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FLEXO Magazine : January 2014
adopters and may not be worth the asking investment, in lieu of current existing methods. COMPARING RFPS Most CPCs will actively use a " request for proposal" (RFP), or something similar, to compare one supplier to another. If using this process, make sure all the details are well under- stood and defined in the RFP. One supplier may include many steps and services in the process in its baseline price, while another will list steps individually and price them a la carte. An RFP should effectively identify those suppliers who actually charge a premium for basic services, versus those who truly add value in their workflow for the customer. EYEBALLING COLOR How do the quality of suppliers' processes and services stack up against each other? Do they use solid support systems and factual data to measure and control color, or are there subjective steps that can cause trouble? The human eye is still critical in selecting colors when printing; however, once the color is selected, the eye should not be involved in its measurement and control. In the not too distant past, I would not have made this state- ment, but today 's spectro equipment and software are much more advanced. I believe so strongly that they are better than the human eye, that I insist they be used to measure and con- trol color. Study after study has shown how the human eye is variable in its color interpretation and affected by little things in the environment. I agree the customer has to be happy with the final print result and if it takes a trial run on press to show an actual printed sample for approval, then this is a cost that must be burdened by that customer to gain agreement. Once they have given approval, the color measurement equipment and software should be employed by the printer to manage and maintain consistency on press. I still firmly believe using an eye to control or approve final color once a target has been set adds---not reduces---variability on press. It's OK to use the eye as a quick check against things like a drawdown approval, but the confirming answer should come from our devices. I have often heard how some people have excellent color perception and can see deviations in color with a Delta E of less than 2 (and I agree this does exist), but if our print processes cannot cost effectively be controlled below this level, I explain to my marketing team how this is a limit of the printing process and the color variation seen is normal and industry accepted. As time goes on and improvements are made, I expect these tolerances can, and will, get tighter. For now, most CPCs and printers agree the print processes we have in place like the Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances (FIRST) guide, General Requirements for Applica- tions in Commercial Offset Lithography (GRACoL), Specifica- tions for Web Offset Publications (SWOP), Global Standard Testers (GST), etc., along with software and spectro measure- ment equipment, are about the best we have to work with. A key goal in the industry is to make the color measurement and control processes more objective and factual based, while removing all subjectivity. ATTACKING ERRORS Are the suppliers' processes proactive in eliminating or reducing print errors? Or are they reactive, where they only measure and catch the issues after printing is complete? In today 's cost conscious world, we need more proactive processes that prevent out of spec product---the product that costs the printer and customer time and money---from ever being produced. CPCs would like robust, cost effective and proactive processes that will measure ongoing output and alert a printer before it falls out of spec and produces unacceptable product. Many CPCs run on a just in time inventory timeline and cannot afford to shut down their production due to out of spec packaging. My personal preference is for systems that assist a printer by monitoring startup efforts and confirming compliance be- fore the product is produced for shipment. Most printers know that some out of spec material will get through their quality system today, but the cost of even one rejected and returned order is often multiple times more expensive than such a preventative system. INDUSTRY UPDATES Another key concept many CPCs monitor focuses on this question: "Are your suppliers keeping up on the latest print trends and processes and delivering value?" A customer, in theory, shouldn't know more about the supplier's process, work scope and level of expected performance than the sup- plier. Industry leading suppliers bring new trends, tools and effective processes to their customers, and not the other way around. Many customers keep a scorecard on critical perfor- mance items during the year to help them track key industry performance levels and how their suppliers compare to their industry competition. One final thought in summary: CPCs need knowledgeable suppliers to deliver best in class print performance on their delivered packaging. This requires suppliers to monitor and track industry developments and bring awareness to cus- tomers on how they can add value by driving out waste and proactively deliver in spec packaging every time. About the Author: Allen Marquardt is currently the packaging print manager at Kimberly-Clark Corp. He has more than 25 years in packaging and printing, working for companies like Kimberly-Clark, Hershey Foods, CPC International and SC Johnson & Sons, among others. Al is currently the chair elect of the FFTA, serves on the board of FTA and has served on the board of SGP Partnership. He also participates on multiple print and packaging related committees supporting the pack- aging and package printing industries. www.flexography.org JANUARY 2014 FLEXO 15