In addition, we have adopted flex-time schedules, with some of our employees coming in to work in the evenings and on weekends.
Our curve-flattening measures seem to be paying off. To date, not a single employee of EPS has tested positive for the coronavirus, and we have been able to provide an uninterrupted supply of print consumables. We are also taking new machine orders and fulfilling existing orders.
In short, we are able to provide the full range of products and services that we always provide. We will deliver the medical device-marking machine to our customer in the time-frame allotted, along with providing clichés with their artwork. We have begun conducting FATs by video, and we have had the ability to remotely diagnose and service machines for years, so we continue to provide the after-sales service we pride ourselves on.
Life may never go back to as before, but some things won’t change. Engineered Printing Solutions will still offer a complete range of industrial inkjet printers, pad print machines, ancillary equipment such as pretreatment systems, part-loading and –unloading automation, dryers, laser cliché makers, and other optional devices, as well as custom pad print pads, inks, and printing plates for your direct-to-object part-decoration needs.
Got a part-decorating challenge? Drop us a line—let’s start a conversation!
At EPS, we design and build custom inkjet part-marking solutions that integrate with your production line. Since every application is different, no two machines are alike. The upstream parts conveyor might be unique, or the print head array may have extended gamut colors like orange, green, and violet. Perhaps the substrate material requires pretreatment for adhesion. After the part is printed and cured, there may be some offloading requirements or secondary operation such as assembly or packaging.
In order to solve your part-marking challenge, we have to maintain a deep bench of talent—software engineers, electrical engineers, CAD/CAM specialists, ink specialists, and integration specialists all of whom work in concert to provide the solution that is right for you.
Building a bespoke industrial inkjet machine is a little like baking a cake from scratch. Once the project parameters have been agreed upon and the design has been finalized, CAD drawings are sent to our welding facility where the basic frame you see above is welded and powdercoated. Next, the control panels and electrical boxes are installed. Part-loading and -unloading assemblies are added next, followed by the print engine. Finally, the computer is installed.
Once the machine is assembled, extensive testing begins to ensure that the part-marking inkjet printer meets the project brief in terms of image quality, throughput, and unit cost. Usually, our customer will visit our facility to witness the machine in operation in what is known as an FAT, or Factory Acceptance Test. Only after our customer has signed off on the FAT does their machine leave our facility.
The end result is a machine that integrates perfectly with your production line in terms of throughput speed and upstream and downstream part-handling requirements. Whether you are marking automotive parts, medical parts, caps and closures, or promotional items, Engineered Printing Solutions has designed a direct-to-object product-decorating solution for your industry.
We know what it takes to successfully integrate a product-marking solution into existing production lines. Let us design a bespoke system for your company. Contact one of our Sales Engineers today!
What to find our more about our bespoke product-decoration solutions? Drop us a line!
written by Debbie Thorp, Business Development Director – Global Inkjet Systems Ltd. for Screen Print Magazine
The digital revolution has its sights on a new challenge, and decorating three-dimensional objects offers no shortage of puzzles or possibilities.
Product decoration using inkjet technology isn’t new – systems have in fact been on the market for many years. But recent developments have made decorating three-dimensional objects (not to be confused with 3D inkjet or additive manufacturing) one of the most talked-about segments in the industry.
Sales of small-format flatbed printers designed for decorating promotional items are increasing; more vendors are entering the market and the systems feature new capabilities. Also, we’ve seen significant developments in the mid- to high-end range of production printers. Systems that were demonstrated at tradeshows a few years ago are now proving themselves in real production environments.
Personalization and engagement are buzzwords that have been permeating marketing campaigns and social media in recent years with companies vying for “likes” on Facebook and developing ever more innovative ways of enticing us to buy their products. Numerous fast-moving consumer goods companies are now using digital printing technologies to add value to their brands and increase the “user experience.” What arguably started with Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign has exploded into personalized Nutella jars, Heinz soups, My Heineken bottles, and even customized dog food with Purina’s Just Right range – and there are many, many more examples.
The benefits and drivers for using digital printing technologies are well-known, including cost-effective short runs; just-in-time production; design freedom; no screens, clichés, pads, or time-consuming setup costs; and variable-data capability offering the potential for every product to be different. Then there are the particular advantages that inkjet technology brings as a noncontact technology that can print onto different product shapes – not only flat objects, but also tubes, conical shapes, and even tubs. Inkjet can also print onto structured surfaces, creating unusual visual and haptic effects, enabling decoration in areas not possible with labels. In short, inkjet can potentially operate in the same space as screen, dry offset, and pad printing – and yet offer the additional high-value benefits of a digital print technology.
Printing onto spheres, cylinders, and uneven surfaces is a challenge inkjet developers have happily embraced, offering direct print alternatives in applications where pad printing or labels would have been used in the past. Courtesy of Roland DGA.
view the rest of the article here – http://ow.ly/h0ok30dA5kF
Companies speak of guiding principles, vision statements and of strategic objectives. Companies proudly track significant achievements on timelines as a memorial to their evolution. I think it is important to have this perspective as Carl Sagan once said “You have to know the past to understand the present.”
Since our founding in 1985 we have important events we keep track of, most are facility expansion benchmarks required to keep pace with a continuous increase in projects moving through our shop floor. One of those transformative projects found its way back to the floor recently.
For some it seemed a bit out of place. Older technology, tattered graphics, comments like “it just looks used”. For others it marked an important point in our trajectory as an organization, a turning point that has led us down a pretty incredible path. It was here on our floor again because the client wanted to update it with the latest technology installed on the new printer recently put into production.
This was the first industrial inkjet printer we designed and built in 2009 to bring the customer into the digital manufacturing revolution. This engineered solution was built to solve two important problems, first to cut labor cost and secondly to cut product loss….Could we design a first of its kind machine, completely unique in their industry in a way that made financial sense?
This new digital machine had to replace six separate rotary table pad printing cells that required nine full time operators running in three shifts a day, seven days a week. There was a perceived need to eliminate inefficiency of changing out inks and clichés after each 144 print count, every day. Production had flat-lined and the product margins were being squeezed by an increase in overtime pay. The project proved difficult but those challenges the team encountered changed our company and the functional teams approach and ultimately our companies’ philosophy. Our (long term) partner broke through their comfort zone and took a risk on an unproven design.
After successful factory acceptance testing the machine was put into production on the facility floor. As the initial weeks went by there was a enthusiasm from the shift staff about the level of production they were achieving. Each day they noticed output improvements and were eventually able to eliminate the weekend shifts. Worker morale improved because the difficult change-out process had been eliminated. The machine software was integrated seamlessly into the internal SAP system helping streamline the ordering process.
A year later a second printer was installed at another site. Finally a third system was ordered in 2014. Each machine took advantage of design improvement and new technologies. LED cure inks became available, resulting in a reduction of energy consumption while eliminating the need for elaborate cooling systems. There was a new smaller more efficient flow through ink management system with better control of ink viscosity
The original printer will be productive on a manufacturing floor again soon.
The machine is not viewed as an eyesore now. It is viewed as a part of the proud legacy that shaped the direction of our company well into the future. The original project ushered in a new direction for EPS. This project was the catalyst behind the words ‘engineered’ and ‘solutions’ in our company name.
A vision is not where you are now. A vision is where you want to be in the future. Our partner for this project had a vision and was willing to take a risk that led to completely project cost recovery in three months by reducing the number of operators, overtime and nearly all product waste.
In this edition of EPS Insider I caught up with Jim Tower, Technical Services Manager at Engineered Printing Solutions. Simply put, Jim is dedicated. He commutes around an hour each way every day and he offers customers around the clock mobile phone availability. His morning commute is devoted to mental preparation for the work day ahead, and his commute home offers an opportunity to wind-down.
Jim and the Technical Services Team play a vitally important role at EPS. Jim and his team are responsible for supporting the Sales Team in the early stages of product qualification, generating the samples for each of our prospective clients. Technical Services is deeply involved in the development and maintenance of our facilities process development. They also put the final stamp on our completed projects during the quality control phase prior to shipment. And lastly, our most important point of competitive differentiation, our post-manufacturing customer support that follows every product we ship for the products entire lifespan.
Q: What is your role here and what responsibilities does it entail?
“I am the Technical Services Manager at EPS and manage a 15 person department. Our team handles a wide variety of responsibilities, a good place to start is at the ‘hand off’ from the Machine Assembly and Engineering Team(s) after a piece of equipment is complete. We make sure that the equipment meets all specifications, and after we are satisfied that these specification have been met we build a process for support around them. We are very critical during these activities because nothing will leave this building unless we are positive we have met our customer expectations. Accomplishing this is all about process development, and this is where the talent of this department really comes into play.”
“In addition, we provide support for the life of the equipment after we have completed our final testing steps before we ship to their facility. This post purchase customer support is a large part of what we do every day. It begins with what I term, installation commissioning and on-site training. This involves visiting the customer’s facility, checking the equipments condition, reproducing the production process, establishing a baseline of what the equipment is capable of, and then training the customer to effectively perform the process themselves.”
Q: Can you tell me more about the free lifetime technical support that we provide to our industrial printing customers?
“While we offer an extensive warranty for every product we sell, the personal relationship never really stops for us. We provide free post-warranty, lifetime technical support to all original equipment owners of our machines. This support is provided via phone, email, Skype…whatever remote assistance is most comfortable for the customer. All of our larger systems can be operated and diagnosed right from my desk via TeamViewer, the proprietary remote access software solution we have relied on for years.”
“We find a special pride in our ability to develop long-term relationships with each of them. We cherish all of our customers and we frequently receive positive feedback because they know that we are always here for them. We will send a qualified Technician to any facility within a few hours time if the situation warrants this level of timeliness support. We know that really matters and we have loyal, repeat customers because that’s the level of support we are known for.”
Q: In addition to simply providing the free lifetime support, what about it do you think sets us apart from other companies in our industry?
“I think what sets us apart is our responsiveness and expertise, which is second to none. You can ask any customer and they will tell you as much. We make every effort to get back to our customers within minutes of a request. In addition to my team having a high level of expertise and quick response time, they are a ‘likable’ group. People enjoy speaking to them, and prefer that over opening a manual and troubleshooting an issue themselves. We have a mantra here; if our customers are successful we are successful. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, and therefore they are more likely to consider EPS for future projects. We have built relationships with our customers and know where they are at with a piece of equipment. As a result, we can pick up on something right where we have left off.
“That being said, the double-edged sword here is that if a customer is picking up the phone to call us, it’s not because they wanted to say hello. It’s because they have encountered an issue and they need a quick and thorough resolution. Let’s use a newly purchased machine as an example. A significant investment has been made and there’s a learning curve there, plain and simple. The customer is still getting their ‘sea legs’ and that is where most problems occur. It’s our job to diffuse the situation, to calm them down and do what we do…which is to work them through the problem. This is what my team is very good at.”
Q: How and why do customers depend on your department for sample production?
“There’s any number of reasons as to why we produce so many product samples. It can be a contract basis, a custom basis, and most commonly during the presale phase for a new tool for proof of concept and quality. A company might simply need samples done for a trade show. A customer may be struggling with their own in-house printing, and ask us to figure out the problem. There are lots of reasons we’ll turn a machine on here!”
Q: What do you think best summarizes the importance of the technical services department?
“It would be the fact that there is no such thing as a ‘service-less machine’. Our customers simply need us in one manner or another. Regardless of whether or not it is a technical issue with some aspect of the printer, or the operator is struggling with a process. My team is here to see them through it.”
Q: What do you personally enjoy the most about your position and leading your team on a daily basis?
“The challenge of the job, hands down! After doing this for 20 years, I still learn something new every day. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing it. Engineered Printing Solutions is a ‘custom automation house’, and thus no two processes are the same. We are uniquely positioned to produce and service three very different solutions; pad printing machines, cutting edge digital machines and completely customized, uniquely manufactured proprietary machines. There might be a few cookie cutter aspects with the smaller, pad printing equipment. However, when you get into the larger machines, none of it is the same. The challenge for my technicians and I is understanding what those differences are so we are able to diagnose and repair them. That’s the challenge, in addition to always meeting the customer’s expectations…of course!”
For more information about Engineered Printing Solutions custom solutions, such as standard pad printers, industrial inkjet, consumables and auxiliary equipment, visit www.epsvt.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-272-7764.
In this edition of EPS Weekly, I caught up with Dan Leiter, sales engineer here at Engineered Printing Solutions. Dan has been in the printing industry for 25 years, with the last 10 years of it providing industrial printing solutions to clients via both pad printing and inkjet technology. We had an interesting conversation that touched upon a number of things related to the dynamics of the customer relationship. This ranged from the inception of the EPS/Client relationship to ongoing support and maintenance of a solution that has already been designed and delivered.
What do you think is the most critical consideration when beginning to work with a client toward the custom design of an industrial printing machine, be it a pad or inkjet printing solution?
“The qualification process of defining the customer’s needs and delivering a solution or product that meets those needs is by far the most critical part of the process. It can be a difficult job, because a lot of our larger customers often have the involvement of numerous people from various departments such as engineering, operations, and marketing. The project might start out with a very simple process for a company, but as more players get involved, more requirements get brought in to the mix that have to be met.
As a result, we have worked hard over the years to establish and confirm expectations as early in the project as possible. We have achieved this through extensive specifying of needs with our customers to minimize unnecessary research and development costs, as well as keep projects on schedule.”
Do you feel that taking this ‘deeper dive’ with specifying needs early on with the customer has been successful in defining what the customer is truly looking for and needs?
“Yes. It has allowed us to define things, so that invariably when a customer approaches us later in the process regarding a specific functionality (or feature) that was requested, we can in turn reassure them that they will be getting exactly what was detailed in the design documentation.
On the other hand, if the customer is requesting additional features and/or functionalities after an entire process and procedure has been documented, that’s something different. Yes, we are always going to go above and beyond to make our customers extremely satisfied with the end product. However, add-ons and change requests in the middle of a machines design inevitably result in more project hours and thus additional costs.
The pre-build specification process places a milestone in the path, which protects both the customer and EPS by minimizing the probability of unforeseen costs and completion delays. So ultimately, it’s about getting as granular as possible when establishing expectations, and keeping everybody on task.”
As a sales engineer, what are some of the things that you find most gratifying (as well as challenging) when you’re working toward a custom, industrial printing solution for a customer?
“I’ve been in the graphic arts industry my entire adult life. We all claim to have ‘ink in our veins’. As a result, I have a natural inclination toward the entire printing process, including direct-to-shape, which I’ve been doing here at EPS over the last 10 years.
What makes it challenging is that we often have to reinvent the wheel to meet our customer’s specific needs. Every job can be an entirely different product – every job can comes with an entirely different set of requirements. You have to ‘define’ all of these requirements and then develop a solution that is going to ‘address’ all of them…each and every time.
I would say what makes it gratifying is taking a complex set of requirements (that are unique in nature) and exceeding the customer’s expectations in the end. A lot of what we do here is about helping our customers bring an innovation and/or invention to life. We are playing an active part in making entrepreneurial visions a reality. This is why we refer to our customers as partners. It’s a reference that is used all too often, but is completely fitting in our business.”
Tell me more about the customization side in all of this. What do you mean when you say “every job is different”? Can you give some examples?
“There is almost always a difference and/or variation when it comes to the automation that we customize for a client. This ranges from the type, size and shape of the product that they’re looking to decorate on, to the way in which they are looking to decorate on it. Product examples as simple as a tape measure, a glass bottle, a flashcard (to name a few), still have specific print areas that the customer wants to decorate. This in and of itself creates the need for a custom fixture, and that makes it unique to that particular customer. Even with similar shaped products, it’s different from customer to customer. Customers manufacturing the same type of product can have different processes in which our equipment needs to fit.
They’re all trying to create new processes to improve their quality and efficiencies. It’s exciting, but at the same time challenging. That being said, we love being part of it!”
Can you think of a specific industrial printing solution (pad or inkjet) that stands out as far as size and scope?
“A project that comes to mind is a printing services company that was looking for a digital inkjet machine that would exclusively work on their direct mail campaign. The machine needed to offer heavy personalization, short run capability and high throughput. In addition, the client wanted a solution that would print onto a pen 180 degrees (around the circumference of the pen barrel), in two different colors, and onto a dozen different pen styles.
These requirements required a digital inkjet printer that was highly customized from both an automation and software standpoint. When you’re working with a number of variables that require specific robotic features and heavy software programming, you’re now looking at a fairly complex and sophisticated machine. You are also looking at a significant investment.
In the end our mechanical and software engineers worked together to deliver a heavily customized XD-70 Industrial Inkjet Printer. (Click link for more information on standard configuration). The machine met all the demands that the client requested and we’ve been providing ongoing training and field support since it was deployed to their manufacturing environment last year.”
What do you think the future landscape of industrial printing looks like, and do you see it changing how you work with your customers?
“In terms of the direction that the industry is going, digital is clearly driving the bus now. Digital is still in its relative infancy as far as a decorating technology. Where digital needs to go to achieve broad market acceptance primarily involves pretreatment and ink adhesion.
Getting the ink to stick to the product and meet customer durability standards is paramount. Most of our customers are not printing on ‘throwaway’ items and have stringent requirements when it comes to this. The image needs to be able to maintain its quality while being exposed to various degrees of wear and tear, cleaning and expected life of the product.
It is my belief that new methods of pretreatment will be entering the market and gaining acceptance. Currently we use various methods; a chemical wipe, a flame, corona, and plasma treatments. Although they all have their strengths, ink adhesion with glass, metal and ceramics come with challenges. It is the new pretreatments that are expected to largely address these challenges, allowing greater ink adhesion and durability.
As far as how we are going to be working with our customers towards solutions, it will still be a lot of customization based on customer needs, and probably more. This is because customers (particularly large ones) will be looking for an all in one machine specific to their product line. A company that wants to print on 18 different products (all of various shapes, sizes and substrate types), and wants a single machine to accomplish is what you’re looking at here. That’s where we come in, because that’s what we do at EPS. That’s what we’ve already been doing for quite some time.”
For more information about Engineered Printing Solutions custom solutions, such as standard pad printers, industrial inkjet, consumables and auxiliary equipment, visit www.epsvt.com, email email@example.com or call 1-800-272-7764.