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FLEXO Magazine : December 2013
Just because you or your employees have achieved an individual certification, whether it be Press Operator, Prepress Operator or Implementation Specialist, that doesn't mean your firm is FIRST Company Certified. and have successfully passed each exam with a score of 80 percent or better. Certain criteria must be met before a company can achieve a FIRST Company Certification: • 40 percent of pressroom staff must be FIRST Press Oper- ator Certified • 40 percent of prepress staff must be FIRST Prepress Operator Certified • 40 percent of management/production staff must be FIRST Implementation Specialist Certified Once these criteria are met and the company has applied for a FIRST Company Certification, the firm must then perform a self audit, which serves as documented evidence that its processes and workflows are in compliance with FIRST methodology. Pro- vided the company successfully passes the self audit, the next step is to verify that information during a followup on site audit completed by a certified representative of the FTA staff. "WORKFLOW COMPLIANCE?" In order to successfully demonstrate workflow compliance with FIRST, the certification seeking company must: • Map the workflow and properly identify and document key workflow components • Clearly identify and document the calibration schedule/ Manufacturer 's Recommended Operating Parameters (MROP) for any devices and equipment • Include a workflow tag (naming convention) for each step • Document established tonal value aim points "It may be easier than you think," said Bjorn Knutson, FTA/ TEST manager of certification & technical services. "For example, in most cases your company is already tracking the info needed for a workflow tag. Your naming conventions may be slightly different, but you are probably already document- ing most of the necessary data needed to create these tags. "We're not looking to reinvent the wheel. The aim is to first create a manageable repeatable workflow by complying with the FIRST methodology," he continued. "The rest is simply doc- umenting your results and staying consistent to the workflow." Only after these conditions are realized can a company tout its FIRST Company Certification. This includes hanging a handsome plaque where everybody can see it, disseminating the good news to all employees, customers and prospects, posting the FIRST Company Certification logo on websites/ marketing materials and a well deserved pat on the back. But it doesn't end there. To sustain a certification for the three year duration, the company must verify its ongoing commitment to compliance through the regular submission of workflow data to FTA. This aspect lends even more credence to being able to "prove it," for the certified company must always strive to remain on its "A" game and maintain its FIRST recommended workflow compliance throughout its tenure. TECHNOLOGY & PROCESS CONTROL Since its inception in 2011, FTA's FIRST Company Certifi- cation program has seen regular enhancements. Recently, FTA contracted with SCHAWK! to customize their ColorDrive technology for use with the FIRST Company Certification pro- gram. In a nutshell, ColorDrive is a cloud based print quality management platform that provides centralized evaluation and control over print quality from anywhere in the world. This is the software that is used when a certified company submits its workflow compliance data to FTA. The long and short of it is this: ColorDrive is a recording and reporting process control tool that provides a snapshot of how the process is behaving. Data reports include Delta E, density, ink, plate making and imaging tolerances, just to name a few. If any one of these pre defined parameters is outside of specifica- tion, the software instantly notifies the plant, advises the printer on performance and corrective action procedures can ensue. Robb Frimming, print services director for SCHAWK!, commented, "We are extremely excited about the partnership between ColorDrive and FTA's FIRST Company Certification program, and supporting the FIRST methodology. Color- Drive's cloud based data aggregation tools create reports automatically from printer/converter supplied data submis- sions, allowing the data to be clearly organized for use. This automation frees up quality teams to concentrate on quality assurance and continuous improvement." ColorDrive, in unison with FIRST methodology, creates the information that offers printers the following benefits: • Consistent proof of performance • Valuable process control tool • Added confidence in continuous improvement efforts • Improved efficiency, speed and quality • Reduced waste and lowered costs • Improved internal processes Moreover, the reports generated from the ColorDrive software can be shared with customers to provide a precise account of what is coming off the press. This ensures trans- parency, confidence and efficiency for all involved. A FIRST Company Certification is proof that a printing business is applying the best practices and standardized procedures, and that it is turning newfound knowledge and sharpened skills into consistently produced, high quality printed packages. About the Author: Sharon Cox is director of marketing for Flexographic Technical Association and its Foundation. For more information about FTA's FIRST Company Certification contact Duane Woolbright, FTA training specialist, at 864-643- 0795. To access the FIRST Company Certification application, or to view sample self audit documentation point your brows- er to www.flexography.org. 10 FLEXO DECEMBER 2013 www.flexography.org