Riding Into the Sunset –Dickeson

Took me a while to learn these basic truths, but learn them I did from pulling together 168 monthly reports. Stupid me. This is all too obvious if you just think about it a moment.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I began to de-emphasize the cross-company ranking (external benchmarking), but continued to do it, nonetheless, until the sun dipped down into the sea of cold truth. I developed a series of internal benchmarking reports by monthly individual press performance. These used a 12-month rolling format where each month you lop off the oldest month and add the newest. These rolling 12-month reports were private to the company reporting data for those presses. Rolling 12 months were used to minimize seasonal fluctuation in the data.

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.

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