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FLEXO Magazine : March 2008
TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES Identifying Your Starting Points FIRST By Joe Tuccitto Calibration, linearization---whatever, man! What's your starting point? Consistency, repeatability and predictability are the ultimate goal of any flexographic printer. Quality flexo print shops strive to develop a consistent and repeatable color workflow that will increase productivity, improve customer satisfaction, and reduce waste. You need to do this and, at the same time, create a team atmosphere that will break down communication barriers, enhancing both internal and external customer confidence. For 10 years now, flexographers have turned to FTA's FIRST (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances) for guidance in doing just that. A guide for specifications and toler- ances is a great place to begin, but it's all for nothing if you don't know where YOU started. And thus the question: What's your starting point? TEAM EFFORT To successfully implement FIRST into your total process work- flow, you have to get everybody on board. No one person can take full responsibility for all departments. If one person thinks that he or she is going to change the workflow and environment, you're destined to lose. Everybody in that plant has to embrace this change and get beyond the voodoo press practices we once used. FIRST involves everybody. An essential piece of the puzzle to building the implementation team is to select people who are on the front line of the battle---the press operators, the platemakers, the plate mounters, or anyone else who is using the equipment regularly. These are the people doing the work. They know how each piece of equipment will behave the best. The first actual starting point is identifying what people know about measurement equipment and what they know about what needs to be measured. There are people out there making plates who know nothing about calibrating an imaging device. We have to team them up with those who DO know. You need to build these teams, have them identify their total process flows, and identify their starting points. Then teach them about optimizing and fingerprinting. This is where ownership begins. They need to see firsthand the ramifications, or if you prefer, cold hard facts that result from a decision to start at an established point and then switch things up during the process. Management equals accountability. Management has to hold people accountable for the work they are producing. If you ask the workers on the front line of the battle to develop a procedure on how to get to the starting point every time, and management backs them up by holding people accountable for following that procedure, you have a win-win situation. While a manager is going to be a valuable team member, you want to put ownership of the process in the hands of the employ- ees. It's not just operators and platemakers, but also customer ser- vice people, quality control people, and everyone involved in the workflow. Different people need to be included at different levels. The most overlooked section of every edition of FIRST is the opening section, entitled, "Communication and Implementation." PROCESS IMPROVEMENT This is where the teamwork really begins. Have the teams put together process improvement projects that identify the start- ing points within each area of the process workflow---graphics, prepress and platemaking, and even on press. In the past, we've called this "calibration," "linearization," etc. Today we are calling it "finding the starting point." 24 FLEXO MARCH 2008 www.flexography.org