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FLEXO Magazine : February 2009
PLANTS & PROCESSES "Seven years later I was approached to manage a start-up flexo printing department with a local entrepreneur and company called Anagram International. As plant manager, this gave me the chance to develop the department from the ground up, with the coordination of purchase and installation of the presses, and hir- ing and training of the personnel. During our second year of op- eration we won two first-time entry awards for process printing. Anagram would go on to win numerous printing awards in the years to come. Anagram continued to grow, and is now the larg- est manufacturer of printed metalized balloons in the word." But while Hilliard enjoyed this operation, his heart was still specifically in packaging. While attending the 1989 FFTA Forum in San Francisco, CA, he was approached by the general manager of Stone Container's Flexible Packaging Division, located in St. Paul, MN. Accepting a job with them as printing and graphics manager, Hilliard continued to hone his skills, and lead Stone Container into a very successful printing operation, continuing to win many FT A awards throughout the years. FLEXO BY DESIGN Throughout his 30-plus year career, Hilliard has worked in ink rooms, worked on presses, ran presses, and managed pressrooms. His more recent role, as technical graphics specialist, taps his knowledge and experience in graphics and the design process. "I work closely with our sales people, our brokers, and liaise with the customers and designers. Doing this, I developed our printing process to the point where we are world-class printers." Among the challenges of getting to that point-and staying there-is handling designs that were never intended for a flexo press. "I preflight any design that comes in to us here on a Mac," said Hilliard. "Even before I send them to prepress, I look for things that can be fixed or should be fixed." Sometimes, the modifications are simple, and do not have a major impact on the original image. But not always. "A lot of times, we will take it upon ourselves because we know the in- dustry and know what we need to do. If it is something that may affect the overall design, now I have to get involved with the cus- tomer and designer. This costs time and money because you have to go back through the approval process and get a new file, etc." For Hilliard, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In Sept. 2005, he penned an article for FLEXO advising printers/ converters to learn a lesson from him, and assemble their own design guidelines to send to customers. "I like to educate design- ers better and their clients better so we are not always facing - STONE CONTAINER/HOOD PACKAGING FTA EXCELLENCE IN FLEXOGRAPHY AWARDS YEAR AWARD CATEGORY 1993 Gold wide web, process, film 199 6 Silver wide web, line, film 199 8 Gold wide web, line, film 200 4 Gold design, film 200 5 Bronze wide web, line, film 200 5 Silver design, film 2006 Silver wide web, screen, film 2006 Bronze mid-web, process, film these issues," he said. "Quite a few years ago, I went to the FTA and asked for permission to take the design section out of the Premier Edition of FIRST. So now, whenever we work with a new client or new designer, I take my print specifications document, which includes our prepress requirements, as well as my Design Guide from FIRST and send that to them and make sure that they contact us with questions." Unfortunately, not every job offers the opportunity to make such a pre-emptive strike. "A lot of times you hear that you are getting something new and in comes a disc," said Hilliard. "I spend a lot of time on this. If you talk to most printers/converters, you'll hear the same thing." The hardest part is not always the re-design itself, but the im- pact that it has on timing and scheduling. "Our customers have these marketing roll-out plans that spell out when they expect things to be on store shelves. If you have problems in the design phase, you can eat up weeks in that process, which cuts a lot of time off the other end," he said. Hilliard has had to, in certain situations, actually contact the designers themselves to rectify some files. Here is where the real education begins. "When I finally have to contact them and get down to the person that has actually done the work, I ask him/ her if he/she knows anything about flexography. This person usu- ally says, 'No. What is that?' What's important to note about this process is that it isn't about setting limits. "As I mentioned in my article, I am not trying to stifle creativity, but instead use flexo's strengths to design something that is doable." As part of FTA's Strategic Planning Initiative, Hilliard is cur- rently working with the Wide Web Leadership Council and Prepress Leadership Council to develop a new guide based on the design section of FIRST 4.0. This new guide will be a reduced-size version that, with the help and support of the FTA, will be avail- able for distribution to the design community at large by July of this year. At the end of the day, all this effort is more than worth it. "I would put our print up against anyone in the country on a con- sistent day-in-day-out basis," said Hilliard, who has in fact done just that, having entered and won numerous FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards (see sidebar). "You have to be able to do that in this business. That's why I want things to be dialed in. The pressman brings a proof out and knows he is going to be able to match that proof and run it." _ FEBRUARY 2009 www.flexography.org FLEXO
Sustainable Winter 2009