The other day I got a compliment from my boss for how well I work with our Risograph machine (Riso).  It felt a bit weird getting a compliment for this because there are only a few things to do with the machine to make it run. He implied that I was a Riso-whisperer or something.  That seemed a bit crazy to me because I felt I was only doing my job.

Mike is surprised to be called a Riso-whisperer!
Mike is surprised to be called a Riso-whisperer!

However, I also appreciate this compliment because it underscores the fact that most people treat their machines as inconveniences.  We have all seen (or done) someone smack a machine (usually a television) until it starts working.  Sadly, I need to be included in this group even though I know better.  I find that the more a machine has been smacked, the more likely it will work less effectively.

Risos are not terribly complicated machines.  Generally speaking, they are easier than to operate than a copier, but the setup usually takes a bit longer.  Risos are intended for mass copying of a single item.  My work uses them primarily for printing return addresses on envelopes.  Without counting special projects, we usually print out about 5000 envelopes per week.  This year, we have been averaging closer to 12500 per week.  That means I have personally produced almost 450000 envelopes this year… and September just started!

The more time I spend with the machine, the more I have learned how to be both efficient and effective.  The most time consuming part is setting up the master.  The master is what all of the copies come from.  We hope to use 1 master for at least each 2500 envelopes made.  A copy machine making the same amount of copies will take a picture of the master 2500 times.  This is not so bad except if you smack the machine by accident (hopefully), it can move the master around which means copy 562 might be drastically different from copy 563.

After the master is set, I type in how many copies I want.  Generally it is between 5000 and 7500.  The number on the machine only goes up to 9999, so if I need to make 15000 copies, I have to break up the number into smaller numbers.  Yay for basic math!

Once I type in the number, I need to stack up my envelopes to be produced.  My work Riso has a low holding area for envelopes.  This means that I have to constantly reload the holding area.  A box of envelopes contains approximately 500 envelopes (by my calculations, it is usually 504).  The Riso can safely hold about 140-150 envelopes and as many as 175 envelopes (not recommended).  This means at best, I have to unload each box at least 3 times.  I usually take 4 unloads per box.

Setting the speed for the Riso is important.  There are 5 speeds.  The repair man says to set it at 3.  If my Riso is having a bad day, I will set it at 3.  Usually I use a special speed that is not on the speed counter.  It works about 25% faster than speed 5.  Because of other work responsibilities, I have limited time with the Riso.  If I am lucky, I get 10-15 hours a week.  Sometimes I get 0.  The work orders comes in regardless how much time I have.  My goal is to get the job done as quickly as possible without hurting my machine or putting out a shoddy product.  No one likes waiting.

Unfortunately, the most irritating part of the Riso is prepping the envelopes.  I have to fluff the envelopes to make sure they run through the machine properly.  This means fanning them a couple of times as well as making a “V” with them to make sure they don’t stick.  To operate at my fastest capacity, as soon I have finished one envelope reload, I need to start working on the next.  I try to do 4 unloads per box.  This gives me about 45 seconds to fluff the next set of envelopes.  I figure it is my responsibility to get this done as quick as possible.

Finally, the reason why I am not too shabby with the Riso, is because I listen to the machine.  I know when something is wrong before I see the bad result.  Several times, I actually am trying to fix the problem before the Riso even acknowledges there is a problem.  I’m not a Riso-whisperer, but when you spend several hours working with a machine, you should get to know it.  Learn how to maximize its capabilities without breaking it down.  Help it not have to deal with a repair guy unless there are parts that need replaced because of wear, not incompetence.  Hmmm…. Maybe I am the Riso-whisperer!