Thursday, June 20, 2019

Have you greased me today?

ElectraPrint Stealth Series control panel
This little welcome message reminds customers that maintenance on all machinery is necessary.  The more moving parts on a machine, the higher the maintenance level.  The question for each shop is, "Do I need a technician or can we do this ourselves?"

Most maintenance is simple cleaning, lubrication or plug and play parts.  So, to answer that question, you can definitely do it in-house.  Higher end machine calibration can often be done in-house if the person charged with the task is patient, detailed and uninterrupted.  The information to calibrate all of the Brown machines can be found in the manuals that were provided originally and much of it is located on our YouTube page or on the video tab within our web site of the particular machine model.

You're not asking the right question.

The real question is not, should we do it in-house, but do we want to?  And how much does it cost to have someone else do it?

There is some simple math to figure this out.

The price above makes it appear that doing it in house is always the best way.  However, let's consider a few things.
  • If the production staff is doing maintenance on one machine, is anything else being produced.
  • Is that staff capable of adjusting a machine into its best working condition or just mess with it for a few hours and call it good.
  • Can your shop wait for a scheduled visit or are repairs necessary at this moment.  
  • Is that staff member trained to work with the tools necessary.
A trained technician can accomplish quite a few things in a short amount of time. What a trained technician cannot do is guarantee that a machine will not malfunction during your busy times.  Just like your car, they can do the 60,000 mile check up but you could still blow a tire.
  • Recalibrate a press for registration.
  • Replace and repair electronics in ovens and automatic presses
  • Update software on certain products
  • Change filters, lubricate and adjust all mechanical operations.
The decision is a matter of perceived value.  Some would say that if the printer is okay printing on what they have, then in-house is fine.  Others would want a tech to keep everything as close to original spec as possible.  Both options have value and good reasoning.

Generally, manual presses and small ovens do not justify the expense of a tech unless they are already in the building working on something else.  Once the machine has a higher level of mechanized parts, a technician every few years is a good investment.  As an example, for an automatic printer:

8 hours time (includes travel) = $1200
Every 3 years $1200/3 = $400 per year
Machine life 12 years so 4 x $400 = $1600 for the life of the machine

In our thinking, $1600 is an excellent investment in a press that is a mainstay of your production.  And, once you have invested in the travel time, have the tech work on the small stuff too.

One final note, the true question for older machinery is whether maintenance or repair still has value or should you trade up?  That question is an additional conversation in cost analysis.  Next time....