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FLEXO Magazine : September 2009
12 FLEXO SEPTEMBER 2009 www.flexography.org FTA TODAY Prairie State Group has greatly reduced its color match-related downtimes as operators become more aware of the significance of reaching FIRST densities. All art courtesy Prairie State Group. For years the offset world has had set specifications and tolerances, providing its printers/converters with direction and guidance when they did not know where else to look. Twelve years ago, Flexographic Technical As- sociation (FTA) debuted the Premier Edition of FIRST (Flexo- graphic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances), which sought to bring consistency and repeatability across all substrates, ink systems and press sizes for flexo printing. Earlier this year, the latest version, FIRST 4.0, was unveiled, with updated and expanded information for printers of all segments of flexo. In an economy like the one we are facing today, anything that can be done to help one understand one's business and improve efficiencies with a limited cost input is definitely a bonus. Any way a company can drive waste out of its process- es, which inevitably leads to lost income, must be embraced. When specifically referencing the printing industry, these forms of unnecessary waste are commonly found in press downtimes, miscommunications and lack of documented con- trol over processes. While FIRST 4.0 will not direct you on exactly how to lower your press downtimes, decrease your miscommunications and increase your process documentation, it does contain valuable information and guidelines to put your flexo com- pany on the track toward greater efficiency; which translates in any economy to a better bottom line. When the company I work for mentioned implementing FIRST 4.0, I was unsure of its place in our workflow. Was it just another big hype with little follow-through? The previ- ous issues of FIRST, while informative, lacked the detail and reference-book appeal that FIRST 4.0 possesses. After read- ing the book and mentally applying the information gathered to the processes at my workplace, I realized there was really something to the new edition of FIRST. Today 's economy does not allow for elaborate investments in workflow changes, but FIRST 4.0 does not set out to change your processes (unless you were way off-base to begin with). Instead, the guidelines it provides are meant to be seen as a preventative, proactive approach to driving waste out of your facility and maximizing your processes to the best of your ability. When used in conjunction with other efficiency initiatives at our facility, such as a Lean Six Sigma program, FIRST 4.0 has definitely had a positive affect on our bottom line. The areas where I saw the most economic benefit of embracing FIRST 4.0 was in reducing press downtimes, and decreasing miscommunications from design and conception down to the final printed piece, and finally in improving the control docu- mentation on all process. DOWN WITH DOWNTIME One of the worst sights to see in a printing facility is a press sitting idle. We all know we only make money when the press is running, and therefore it is imperative to our businesses survival to keep the presses running and producing. How- ever, downtimes are a fact of life in this industry; even with the advancements in technology there is no way to avoid it completely. To make the best of it, we must limit the amount of downtime we have, which can be a daunting task when there are so many causes. FIRST 4.0 helps you prevent this from oc- curring in the first place. Among many other things, the Print Section in FIRST 4.0 outlines specific methodologies to use when optimizing, fingerprinting and characterizing presses (see FLEXO July, page 18; and August, page 30). These methodologies ensure that you know what level your press is operating at, and, when carried out properly, will help you identify problems before they occur, thus limiting downtimes. Since implementing FIRST 4.0 we have seen a 7 percent increase in productivity in our label and flexible packag- The Economic Benefits of FIRST 4.0 By Cayleigh Nichols Benefits of FIRST 4.0... • Addresses many of the issues that cause miscommunication. • Increases control over overall processes. • Breaks it down to help get the best productivity possible.