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Covid contingencies

What have your systems suppliers been doing to help you keep running in a disrupted working environment? See if yours are doing as much as others…

Yup, if ever remote diagnostics and virtual support were going to prove their worth it’s been over the last few weeks – for obvious reasons. As we move into a ‘new normal’ we take a look at how kit suppliers are working to help you run streamlined businesses in straightened times. 

At Durst, for instance, remote diagnostics are expected to become more important, “though it’s something our clients have been benefiting from for many years,” says Peter Bray, MD Durst UK and Ireland, pointing out that “automation and initiatives such as Industry 4.0 and artificial intelligence are part of our all-encompassing ‘from pixel to output’ approach.

“We pride ourselves on having machines that have a world-class reputation for productivity, quality and reliability. But, if something goes wrong, the first step will be to use a team viewer to take control of a machine to establish what needs fixing and how to go about it. In about half the cases in the UK and Ireland, this can be done remotely on the first occasion,” Bray claims.

“The machines benefit from Durst Analytics software. In real time, we can view all kinds of useful data. It can also include monitoring critical issues to prevent downtime, enabling faster reaction times for trouble shooting and support and monitor ink durability. If a visit is then needed, we can prevent further downtime by ordering the necessary part that can be taken to the site or will be there when the engineer arrives. And the software also provides the ability for us to be proactive and, on occasions, inform the client that they are going to need to take action to avoid any potential problem in the future.”

Bray adds that Durst’s Customer Experience Centre has also reopened “and our staff have developed concepts for virtual presentations and webcasts as we begin to look to a return to ‘normality’.” 

At Fujifilm the support and service team switched to a remote system, “whereby our staff are on hand at all times to provide customers with solutions to any problems. For any maintenance tasks that can be performed by our customers themselves, we supply remote diagnostics and support tools to help them through the process,” says Nils Gottfried, segment product marketing manager EMEA - wide format inkjet systems and packaging, Fujifilm Graphic Systems Europe, stressing that “we also continue to support customers on site where necessary, and where it is possible do to so in line with local regulations.”

Gottfried also points out that the Onset X HS series from Fujifilm and Inca Digital has been helping wide-format PSPs through hard times due to its high level of automation, including IncaConnect for reducing manual intervention in regards to job preparation.”

“For those signage and display customers operating in countries affected by restricted travel policies, we are equipped to support them remotely and have been rolling out augmented reality tools for an immersive remote support experience wherever possible,” says Jan De Roeck, marketing director, industry relations and strategy at Esko.

“All our software and hardware engineers are equipped to access the Esko intranet through a secure remote connection (VPN). With many prepress operators confined to their homes or unable to work onsite, we supported businesses through making additional temporary licenses for desktop applications available, enabling customer associates to continue working from home more easily. These temporary licenses will be renewed on a monthly basis for as long the industry is affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

De Roeck adds: “While it will take some time for the full impact of the Covid-19 crisis to become clear, one thing we have already noted is that those businesses that have embraced automation are weathering this storm more successfully. For example, our Kongsberg range of digital finishing equipment integrates perfectly with Esko workflow automation software to enable maximum productivity and efficiency, even in the face of a reduced workforce. 

“Efficiency is further enhanced with multi-zone finishing meaning only one operator is needed for two jobs, while the Kongsberg Automate board feeder and stacker, and the Motorized Roll Feeder for wide-format cut down on operator intervention. The Robotic Material Handler offers complete unattended operation. Moreover, with Esko Device Manager, it is also incredibly easy to take control and optimise finishing production, with everything from precise production planning and prioritizing jobs queues to inserting rush jobs and balancing workloads.” 

At Agfa a remote 24/7 support system allows an engineer to speak with a customer and assist. Should a part be required it will be dispatched for fitting by either the customer or an Agfa engineer. 

Agfa too flags up the importance of automation in the new normal of fewer staff at PSPs - spotlighting add-ons for the Jeti Tauro H2500 and H3300 such as the dual-role mode, automatic feeding and unloading.

As part of the company’s response to Covid-19, it is also running a series of online webinars covering print related activity from colour management to press automation and MIS integration.

Among its ‘new normal’ offerings, Blackman and White is “moving into a future of self-diagnostics” according to Eiko Ichikawa-White. Other initiatives include free material testing for new applications.

At Roland, Rob Goleniowski, head of sales, UK and Ireland, says its online support system is proving its worth. Among its remote monitoring options, OnSupport sends e-mail notifications in real time with critical information like job completion status or ink depletion alerts. “Aside from this, most of our recent devices have been developed to include ethernet connection capabilities which means they can be operated over a network/VPN,” says Goleniowski.

Roland DG has responded to the current situation with a ‘We Are Here’ campaign too, with maintenance guides, webinars etc. 

Brett Newman, chief operations manager at Mimaki distributor Hybrid Services, highlights developments that reduce operator intervention - such as Mimaki’s Nozzle Check Unit (NCU) and Nozzle Recovery Systems (NRS) that can be found on the majority of the current product line-up, and recently introduced technologies such as ID Cut. 

Mimaki’s development of its IP Job Controller software heralds connectivity between its printers and external devices such as laser cutters, robotics, QR scanners etc and with customer info (from business management software), image data and the Mimaki Rasterlink Rip with jig support.

Epson UK’s Paul Restarick, pre-sales technical specialist, points out that for PSPs where machine downtime is a consideration, “after a period of inactivity, all Epson devices will perform maintenance when a new job is sent to the printer. Users whose product supports the Epson Edge Dashboard software and has maintenance features, can use remote connection software to perform this remotely.”  

According to Colin Easton, UK and Ireland large format print channel manager at HP, “one feature that is bringing considerable benefit to our customers right now is HP PrintOS. We are seeing an increasing number of additional new users actively using HP PrintOS to remotely monitor unattended print production, check on job completion, monitor media and ink usage and add new jobs to the print queues - all from a remote location via the web or the dedicated mobile app. In the current business climate HP PrintOS is proving itself to be a highly effective tool to simplify and optimise socially distanced remote printing.

 “HP is working hard to support increased demand with additional training webinar programmes for channel partners and end-user technicians via the HP Latex Knowledge Centre. New training programmes are also being developed to support customers keen to explore the new printing opportunities that have been similarly simplified by HP PrintOS and its growing number of sector-specific applications.”

The above is not an exhaustive list of suppliers taking actions to help customers in these unprecedented times of course, nor is it a comprehensive review of all being done by those that are - but it should show you that manufacturers are acting to support you in this new normal.


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