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FLEXO Magazine : October 2011
customer, represent an inventory cost to the manufacturer that has not been met through an equal gain in sale. #3. Motion: Whereas transportation is the movement of product, motion is any movement of a worker or piece of equipment. With more movement comes more time spent moving, more wear, higher likelihood of damage, and increased safety risks. Plate cylinder loading, ink systems, and convoluted web paths can all influence motion waste. #4. Waiting (Idle Time): Anytime a product is not in transport, and is not being processed, it is simply lying idle. This can happen, for example, between a printrun and a variety of off- line processes. Processes with long waiting times tend to be slow and inefficient. #5. Over-Processing: Over-processing occurs when more work is done on a product than is required by customers. Such over-processing uses up critical materials and can squander operator time with extra operations and steps. In printing, this is especially noticeable in short-run work. #6. Over-Production: Over-production occurs when more product is produced than is specifically requested or required by the customer. In printing, running “overs” is a very common type of over-production. Overs have traditionally been the result of multiple makeready steps and large-batch printing. #7. Defects: Defects are the most obvious waste of materials and time in any process. Some defects only need to be corrected or replaced; others, however, can slow or stop workflow until the correction is made (think: paper jam). It’s easy to see how traditional flexo technology can contrib- ute to wasteful processes. For example, in traditional narrow web flexo, set-up of any job requires multiple steps that have to be carried out precisely (over-processing and motion). This wasted both material and time. It wasted material because too much material (paper, ink) was needed to set-up the job and achieve “saleable” product. With material and consumable prices increasing, profit is eroded quickly. Time was also wast- ed because all of the additional steps and adjustments needed to be done before a run was even started (motion waste). Changeover times also reflect waste in traditional flexo processes. This leads to lower throughput per machine and reduces profitability. The multiple steps in the processes itself lends itself to errors and defects, making consistent qual- ity and throughput difficult to achieve. Training and keeping highly skilled operators who naturally avoid errors and cor- rect defects leads to a steep learning curve. What can be done about waste? Getting rid of waste entirely is virtually impossible. But if manufacturers make an effort to go Lean and eliminate waste, the pay-off can be like the pennies on a chessboard: small sums that add up to exponential savings. LEANER MACHINES “Lean” manufacturing is a term for preserving value while reducing or eliminating waste. The idea is to remove un- necessary processes and reduce waste without impacting the customer ’s experience with a product or brand. As the industry becomes more competitive, Lean continues to be a focal point for manufacturers. While the idea might sound obvious, the practice is often counter-intuitive. In order to be truly Lean, new equipment must be designed to be simple, fast, easy-to-use, and standard- ized throughout. Equipment manufacturers sensitive to Lean manufacturing spend less time chasing what is “techie” and “c ool”, and more time analyzing workflow processes to make machines that are smart, well-designed, and less wasteful. Indeed, some emerging flexo technologies have taken the challenge of Lean head-on. For example, new flexo machines feature improvements in: Adjustments. Multiple adjustments have been eliminated, and with fewer adjustments, there is less room for error and less set-up needed. Remaining adjustments have discrete, repeatable settings. Material consumption. Newer machines use ultra-short web paths, and require less material to set impressions. Many have servo-driven pre-registration systems, which means less material consumption while setting registration and fewer errors as well. Make-ready and changeovers. More efficient set-up and make ready reduces waste up to 50 percent. Job changeover waste is reduced drastically, and changeovers can occur more quickly. Operation. The newer flexo machines have more intuitive controls with fewer adjustments and repeatable settings. This means easier operation and less training needed for the machine. Of course, this list only focuses on newer flexo technolo- gies. But why would anyone want to invest in new machines in this struggling economy? Simple: in a tight economy, the Leaner competitor often wins. Nowhere is this becoming more apparent than in the short-run market. Modern-day flexo presses can break even on a 1,100 ft. printrun, pictured fresh off press. Traditional machines required the processing of 8,200 feet of material to hit that mark. Photos: Mark Andy. 80 FLEXO ocTober 2011 www.flexography.org