Saving by lubricating

Lubrication in practice at Royal Hoitsema Labels

In producer Interflon’s view, lubricants don’t get the attention they deserve. Label producer Royal Hoitsema Labels in the Dutch province of Groningen would like to explain once and for all how important lubricating is for the company.

Royal Hoitsema Labels (Hoitsema) is one of the top five oldest companies in the Netherlands. This label producer in Groningen was established as far back as 1653. “It is remarkable that, despite our long existence, so many people have never heard of us, whereas our products can be found in so many households,” says Human Resource Manager Hermen Goedhart. Perhaps that is because Royal Hoitsema Labels delivers directly to producers. The company once started printing stories in verse form. Over time they printed all kinds of matter, including newspapers. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Hoitsema began printing and specialising in labels. Not a bad choice, as it turns out; the company now counts 100 employees and operates round-the-clock. It owes its growth mainly to the production of labels and tobacco wraps for cigarettes, rolling tobacco and tobacco tins for consumers to fill their own filter tubes.

Sophisticated production

It may be one of the oldest printing companies in the Netherlands, but it boasts the most up-to-date technology. Over time, sophisticated production lines combined with robot technology have enabled the company to constantly heighten its efficiency, thus keeping foreign competitors at bay. Major brands in the beer and dairy industries have beaten a path to Hoitsema’s door. The production line for beer bottle labels is impressive, starting with sheets of labels printed on the Roland 700 printing machine, which are then automatically cut, die-cut and packaged ready for immediate use in the producers’ filling lines.

High ink percentage

There are two main flows in the production process: wet-strong and non-wet-strong labels. Hans Dagelet is the production manager. “We only use paper with a grammage of up to 100 grams on, for example, an eight-colour printing press with double varnish and UV drying, for which we have installed flexo gold and varnish modules. So it’s not a standard Roland 700. The double varnishing with flexo gold approaches the effect of engraved printing,” says Dagelet. The company also works with two six-colour printing presses. The sheet die-cutting machine is used to die-cut tobacco wraps. There are two lines in the finishing process, one for cut labels and one for die-cut labels. “We print lots of PMS colours and a high ink percentage on relatively low grammage. We notice that printers have a lot to learn when they come to work here. What we achieve with full-surface printing and lots of ink can only be taught here. Printing involves dealing with a lot of smears, lots of cleaning, long drying times, keeping the lots open, etc.”

Listening to the shop floor

Two years ago, the company joined the Noordelijke productie-alliantie (NPAL/Northern Production Alliance), in which industrial companies in the northern part of the Netherlands join forces. Manufacturers like Scania and Philips are members for purposes of learning from each other with respect to productivity improvement. Based on the so-called Lean Six Sigma method, the companies explore how they can improve their processes and create added value, taking their starting point from employees on the shop floor and working methodologies.

Lubricating as an art

Stoppage is unacceptable in this printing company, which operates 24/7 in five shifts. Goedhart: “You have to plan when to shut down the machines. You want to avoid disruptions. Maintenance has to be scheduled and kept to a minimum. Maintenance includes lubricating. When you lubricate you should only lubricate as required, not too much and not too little, in the right way and in the right spot.” Dagelet: “Lubricating is an art. If you don’t lubricate enough, you accelerate wear; if you lubricate too much you risk soiling the printed matter.” The machines at Hoitsema are lubricated according to a strict lubricating schedule. “Lubricating looks easy: all you do is attach a grease pump to a grease nipple, make a few jabs here and there and you’re done, right? But, there’s more to it than that,” says Dagelet. “Take, for instance, gripper axles, which are lubricated once every 5,000 operating hours. On one occasion they were lubricated during normal maintenance, after which the prints came out with grease marks splattered all over them.”

Slick as ice

High-performance lubricants can significantly reduce maintenance intervals. By teaming up with Interflon, Hoitsema was able to reduce its lubricating interval. Machines used to be lubricated every seven days in a three-shift rota. Now they are lubricated every fourteen days in a five-shift rota. That is quite a difference, owing simply to the type of lubricant used. Jopie Bijl of Interflon explains. “We infuse our lubricants with our Interflon technology. One of the raw materials we use is MicPol®, which makes the lubricants superbly smooth. MicPol® has a friction coefficient of 0.06, comparable to water on ice.”

Less lubricating is a must

Not every machine supplier prescribes this kind of lubricant. Some manufacturers have other interests, in which case who knows what can happen. Dagelet: “We recently decided to use Interflon products to lubricate other equipment as well, specifically the gear case oil and hydraulic oil for the die-cutting line, in which case it is good to know which gaskets are fitted onto the machine. After all, you want to be sure that nothing can go wrong. It isn’t easy to dig up that information. The supplier says we are required to use the prescribed lubricants so as not to jeopardise the warranty. You eventually manage to get the information, but it can take a while. And there is quite a lot at stake. A lot of money and down time are involved, for instance, if a machine manufacturer prescribes that the hydraulic oil be changed every year. This Interflon lubricant doesn’t need changing for four years. Interflon guarantees that.” That represents a substantial saving in times, when every little bit helps. After four years, the supplier, in the person of an Interflon expert, takes samples and assesses whether the oil needs changing. If it doesn’t, the lubricant isn’t touched and the machine might well run another six years without needing changing. So the environment benefits as well!

Delivery and beyond

Infrequent lubrication does not seem to be in the suppliers’ interest. Bijl: “We firmly believe in the philosophy of supporting the customer to the best of our ability. Customers like this printer gain nothing by buying the least expensive lubricant. They want a relationship that benefits them. Our job is not done once we have delivered the oil. On the contrary, that’s when we start providing support and that is our added value.” Dagelet: “They certainly practise what they preach. We had replaced the oil in the gear case and, a few weeks later, some problems arose. Interflon’s expert, Albert Steeman, came straight away and replaced the filters. The new oil has a kind of once-only cleansing action that binds the dirt in the machine. The problem was solved by replacing the filters just once.”

Relations come first

To Hoitsema, the relationship with a supplier is generally more important than the short-term profit of low-cost purchasing. Dagelet: “Of course there are other companies that supply lubricants, we’re aware of that, but it is not our policy to purchase on the basis of price alone. As a supplier you have to remain competitive, otherwise your relationship goes bust, even if you have supplied your clients for years. Interestingly enough, it’s not just the oil, but all the additional advantages around the product that count. A good example is the lower friction of the Interflon oil, which in turn reduces energy consumption. The supplier proves that by having an independent consultant install a writer on the machine to measure the power consumption before and after the addition of MicPol® to the lubricants. Just one week later you will notice that your power consumption has dropped substantially.” Based on experiences like this, Hoitsema has decided that, in the future, all new printing presses will immediately be filled with Interflon oil.

Source: Journal 'De Pers' Materialen september 2012 Text: Marco den Engelsman

Any questions? Contact our office in your country.

Choose your branch