Based on its foundation in the printing business and the introduction of accumulated experience and cutting-edge technology, the Komatsu Printing Group provides "solution design" to its customers. Equipped with 24 web presses and 17 sheetfed presses -- all from Komori -- in 2023 the company introduced a 2-color Lithrone G40 advance (40-inch Offset Printing Press) and System 35S (546mm-cutoff Sixteen Page Web Offset Press) at the head office factory to further raise production efficiency. We interviewed President and Representative Director Hidetoshi Komatsu, Executive Officer and General Manager, Manufacturing Division Takeo Makino, Deputy General Manager, Manufacturing Department 1, Manufacturing Division Takahiro Mori, and Deputy Manager, B Format Web Press Section, Manufacturing Department 1, Manufacturing Division Yasuhiro Matsuoka about the background, effects of the introduction, and future prospects.
"Komori is an indispensable presence. In the future, we expect support not just as 'Komori in machinery' but as 'Komori in printing.'" Hidetoshi Komatsu, President and Representative Director
Under the corporate slogan "Always challenge the future," the Komatsu Group is committed to enhancing the value of printed materials and utilizing the latest digital technology and IT solutions to expand the scope of solution design (problem solving) for its customers. The strengths lie in three areas: the organization's comprehensive strength, with 9 factories nationwide and more than 1,230 group employees, the enhancement of product and service offerings through Group companies' collaboration, and having one of the leading facilities in Japan by focusing on labor-saving and manpower-saving as well as integrated production.
President Komatsu stated, "We are increasing overall cooperation to extend individual strengths and straighten out weaknesses within the group. For example, during a typhoon, we have established backup systems so that we can align with the predicted path and switch production from, for example, Shikoku to Osaka. Taking advantage of Komatsu's quality, we respond promptly to production and delivery needs with our national network."
President Komatsu further discussed the focus on equipment: "We emphasize labor-saving and manpower-saving. Since our workplace has many female employees, we focus on reducing physical work. Proposals such as automatic pallet stacking and packaging automation have been implemented, significantly improving operations in the last 3-4 years. Suggestions also come from within the company, such as 'With this machine, work becomes easier' or 'We can be more Komatsu efficient'."
The recently introduced Lithrone G40 advance is the first machine with Komori's 100th-anniversary emblem. President Komatsu reflected on the long-standing relationship with Komori: "The purchase of a half-size 4-color offset printing press in 1988 marked the start of our relationship with Komori. All our printing presses are from Komori. The introduction of new models with the latest technology always enhances our capabilities. Through regular introduction of new models, we have continued to increase our production capacity."
He also states, "Even machines that are 20 years old continue to produce thanks to Komori's service system. "We have also been taught from scratch about maintenance methods. When service personnel come, it has become a habit for the operator to perform maintenance together. We also replace parts ourselves. To avoid major overhauls, a culture of conducting maintenance ourselves has been thoroughly ingrained."
"We only have one machine for the 100th-anniversary commemoration, so we believe we are using a special machine." Acting Chief of Manufacturing Department Mori
Deputy General Manager Takahiro Mori discussed the background of introducing the Lithrone G40 advance: "In response to the increasing demand for 2-color and monochrome projects and to ensure quality assurance and make the process streamlined and efficient, we had high expectations for the Lithrone G40 advance, equipped with a quality inspection device." He noted that previously they occasionally printed monochrome on a 5-color press, but with the new machine, they can cover monochrome with a dedicated machine, allowing the 5-color machine to focus on color printing, contributing to production efficiency.
Regarding the functional aspects he stated: "With the existing machine there were feeder stoppages due to waviness when the paper was printed with a web offset press, but the new machine provides stable paper feeding, improved by structural changes in the front gauge of the feeder. The capability to precisely control air in the delivery fan zone results in excellent alignment of thin paper and an increased operating speed."
Regarding quality assurance, he said, "The PQA-S (Print Quality Assessment System) is essential from a quality assurance perspective. Being able to inspect at the optimal level depending on the paper is reassuring. The PDC-SG (Spectral Print Density Control) has greatly reduced the time required for color matching because it can measure all colors at the same time. It is useful since we have many projects with special colors."
"In terms of color startup, KHS-AI (Advanced Interface) is very useful. It learns job characteristics and speeds up the process from print startup to final printing by means of the pre-inking learning function that forms the optimal ink film through preset data."
"To continue as a company, SDG compliance is essential. Some people say, 'paper affects the environment,' but I believe there is no business more considerate of the environment than the printing industry. We sort and recycle 12 types of used paper at our company." President Komatsu
General Manager Makino explained the background of introducing the System 35S: "As the trend toward small lots and high-mix work progresses even on web presses, we wanted another dedicated machine to consolidate B4 sheet jobs. The new press significantly increased the overall productivity of the plant."
The existing press introduced in 2015 has the Semi-APC Semi-Automatic Plate Changer while the new press is equipped with Full-APC. Deputy Manager Matsuoka, responsible for the press, evaluating productivity and quality, noted: "For small lots and high-mix work with more plate changes, Full-APC is essential. With Semi-APC, it took almost five minutes to change eight plates, but Full-APC completes it in about 1.5 minutes. Since there is a significant number of plate changes, we can feel the effectiveness. Additionally, PQA-W can detect defective paper and automatically reject it, allowing us to work with the confidence that defective products are not mixed in."
"The new machine has easy-to-use quality inspection and younger employees find it very user-friendly." General Manager Makino
"The reason for choosing Komori's web offset presses is the peace of mind in terms of safety." Takeo Makino, Executive Officer and General Manager, Manufacturing Division
"I like the Smart Feedback function, which automatically provides optimal colors by automatic feedback if the color is not right the first time." Takahiro Mori, Deputy General Manager, Manufacturing Department 1, Manufacturing Division
"KHS-AI has a trend function, visualizes the error history, and is very helpful in troubleshooting." Yasuhiro Matsuoka, Deputy Manager, B Format Web Press Section, Manufacturing Department 1, Manufacturing Division
President Komatsu shared his thoughts on the future of the Komatsu Printing Group: "Through the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic, I now feel that the printing industry is connected to all industries and sectors. While continuing to be particular about printing on paper, we are strengthening our ability to respond in non-paper fields. Furthermore, we will focus extensively on strengthening collaboration among group companies, collaborating with companies outside the group, implementing mergers and acquisitions, and taking business continuity plan measures."
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