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FLEXO Magazine : February 2011
Plants & Processes “Once we came to understand the program and the need to incorporate FIRST, we embraced the challenge of possibly becoming one of the first companies with employees to fully complete all three levels,” said Miller. Back in 2008, Anderson and Vreeland, an early proponent and current sponsor of the TEST Virtual Campus, introduced the FIRST certification training to InterFlex Group and helped nurture it into adopting the Level I training program. That was around the same time that Miller began to spearhead the operation in his position as quality manager. Miller pointed out that A&V did a good job leading the company to FIRST and bringing its people to the training. “ We weren’t using FIRST practices prior to taking on the certification program,” said Miller. InterFlex Group eventually enrolled an impressive 65 people into the six-week Level I class to ensure everyone was on the same page in terms of basic flexo knowledge and technical communication skills. Such high-tech and objective-based training is light years ahead of what was once the norm at InterFlex Group. Like many printing plants, its history with training fell into a very typical category. Most employee and specifically, press operator training prior to adopting the TEST Virtual Campus, was conducted informal- ly and on-the-job. Miller confessed, “Vendors were brought in and taught classes like ink viscosity control and plate care from time to time. However, most of the training was still on the fly. ” The consensus at InterFlex Group today is that the online delivery method associated with FIRST training was a winning combination, requiring no press downtime or work hours to complete, and offering an easy one-hour weekly training schedule. Overall he did know there was some general anxiety about the unfamiliar training tactics the company was about to en- gage in—but these were short lived. “As they moved through the training, the fact that they saw ways to make themselves a smarter operator with producing better quality jobs made a difference as well. And I will add that scrap and return has moved down since the program first began.” Future oF FIrSt CertIFICatIon The company now plans to enroll another dozen or so press crew from across its four shifts into Level II Press Opera- tor training in early 2011. “It’s too early to say when or how many will move into Level III,” insisted Miller. The company is also committing training resources to its press and produc- tion supervisors, who will begin the FIRST Implementation Specialist Certification Level II and III training as well. This certification is designed to give supervisory and related non- production staff the tools to manage and communicate FIRST guidelines between all departments along the workflow, from prepress to final pressrun, to ensure a consistent and repeat- able product. “T he goal of the additional certifications is to continue our process improvement and advancing the company ’s ability to apply FIRST across every aspect of the operation,” said Miller. To that end, it will also include their small in-house graphics department with enrollment in the FIRST Prepress Opera- tor Certification training. “ Since most of the graphic work is done through our partner supplier companies, we have a very small in-house graphics department,” offered Miller. Miller also noted, “Since prepress is an area where we do work closely with our outside color separators and platemak- ing vendors, we hope they will consider dovetailing their train- ing to seek the FIRST Implementation Specialist Certification as a supplier. This could give us an opportunity to have more control over fingerprint data, rather than each vendor having their own set of fingerprint data from our presses.” With the additional InterFlex Group employees seeking the certification from across their workflow, the company is well placed to apply for the next phase in the program: FIRST Company Certification. This program is set to be finalized and formally announced in detail at FFTA’s 2011 Forum in Indianapolis, IN, and is chiefly a way to verify that the FIRST methodology is being actively and successfully applied. n About the Author: Duane Woolbright, is a contracted repre- sentative of Foundation of Fleographic Technical Association’s Technical Education Services Team. He is known to many in the flexographic printing community from his days as a program coordinator for graphic arts programs at Clemson University, Clemson, SC . Graduation Day: InterFlex Group team members celebrate their accomplishment — certification as level III FIrst Press operators. Handing out certificates of recognition and graduation caps was Joe tuccitto (bottom right), FFta/test education director. 50 FLEXO February 2011 www.flexography.org FLX_Feb11_mech.indd 50 2/16/11 8:51 AM
Sustainable Winter 2011