Process Improvement — Work Smarter, Not Harder

Most printing companies in today’s developed economies, such as the United States, build to order, not to inventory. Supply chains are tighter than ever, meaning tighter deliveries. Run lengths are often shorter than the time required to makeready the machine.

Product families not only come in more than one color, size and material, they may be so customized that your manufacturing team is likely to be printing a new product for the very first time—every day they come to work.

Yet, in the midst of trying to manage such complexity, printers today basically have the same types of manual information systems as 25 years ago. “Islands of automation” that are semi-connected with paper-based, manually entered data. “Feedback loops” within these manufacturing systems not only lack accurate data, they often experience delays of hours, if not days, before “Actuals” can be compared to “Planned” to adjust to unexpected changes in the system.

Is it any wonder that printers today are often performing at less than one-third of their design manufacturing capacity? Sheetfed presses in some short-run environments might run less than five hours out of 24 hours fully crewed, yet orders still ship late in spite of outsourcing and overtime. There is no “pull signal” from finishing to close the loop with the pressroom for optimal output of materials into the plant.

This need for real-time visibility between “Planned” and “Actual” is a first step towards optimizing today’s printing systems. Closing the feedback loop between demand signals, starting with sales and moving across the entire manufacturing workflow, makes the goal far easier to achieve—especially within a dynamically constrained system. Isn’t this a key promise of the CIP4 standards around JDF/JMF? To help frontline leaders and managers get easier access to accurate, timely data so that they can make more money—ideally with less effort?

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  • http://JayFoster Jay Foster

    Does anyone know why the print sector has not adopted concept like Lean/Six Sigma/Toyota Production Control as aggressively as other sectors, such as automotive?