Riding Into the Sunset --DickesonNovember 2005
But, alas, this internal benchmarking was something a plant could, and should, do for itself, by itself. No need for a multi-company database. An Excel spreadsheet, flat file is all that's needed. Still, something was lacking, is lacking, in a stand-alone press data file. Where's the incentive? Where's the kick-in-the-butt to improve? When do we get excited and start digging for causes of exceptional variation? Looking for special causes? When shall we be pragmatic and say "this is what this press does"—not to worry.
A couple of years ago, Peter Brehm of Vertis and John Compton of Fort Dearborn clued me to XmR charting espoused by Donald Wheeler in Building Continual Improvement and his Understanding Variation. This was my epiphany! Jay Arthur makes it duck soup by providing an easy Excel add-in. It's
the ultimate of pragmatic analysis. XmR provides insight for nearly any time-sequential data series in printing or any other business. It provides the needed kick for improvement by internal benchmarking.
But it requires innovative change in the way we perceive the operative printing enterprise. After demonstrating XmR to Web Press Database participants, it had all the impact of lint falling from my navel. Only one response. It's apparently too radically different from looking for a Magic Bullet, Holy Grail, Fountain of Youth or Industry Standard. We believe in industry standards. But one thing the Web Press Database proved is that there can be no industry standards of machine waste and speeds.
They're myths. King Chaos rules. Long live King Chaos. Follow his laws or grind away your business life in frustration.
There's far more to paper waste than press makereadies, re-starts and running discards, which is all we were measuring in our Web Database. There's binder makereadies and running discards, sampling discards, trim-off waste, non-salable overrun, roll slab-off, roll core remainders, dead stub-roll inventories, and other finishing and shipping waste. Single-digit paper waste is another myth of our industry, both sheet and web.
So, it was high time to declare sundown for our 14-year effort. External benchmarking, we learned, is largely a trivial pursuit in our diverse industry. Internal benchmarking can be productive if coupled with XmR analysis. But Brehm, Compton, Wheeler, Arthur and I, perhaps, with a few others, seem to be lonely voices crying in the print wilderness. However, along the way, I learned what was not, gained a vision of what can and should be, and demolished some false gods. That's the path of progress, isn't it?
Despite saying all that, I loved and respected the people in the Database companies. A couple of the companies had been with me in the effort since Day One. I just couldn't pull the plug on them. I'd still be entering the press data today, compiling monthly reports, trying to convince them to use XmR if one of the major contributors of the five remaining faithful hadn't given up under mounting economic pressures of the business. That shocked me into making the final decision that was right and had to be.
Allons, my great companions! It was a noble and worthwhile effort whose time had past.
—Roger V. Dickeson
About the Author
Roger Dickeson is a printing consultant located in Pasadena, CA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A PDF copy of his recent book, Monday Morning Manager, is available without charge by e-mail request.