Practical Advice Abounds at Sheetfed Pressroom Event

Chicago—The Windy City was the gathering spot for the annual Sheetfed Pressroom conference recently. More than 450 attendees got to sit in on up to 26 sessions, plus another 10 pre-conference workshops in the three days.

One particular session, on productivity increases, was the first of its kind. Speaker Ira Goldratt’s books on production management have been part of the various printing associations’ member libraries for years.

His philosophy on isolating bottlenecks or constraints has been successfully applied by McNaugh- ton & Gunn, a book specialist from Saline, MI. The company’s senior manager in charge of process improvements, Jim Clark, described how his firm has been able to reduce its total manufacturing cycle time from 30 to 23 days and cut its work-in-process inventory in half, to about $500,000, in achieving total annual sales of $30 million.

(Set-up and process times are relatively fixed in print production environments.)

In McNaughton & Gunn’s case, they represent about 60 hours out of the original 30 days. The real opportunity in reducing cycle time is in analyzing queue and wait times.

It’s easy to identify bottlenecks with excessive queues, according to Clark. Walk through the plant and spot disproportionately high WIP. The next production task is the bottleneck. For most printers, this is the pressroom followed by isolated tasks within prepress.

Printers must overcome the mindset of “staying busy,” Clark notes. This is represented by the adage “if a department has capacity and work available, they should do it.”

Instead, Clark suggests that all departmental production schedules and priorities should be tied to, and in agreement with, the priority of the constraining process. This will almost always result in what appears to be excess capacity or idleness in some support centers.

And yet total throughput will be improved, plus provide scheduling flexibility. This can be applied to particular jobs or clients for unusually fast turnaround.

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