One of the most exciting experiences for a sign shop is the purchase of a new piece of equipment. It’s a sure sign of growth and a great step forward for the business. However, if you’re not prepared, this excitement can quickly turn to stress as you gear up for the delivery of your investment.
Once you’ve decided on a piece of equipment, it’s important to stay focused and obtain the necessary information to prepare your business accordingly. Preparation is critical for a smooth installation and is key to reducing stress and for maintaining the buzz and excitement around the shop as delivery day approaches.
What to Expect: Research and Planning
Before you buy, the first step in the process of introducing a new piece of equipment into your shop involves research and planning. For each machine you’re interested in you’ll find documentation outlining the machine’s specifications, including assembled dimensions, weight, electrical requirements, software specifications, and environmental requirements such as temperature and humidity levels. Careful analysis of these requirements is a great start in determining whether or not the particular piece of equipment would be a good fit for your shop.
Remove loose items after breaking down crate.
Create a Layout
As you narrow your search, use your preferred design software to draft a scaled layout of the area in your shop where you intend to install the equipment. If you are looking at a very heavy piece of equipment, make sure the flooring in your shop can handle the weight load.
In addition to the available dimensions of the machine, take precise measurements of the room and its contents (desks, additional equipment, material storage areas, etc.) and play around with the layout to get an idea of the possibilities.
To ensure sufficient maneuverability, allow for a minimum of three feet around the perimeter of the equipment. Also keep in mind the current position of electrical outlets, doorways and other considerations such as network connections. It’s also important to determine the location of the power cord on the machine you are considering, as you may need to obtain a longer cord from the manufacturer or have a suspended electrical outlet installed to accommodate where you decide to position the equipment.
As you draft this tentative layout, imagine yourself working with and around the equipment. Simulate various scenarios that will occur on a daily basis (loading rolls of media, maneuvering full sheets of rigid substrates, general foot traffic, etc.). To take this simulation one step further, tape off the floor where the equipment will be positioned and work around it for a few days to get a better feel for its effectiveness.
Make it Flow
Other important factors when positioning the equipment are your current and future workflow considerations. The overall flow must make sense in order to maximize operational efficiency. For example, with most hybrid flatbed printers, substrates are fed through one side of the machine and exit on the opposite side after printing. In this scenario, an ideal layout would include a substrate storage rack located behind the printer for easy loading. The substrate would then exit the printer and funnel toward your production area for finishing. The time saved for each job will add up throughout the course of the day.
Gearing Up for Delivery
At some point, after intense research and planning, you will decide on which piece of equipment to purchase. Great! As you move forward with the process, it’s important to keep close tabs with your equipment sales representative to make sure the purchase, delivery, and installation of your new equipment goes smoothly.
For shops upgrading to a larger piece of equipment for the first time, some may assume it’s the same as installing a smaller machine. Robert Sudol, logistics and project manager for Agfa Graphics, says, “It’s important for customers not to underestimate the complexity of a large installation. It’s our goal to build partnership and trust by providing a customer-minded, all-inclusive process.”
A pre-installation checklist will help prepare you for the complexities of a large installation. As delivery day approaches, either your sales representative or the equipment manufacturer should provide you with a checklist detailing specific requirements necessary for a successful installation. Sudol emphasizes the importance of this information. “Not only is it important for us to provide this documentation, but also to speak with the customer and help walk them through the process,” he says.
The pre-installation checklist should include items such as:
- Electrical Requirements—This will detail the appropriate voltage and load required for operation. For some pieces of equipment, standard 110v outlets will be sufficient. However, some larger pieces of equipment may require 220v. If you are unsure of any of the requirements, have an electrician come to assess your situation.
- Environmental Requirements—“One of the most commonly overlooked obstacles when installing a new piece of equipment is the environment,” Sudol says. For example, if you are installing equipment that generates a substantial amount of heat, additional ductwork may be needed to maintain optimal operating temperature. Humidity levels and ventilation needs are also major concerns. Check your local code requirements for additional environmental guidelines, and do your best to strategize and plan ahead to address any potential issues.
- Size of Equipment—Be sure to know the shipped weight and dimensions—which includes the crate that houses and protects the equipment during shipment. The crate adds a significant amount of weight and bulk. If this is not included in the checklist, be sure to obtain this information, as it is critical for successful planning and preparation.
These manufacturer’s checklist requirements are critical and are derived from significant equipment installation experience. Carefully check the list and make sure you are in compliance. If you find something that needs to be addressed, give yourself peace of mind and do so in a timely manner in case complications arise. You don’t want any surprises on the big day.
Getting It from Point A to Point B
Once you address the requirements of the installation area, survey your shop and map out the most logical route to move the equipment from the receiving area to the area where it will be installed. Work your way from the outside-in, keeping your eyes open for potential obstacles. Some of the most common obstacles include:
- Access to Building Entry—Check the area where you plan to receive the equipment and discuss in detail with your representative, as this will help determine the type of truck used for delivery. Check for obstructions such as railings, stairs, and ramps. Address any of these obstacles to ensure a clear path to entry.
- Doorways—Once inside, measure doorway openings (height and width) to make sure the crated equipment (and forklift, if necessary) can pass through with ease. Be aware of any tight turns or angles that may restrict access for large pieces of equipment. If you encounter any potential issues, consult with a contractor to provide you with options. Solutions may include installing double-doors, temporarily removing doorways, or demolishing and reframing walls.
- Multi-Level Installation—If you are installing equipment on another level of your building, check the access, dimensions, and capacity of available freight elevators.
- Equipment Rigging Company—Another great option is to hire a licensed, bonded, and insured professional equipment rigging company to handle the logistics, maneuvering, and installation of your new equipment. Work closely with them to review the equipment being installed (dimensions, weight, packaging, delivery method, etc.), and walk with them through the intended route. Their experience may uncover additional obstacles that may have been overlooked, or provide an easier route than initially anticipated. These companies have the experience, resources, and equipment needed to reduce stress on delivery day and get your investment securely in place.
What to Expect: Delivery Day
The wait is over and the day has come! Prior to the delivery truck’s arrival, have the area cleared so they can pull right in and begin unloading. Depending on your equipment, the delivery truck may or may not be equipped with a lift gate. Be sure to discuss this option in advance with your representative.
- Installing Smaller Equipment—Use a pallet jack to move the crate toward the back of the truck. If your equipment will easily fit onto the lift gate, position securely and lower to the ground. Consider lowering it onto some industrial strength furniture dollies for easy maneuvering along the installation route. If the truck is not equipped with a lift gate, use a forklift to remove and lower. If you decide to use furniture dollies and are transporting the equipment on the ground level, simply roll the equipment inside and into the installation area. Be aware of uneven surfaces (such as transition strips in doorways) that may cause the dollies to stop suddenly. Use a hammer and prybar to break down the crate. Use the pallet jack to lift the equipment and remove the dollies, then lower the equipment into place.
- Installing Large Equipment—While smaller pieces of equipment may be installed using a pallet jack and heavy-duty dollies, larger pieces of equipment require a bit more muscle to maneuver. A forklift is essential in this scenario. If you hired an equipment rigging company, they will provide their own forklift for installation. However, if you decide to install the equipment yourself, a forklift can be rented from any industrial equipment rental company.
- Carefully extract the equipment from the truck and lower to the ground. Use a hammer and prybar to break down the crate. If the equipment is packed with loose accessories (ink, replacement parts, pieces for additional assembly, etc.), go ahead and move these inside so they don’t fall during transport.
Now that the equipment is properly installed, let the fun begin!
Now it’s time to lift the equipment for transport to the installation area. For many larger pieces of equipment, there are markings on the support frame indicating where the forklift’s forks are intended to go. These marks account for the weight of the equipment, which may not be evenly distributed across the length of the machine. Pay close attention to this. You don’t want the equipment to slip off the forks!
Carefully maneuver the equipment into the building. If necessary, you may need to use a pallet jack to supplement the forklift when maneuvering through tight spaces. For example, if the space requires the forklift to position itself at the end of the machine, use the pallet jack on the other end to allow continuous forward motion. Alternate your approach as needed to reach your destination. Once you have arrived to the install location, lower the equipment to the floor. If the machine is equipped with casters, use these to make final adjustments. Some machines (most printers) will also have leveling feet that will need to be adjusted. Lower and adjust as needed to get the equipment level. If a technician is present, they will begin to prepare the machine for operation (connect to power source, perform necessary calibrations, connect to network, etc.).
Once the equipment is in operation, be aware of potential issues, such as environmental (temperature and humidity) concerns, that you may not have foreseen and address as needed.
With your new equipment in the building and securely in place, you can now breathe easy and begin to reap its benefits. Once you have gone through this process of acquiring and installing a large piece of equipment, you will be well prepared for future equipment acquisitions on your path to growth and success.