"If we've ever done something at the right moment, installing the new press was it." Andy Kleist, Menasha Preprint Production Manager
With today's industry-wide down-sizing, it takes a lot of confidence in a business model to commit to a major-league expansion. While others are downsizing, Menasha bucked the trend by going full ahead with a carefully planned expansion that included purchasing one of the largest wide web presses in the world and building a 44,000-square-foot addition to house it at the Menasha PrePrint facility.
In announcing the project, Mike Waite, president of Menasha Packaging, said, "The expansion and press addition are in response to the need for high-quality printing at greater speeds and the increasing demand for this product. Continued growth in the wholesale club and mass retail channels will require shelf-ready and Point-of-Purchase display products created from preprinted linerboard."
Fortified with a long record of delivering outstanding performance, quality production and trusted customer service, Menasha's expansion was in response to research that showed growing demands for preprint liner board, especially in nondurable markets, including food, pharmaceuticals, and beverage packaging. For these markets, Menasha plans to be North America's leading independent preprint liner board supplier.
Before selecting a Bobst Group member FISCHER & KRECKE FP 96S-8 central impression flexographic press, Menasha conducted a diligent consideration of all the flexo printing options.
Roger Ver Voort, PrePrint general manager with more than 30 years experience, said, "We contacted all the major press builders and let them know we were looking for versatility and high speed. We wanted the ability to crank out high quality rolls, day in and day out -- enough to give us a leading position in the nondurable, including commodity, markets. The choice came down to two options. To ensure versatility, we required rapid changeover ability. A belt-driven press supplier was close to matching the capabilities we sought, but though they were competitive in price and changeover speed, we believed they could not achieve the overall production speed needed to get us to the position where we wanted to be."
Another preprint veteran, Andy Kleist, production manager, said, "We essentially discovered there was nothing out there that could match the web width, speed and efficiencies F&K offered. We visited an F&K installation in Germany, (Christiansen Print) that had pretty much the same press we wanted and were very impressed by its performance and the quality of product it produced."
Teaming up with FISCHER & KRECKE, an industry-wide force in its own right and an equally capable partner is proving to be exactly the right move for Menasha. For example, as impressive as the potential of the press, the ease and speed of the installation was even more amazing.
In a few months, from the first shovel turned at groundbreaking on June 2, 2008, until the first weeks of January 2009, Menasha Preprint built the 44,000 square feet addition to house the new press, purchased, and installed the colossal new FP 96S-8 and trained teams to operate it. Six weeks after arrival at the Neenah, Wisconsin facility, the press was running product.
Drawing on his decades of experience, including installation of nine presses, Ver Voort said, "This was the smoothest and fastest installation of all. The F&K technicians were well trained and the riggers they contracted knew their stuff. It could not have gone more smoothly. We were delighted by how quickly the installation went, with our team trained and ready to produce."
Kleist noted that most of the Menasha operators were already handy with a computer and quickly adapted to the completely computer-controlled press. "Our people were ready in two weeks," he said.
Configured to be the fastest preprint flexo press in the world, Menasha's new FISCHER & KRECKE press is one of only three in the world of its size and capabilities. It is approximately 135 feet long, 26 feet high and can run web widths from 50 to 98 inches at speeds up to 1,700 feet per minute. Thanks to the servo drives, preprint applications can now be run with progressively adjustable repeat length in a range between 30 to 79 inches. It is the only model C I preprint flexo printing press that offers servo drive and sleeve technology with a lateral loading system.
Menasha's press is engineered to be easily retrofitted with F&K's smartGPSTM, the new technology for setting registration and impression that increases productivity, reduces waste and enhances press speeds.
"The FP 96S is proving to be thoroughbred paper eater," Ver Voort said. "We already have it running close to its rated capabilities and changeovers are smooth and fast."
According to Andy Kleist, "The press has run up to 1700 fpm in tests but the Menasha team needs to continue to explore substrates and sticky backs to get the most out of the press capabilities. As speed increases, print changes. When we get all the components in alignment, production will really take off," Kleist said.
Changeovers too are easy and Kleist cited the unique F&K Autoclean option and the ease of sleeve changes as being especially effective.
Ver Voort was impressed with the FISCHER & KRECKE service as well. For example, a short while after startup, Menasha encountered a production problem with the press.
Ver Voort recalled, "Our guys worked on it for awhile and couldn't quite come up with a fix. We connected the press to F&K through the Ethernet (the "In View" option) and in a couple of hours an email came through: 'good to go' and it was."
In tribute to Menasha's wisdom, not only in regard to quality production, but also when it comes to business, and going against the trend, Ver Voort reports the press is already "filling up" and if things continue as they are they may be looking to increase capacity by early next year.
Mulling over Menasha's purchase of the new press during a general economic downturn, Kleist said: "If we've ever done something at the right moment, installing the new press was it."
Will Menasha consider another F&K press?
"You bet we will," Roger Ver Voort concluded.