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FLEXO Magazine : April 2011
Plants & Processes Flexo Goes Virtual FTA, FIRST Lead the Way! Groundbreaking entrepreneurial Printers Parlay educational experiences into optimized operations Productive, efficient and consistent—every printer aspires to be all three. They endeavor to move from art to science and plan to streamline operations and opti- mize results. On the agenda: standardization of practices and procedures, continuous improvement, waste reduction, pro- cess control, elimination of print variables and measurement documentation and communication of all data collected. Honing and enhancing the talent and skills of pressroom, prepress and other plant personnel are critical to the effort. Staff members are tasked with embracing a systematic, scientific approach to complying with the Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances (FIRST) method- ology. Training must be comprehensive, effective and readily available. Today it is. Four years ago, Flexographic Technical Association (FTA) set out to rebuild its educational programs, products and ser- vices to meet the continually changing needs of its members and the industry. Since then, the organization’s Technical Education Services Team (TEST), established to see that com- mitment through, has been devoted to authoring, updating and presenting state-of-the-art e-learning experiences. Self-paced tutorials and instructor-led customized train- ing programs are among the offerings presented through a dedicated web portal—TEST’s Virtual Campus. To date, proven e-learning technologies are empowering hundreds of flexographers and giving the plants they work in a decided advantage over their competition. Mirroring the commercial industry ’s experience, TEST unveiled its Howard B. Vreeland Sr. Virtual Campus in 2010. It takes the same materials of- fered to the industry at large and presents them to instructors and their students. In all cases, FTA’s training and educational materials align with FIRST guidelines, as is required by the TEST charter. With a firm understanding and application of FIRST method- ologies, a printer can identify potentially troublesome issues, benchmark performance parameters, use statistical analysis to maintain optimal conditions on press, calibrate measure- ment tools accurately and stabilize conditions to deliver repeatable results. The training regimen is both virtual and multi-phase, as it lays out a step-by-step approach to better- ing flexographic print production. On the following pages, FLEXO tells the story of the roll-out of FIRST Press Operator Certification programs at four plants, including: • The InterFlex Group, Wilkesboro, N .C ., beta site for the program, page 34. • Plastic Packaging Inc. , Hickory, N .C. , page 36. • Smyth Companies, Minneapolis, Minn., page 38. • Walter G. Anderson, Hamel. Minn., page 40. These build on earlier installments in FLEXO that describe adoption of FIRST certification into the strategic objectives of The Robinette Co. , Bristol, Tenn. (Feb. and Dec. 2010); Best 32 FLEXO aPril 2011 www.flexography.org