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FLEXO Magazine : September 2009
www.flexography.org SEPTEMBER 2009 FLEXO 13 FTA TODAY ing divisions. This means our presses have been running 7 percent more than they did in 2008 for the same timeframe. Any increase in productivity in an economy like today's is reason for celebration. In addition to increasing our overall productivity, we have also reduced specific forms of downtime especially in the color match area. FIRST 4.0 outlines how to evaluate your printed product effectively, which translates into less time spent guessing. Prior to FIRST 4.0, we were running to FIRST target densi- ties. However, since implementation, we have greatly reduced our color match-related downtimes due, in part, to the fact that our press operators are now more aware of the signifi- cance of reaching these densities. The operators understand that if they hit the numbers, the color will be there or at least close. In this case, not only has FIRST 4.0 helped us reduce our color matching downtimes it has also helped us move away from the craft approach to printing and more toward a standardized production environment. Without a doubt FIRST 4.0 has made significant changes to the way we actually carry out printing. Moreover it has definitively made an impact on reducing our press downtimes which in turn directly affects our bottom line in a positive way. TALK TO ME One of the most significant ways FIRST 4.0 has benefited our business is in limiting the amount of miscommunication both internally and externally. FIRST 4.0 contains a plethora of flexo- graphic printing information. It serves us as a wonderful refer- ence book whenever there is a dispute or question to be had. Externally, it helps us communicate with designers, so that when we receive art, our prepress team has less work to do, thus improving efficiency. FIRST 4.0 also aids us in commu- nication with our customers. Barcodes can be a tricky issue; however, the manual provides specific guidelines on how to create barcodes so they will reproduce effectively. These guidelines are easily shown to the customer, who can then fully understand why some requests cannot be completed. From art to prepress to plates to press, FIRST 4.0 addresses many of the issues that cause miscommunication. By using FIRST 4.0 as a reference, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page and when everyone is on the same page efficiency increases and fewer mistakes are made. Increased efficiency and decreased mistakes can- not be argued as an economic benefit, while it is difficult to attach statistics to the importance of communication, printers everywhere can agree that if proper communication does not happen it can be a very, very costly mistake. TOTAL CONTROL Finally, FIRST 4.0 has increased our control over our overall processes. This is a very proactive approach to increasing efficiency and positively affecting your bottom line. It takes a lot of work upfront and does not always appear to pay off---until something goes wrong. Scrambling to find the root cause of the problem and trying different solutions until one works can be a very costly approach to fixing something. We learned this the hard way and quickly realized it was worth putting the effort into the documentation up front. If you attend the FIRST 4.0 Regional Workshop, regardless of which department is being discussed, the presenters stress the importance of documenta- tion---and with good reason. It truly does change the way you view things. Instead of being reactive, you become proactive. We now use statistical process control software to run weekly charts on many aspects of our operation. We read our plates daily and record the data to ensure the many variables have not drifted. This way if we come across a change in the washout solvent, for example, which is affect- ing the fidelity of our dots, we cease production of plates until we rectify the problem. This greatly reduces the chance that bad plates will get out onto press where mistakes are most costly. Like communication, this is another aspect that is difficult to attach hard numbers to, but I can definitely say that adopting the proactive approach FIRST 4.0 advocates will affect your bottom line. It only takes one mistake to cost you thousands of dollars; saving that is well worth the effort upfront. PRICELESS It is difficult to put a price on improving efficiency in your company. However, the cost of not implementing is easily rec- ognized. For the relatively small cover price, FIRST 4.0 brings immense value to an organization. Not only does it act as a go-to reference book, but I have seen, firsthand, the affect it has had on our bottom line. Decreasing press downtime is at the top of all printing organization's hit list, and while it can be an overwhelming task, FIRST 4.0 breaks it down and helps you get the best productivity possible. Internal and external communication is an imperative part of the printing industry. In order to get the desired results and avoid reprints and mistakes, everyone must be on the same page. FIRST 4.0 can provide this bridge. Finally, the emphasis FIRST 4.0 places on proper documentation for all processes will help you become proactive, rather than reactive, and hopefully help you to avoid costly problems. All in all, FIRST 4.0 has excellent economic benefits for today 's flexo printer. It helps bring us closer to a more standardized work environment, in a field that has histori- cally been looked upon as a craft, which limits variants and decreases unnecessary spending. In a world where some printers are finding it difficult to stay afloat at all, FIRST 4.0 makes it affordable to keep pushing your business forward. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cayleigh Nichols currently works as a project specialist at Prairie State Group near Chicago, IL, handling all of the firm's color management needs as well as being one of the Lean Six Sigma trained green belts on staff. Part-time she teaches Introductory Color Management and Advanced Color Management at Harper College. Cayleigh is a graduate of the Graphic Communications Management program at Ryerson University in Toronto, ON, Canada. FIRST recommends recording all data to ensure the many variables in the pro- cess have not drifted beyond acceptable tolerances.