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FLEXO Magazine : December 2010
• Foundation of Flexographic Technical Association’s Fall Conference and Tabletop Exhibition, held Nov. 8 -10, 2010, in Louisville, KY, drew approximately 170 print profes- sionals, and honed in on first rate ideas and the future of process control. It was chaired by Cayleigh Nichols, Prairie State Group and co-chaired by Richard Black, All Printing Resources. Through seven sessions, some 22 presenters came together to issue the formal call: “Document... Mea- sure... Control... ” Over the course of three consecutive days, they insisted on never compromising where quality is concerned, achieving the purest possible image reproduction, and focusing on productiv- ity and innovation. They tied Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances (FIRST) to international standards for printing packaging and converting, deeming it the instruction manual for how to make standards work correctly. FIRST & FoRemoST • Founded in 1987, The Robinette Co. of Bristol, TN, a full-service flexible packaging and specialty converting manufacturer, is committed to serving the food, bever- age, construction, textile and healthcare markets. The firm has always strived to output top quality packaging, and is a frequent winner of FTA Excellence in Flexogra- phy Awards. Following introduction of FTA’s TEST Virtual Campus and FIRST Operator Certification, Robinette decided to embrace the three-tier program that educates operators and production personnel in both basic and advanced techniques for consistent and repeatable print- ing in any segment of the industry. It now requiresFIRST Operator Certification of all of it production employees. • Western Family Foods, a private label company, puts high priority on keeping print costs down, and, naturally, refus- es to compromise print quality to get there. The company manages about 7,000 SKUs, and also does packaging development for Unified Grocers (3,000 SKUs) and White Rose (1,200 SKUs), according to Elizabeth Johnson, direc- tor of packaging for Western Family. “We work with more than 800 packers,” said Johnson. “ We don’t manufacture anything, we procure every- thing. We work with almost every printer possible, on almost every substrate possible, and have worked with almost every level of skill possible. ” Maintaining the company ’s identity is high priority, in particular because Western Family engages in less frequent packaging redesigns. “A national brand will re-design every one to three years; we are a minimum of three to five years. That’s private label simple eco- nomics.” Western Family Foods only controls an estimated 20 percent of the actual print decisions—including the process, print shop, and other factors. To ensure that the design matches the desired print outcome, Johnson insisted that all packages are built in accordance with FIRST guidelines. The challenge for Western Family Foods comes in working with printers that are aware of, understand and run to FIRST. The difference between a packaging provider that uses FIRST and one that doesn’t is like night and day. • Smyth Companies’ Minneapolis flexo printing facility has used different continuous improvement and process control tools and philosophies for the last seven years. It actively participates in FTA and operates the business adhering to FIRST guidelines. Color control using FIRST as a foundation was intro- duced at Smyth in 2004, when it started putting optimi- zation into the hands of its people. Employees decide on the best way to complete tasks, cutting out variance, in all areas of the workflow. The mission: assure all equipment is running under optimal conditions. n 8 FLEXO FEBRUARY 2010 www.flexography.org Foundedin1987,TheRobinette Co.ofBristol,TNhasalong reputationfor manufacturingqualityprintedproducts.The RobinetteCo.isafull-service flexiblepackagingandspe- cialtyconvertingmanufacturercommittedtoservingthefood, beverage,construction,textileandhealthcare markets.The firmhasalwaysstrivedtooutputtopqualitypackaging,andisa frequentwinnerofFTAExcellenceinFlexographyAwards. WiththeintroductionofTEST(TechnicalEducationServices Team)afewyearsago,FTAdebutedtheVirtualCampusonline training module,andmore recently,FIRSTOperator Certifica- tion. Alignedto principlesfoundinFIRST(FlexographicImage ReproductionSpecificationsandTolerances)4.0,thethree- tier programeducatesoperatorsandproductionpersonnel inbothbasicandadvancedtechniquesforconsistentand repeatable printinginanysegmentoftheindustry.Seeingthis asanopportunityto enhancetheircurrenttrainingregiment, TheRobinetteCo.embarkedonaninitiative torequireFIRST OperatorCertificationofallofitproductionemployees.Even better, the companyisreceivingfinancialassistancefromthe U.S.WorkforceInvestmentBoard(WIB),whichhassignificantly reducedout-of -pocketcosts. FLEXOrecentlyspokewithGarySisk,human resource manager, andPaulFreiberg,plant manageratTheRobinette Co.aboutthecompany’seffortsandexperienceswiththe FIRSTOperatorCertificationprogramandtheWIB. Q: Whatinitiallyinspiredthe decisiontorequire FIRST Operator Certificationamongyourpersonnel? Freiberg:TheRobinetteCo.isahighendprinterand converterofflexiblepackagingservingthefood,beverage, andindustrial markets.Wehaveinvestedinthebestassets •“Ittook approximatelysixmonths toobtainthefunds throughWIB.” —Gary Sisk •“WestartedinJanuary2010andapproximately80 percentof thepresscrewshavecompletedLevelI.” —Pa ul Freiberg •“WeseetheFIRSTcertificationprogramaspartof ourcontinuousimprovementinitiatives,andassuch, expectmoreproficiency from ouroperators.” —Pa ul Freiberg Certified for Success WIB and FTA Help The Robinette Co. Put Employees FIRST PhotosbyPaulRobinette. The RobinetteCo. aims to have 100 percent FIRST-certified press operators, giving it the best trained work- force complemented with the best assets to serve its customers. FTA TOD AY www.flexography.org FEBRUARY 2010 FLEXO 9 ava ila ble and requi re our pres s operat ors t o perf orm at op ti- mum leve ls . Typ ic al ly, we t rain our operat ors from the ground upandtheFIRSTOperatorCertificationcomplementsour comprehensivehands-ontrainingandenhancesthecontent andcontextofprintingforouroperators. Q: Canyouexplainthe processofacquiringfunds throughtheWIB?Howlongdidittake?Whatwas entailedinpreparingthe pitch? Sisk: Workingwith the local Workforce Investment Board, wefoundoutwhatfundswereavailablefortheupcoming year. Weappliedforsaidfundsanddecidedwhattraining wouldbemostbeneficialtoourworkforce.Ittookapproxi- matelysix monthstoobtainthefundsthroughWIB.Preparing thepitchinvolvedcompletingastateapplicationexplaining the need for the trai ning and t he boa rd a pprov ing th at need. Q: HowhelpfulwastheWIBinassistingwiththeapplica- tionprocess?Manypeople believeitisdifficultand/or arduoustogetsuchfunding?Wasthatyourexperience? Sisk:TheWIBwasthekeyplayerintheapplicationpro- cess.Itwasnotacomplicatedprocesstoobtainthefunds. Q: Whatinvestmentsintechnology(ifany) were required toprovidethevirtualtrainingonsite?I.e.additional computers,traininglabspace,etc.? Freiberg: Wehaveprovided several computer workstations inadedicatedtraining roomwithwebaccesstoprovide24 houravailabilityfortraining. Q: Howmany/whatpercentageofpersonnelhavecom- pletedtheLevelsI,IIandIII respectively? Freiberg:WestartedinJanuary2010andapproximately80 percentofthepresscrewshavecompletedLevelI. Q: Howmanydoyouultimately plantoputthrougheach level respectively? Freiberg:Weplantohaveallpressoperatorscomplete thethreelevels.Inaddition,all newemployeeswillcomplete LevelIaspartoftheirnew-employeeorientation. Q:Whathasyourexperienceto datewiththe onlinetrain- ingbeen? FTA TOD AY buyer’s briefing industry indicators Putting Design FIRST Western Family Foods advocates First Guidelines for achieving Design Goals Bychristianr.Bonawandt Adesignisthatfirstinfantilephaseforanyandall printedpackagesbeyondtheconceptstage.Thefinal designwillhavealastingimpactontheprintability andcostofapackage.WesternFamilyFoodsknowsthis.In ordertoeffectivelycompetewithnationalbrands,thisFTA memberprivatelabelcompanyputshighpriorityonkeep- ingprintcostsdown, and,naturally,refusestocompromise printqualitytogetthere.Thecompany managesabout7,000 SKUs,andalsodoespackagingdevelopmentforUnifiedGro- cers(3,000 SKUs)andWhiteRose(1,200SKUs),accordingto ElizabethJohnson,directorofpackagingforWesternFamily. “Weworkwithmorethan800 packers,”saidJohnson. “We don’t manufactureanything,weprocureeverything.Wework withalmosteveryprinterpossible,onalmosteverysubstrate possible,andhaveworkedwithalmosteverylevelofskill pos s ibl e.” WesternFamilyFoods DesignGoals • Noimitation;selltheWesternFamilybrands. • Offeraquick readoftheproduct. • Ph otography with appetiteappeal. • Accuraterepresentationofpackagecontents. • ConsistencythroughadherencetoFIRST. collaboratingwith printersandapplicationofFirsthelpsWesternFamilyFoodsachieveit’sdesignandprint qualitygoals. 18 fLeXO july 2010 www.flexography.org ® FLXO_Ju l y 10_v 2. i ndd 18 7/16/10 9:36 AM Industry In dicat o rs “ We’ve got a prett y good tra - ditionhereof good qual ity ataprice that any- onecan afford,”said G eorden Elliott,artdi- rec to r. “We want to compete onshelf withthenationalbrandand we do that withdesign. The consumerispretty familiarwithus.TheyknowWesternFamily.Wefeelthatnot onlyareourcustomerscomfortablewithus,theyseethatthey arecompetingimage-wiseonshelf.” Toeffectivelycommunicateitsbrand,andcompetewith mainstreambrands,WesternFamilyFoodsworkshardto focusonitsdesignpriorities.“Wewillexaminethecompet- inglabelbrands,topnationalbrand,etc.andseewhathas beendone,”explainedJohnson. “OurNo.1priorityistosell WesternFamily.Nextistohaveaquickreadoftheproduct. Thenthephotographyhastohavealotofappetiteappeal andaccuratelyrepresentwhatisinthepackage.” Thegoal,shewentontosay,is nottomimic thenational brand,butinsteadtocommunicateWesternFamilyFoods’ value.“Ourproductsareverygoodandveryhighquality.Our goalistobeequalifnotbetterthanthenationalbrand.They don’t always hit the targetonthehead anyway.” Maintainingthecompany’sidentityishighpriority,in particular because Western Family engages inless frequent packagingredesigns.“A national brand willre-designevery onetothreeyears;weareaminimumofthreetofiveyears. That’sprivatelabelsimpleeconomics,”saidJohnson. Who’s onFIRsT WesternFamilyFoodsonlycontrolsanestimated20per- centoftheactualprintdecisions—includingtheprocess,print shop,andotherfactors.Thosedecisionsareoftenmadeby thepacker. Whatthefirmdoesmanageistheentiretyofthe designaspectsofallthework itoversees.Toensurethatthe designmatchesthedesiredprintoutcome,Johnsoninsisted thatallpackagesarebuiltinaccordancewithFIRST(Flexo- graphicImage ReproductionSpecificationsandTolerances) g uidel ines . TheconsumerproductscompanypartnerswithStevenson - T heColorCoforallprepressworkandhasemployeeson site.Again, allfiles areseparatedandbuilttoFIRST. ThechallengeforWesternFamilyFoodscomesinworking withprintersthatareawareof,understandand runtoFIRST. AccordingtoJohnson, thedifferencebetweenapackaging providerthatusesFIRST andonethatdoesn’tislikenightand day.“ThoseprintersthatarefamiliarwithFIRST,itmakesa hugedifference.Butthosewhoaren’t,it’sastruggle.” Sheadded,“Iftheprinteris more‘oldschool,’theymaynot haveafingerprintorpresscharacterization. Wedodevelop everythingtoFIRSTandweimpressuponthemthattheymust hitthesemeasurementsestablishedbyFIRST.Butthereare timeswhentheprinterdoesnotevenhaveadensitometer; theycan’tevenmeasure.Theyeyeballit!” Johnsonisalong-timeFIRSTadvocatewhowasintimately involvedintheestablishmentofthePremierEditionofthe manual.WhenaprinterisknowntonotbeproficientinFIRST, thenWesternFamilywilloftensendapersontooverseethe run, usually from StevensonColor. “They havedeveloped the filesandknowtheinsandoutsofitandcanworkwiththe printertogettheprintresultwhereitshouldbe.” Insomecases,though,thereisonlysomuchcoachingthat canbedone.Johnsonrecalled,“Therewasacasewherethe printerwas notrunningtoFIRST.Itwasnotevenrunninga truecyanor magenta;itwasusingaprocessblueand rubine red.Evenafterworkingwiththepresscrewonthecolor, the resultwasjustpoor. Unfortunately,withprivatelabel,so much isdrivenbycost.IfIstart makingchangesontheprinting side,thecostofthepackagegoesup.I maynothavethe luxuryofgoingelsewherebecausethepackerwouldhave negotiatedtheprice.Ifthathappens,wesimplyinformthe customerthatthisisthebestthatitisgoingtogetand makea recommendationforwhattheyneedtodoforthefuture.” GeTTInG To GeTheR AccordingtoElliott,tohelpachieveWesternFamily’sde- signgoals,it’scriticaltoincludetheprinterandtheprepress houseinthedesignphase.“Wetrytogetinvolvedasearlyas possiblewithallpartiesparticipating,sothatwecancom- municatewiththembothinadesignphaseandaproduction phase.Thatway,theycometounderstandourintentandcan assistusinsortingoutanyissuesofprintability.” Moreoftenthannot,Elliottinsisted,WesternFamilyisable topushthelimitsoftheintendeddesign. Butnotalways. “Sometimesweareworkingwithaprinterwhois notupto ourpreferredcaliber. Inthosecases,weareforcedtopush theprintertogetthemaximum resultfromthem. It’spretty rarethatwescaleback.Oncewehaveaconversationwith theprinter, wecanestablishifthedesignisgoingtowork ornot.Buttherearethosetimeswhenaprinterisjustnot goingtobeabletoprintwhatwedesigned.Inthatcase,we communicatewiththepackerastowhetherthereisanother printer, orcantheypushtheprinter, andifnot,onlythenwill wereconfigurethedesign.” Johnstonstated,“Inthoseprintingsituationsthatwecontrol, weattachasheettotheprintsamplesthatincludeallthe measurements.IfIseethevaluesgettingtoohighortoolow, thenI makeacallandbringittotheirattention. Whenwesep- arateourcolors,wetrytoremovecontaminatingcolorand findthecleanestwayforittoprintconsistently.Weworkvery hard on the des ign, andyoucanhavea greatdesign, but if itcan’t print,forget aboutit.” Bothshe andElliot agreedthatanyand allprintersshould berunningtoFIRST. “Otherwiseprintingis too subjective,” said Johnson. “Youneed to have consistency fromruntorun.”n collaboratingwithprintersandapplicationofFirsthelpsWesternFamilyFoodsachieveit’sdesignandprintqualitygoals. www.flexography.org july 2010 FLEXO 19 ® FLXO_Ju l y 10_v 2. i ndd 19 7/16/10 9:36 A M www.flexography.org december 2010 FLEXO 19 FTA TOdAY FLX_Dec10.indd 19 12/15/10 12:59 PM