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FLEXO Magazine : January 2013
run on our older machines. On those we manually check and adjust viscosity." He added they also find the tighter viscosity is managed, the longer they can run without having to stop to clean plates. This print supervisor went on to say that having an automat- ed system is a selling tool. It's very reassuring to a customer to know their jobs are managed so well. We explain such a system helps keep cost down by allowing us to avoid over applying ink, which is not only a waste but forces us to run at slower speeds to achieve drying. SIMPLE IMPROVEMENT In thinking about it, I realized this is a simple but important improvement to controlling his process. Surely, the return on investment (ROI) must be easy to calculate. So, I asked: "What do you expect the savings be? How will adding viscos- ity control impact your bottom line?" He replied, "At this point, we don't really know. It is a ques- tion we need to answer before we can proceed. It's just a matter of getting the time to do an ROI calculation." Immediately, I realized the purchase decision was made, but this specific printer did not have the time schedule to construct the ROI. Since this was a part of the process I was very familiar with, I could work with this pressroom to assist in the ROI creation. Process improvement demands an expert understanding of the current process. Should we improve for the sake of improving? Better technology, well why not? More than ever, technological changes in the pressroom consistently hit the marketplace. Often times, customers require pressrooms to "be on their toes" and looking for ways to incorporate this into their existing process. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Demanding new technol- ogies can benefit pressrooms by eliminating waste, reducing downtime, and increasing overall print efficiencies? In the case of viscosity control, there also may be other benefits that may not have an immediate cost savings, but strengthens the process to make a printer attractive to future customers. These examples include ensuring consistent color, thus avoiding print defects and preventing customer rejects. The obvious statement holds true, however, that a pressroom must understand the ins and outs of the current process before making profitable changes with new technologies, which most do. There is, however, the limiting factor of manpower and time. SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES Let's revisit the common issue that some pressrooms sim- ply do not have the manpower to constantly study the current process. Besides producing sellable products, engineers and pressroom managers often find themselves engaged in a detailed project, or putting out fires to ensure profitability. One of the best resources for analyzing your process is your suppliers. Your suppliers are a wealth of knowledge. Utilize this resource. Are you running the right doctor blade with a specific anilox line count? How much are your blades costing per run? These are questions that you should know the answer to, but you may not have the time to investigate. Your suppliers, however, can help. In the case of construct- ing a return on investment, reach out to your suppliers for assistance. A true supplier/printer partnership ensures process under- standing. Once these types of relationships are formed and strengthened, then a solid platform is built to begin process improvement. Not only can process improvement optimization take place, but a pressroom can understand both the imme- diate costs and opportunity costs associated with a specific part of the process. Once the pressroom can answer "the why," more profit- able improvements can be made. Combining knowledge with leading suppliers boosts the outcome for this process, making process improvement a profitable investment for all involved. About the Author: Kris Harris is a key account manager at FLXON Inc., Charlotte, NC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Busy pressroom engineers and production teams must print quality products, while putting out fires to ensure profitability. www.flexography.org JANUARY 2013 FLEXO 63