Being a Printer Means Always Saying You’re Sorry

It’s easy for printers to feel underappreciated.

Last week, I was interviewing a candidate for an enterprise QC management position, and between discussions about Six Sigma, Kanban and TPS, I probed to see how he would deal with difficult situations and crisis management.

His response to one of my questions struck me as profoundly disturbing:

“Never in my career have I been called with good news.”

That’s really disheartening when you think about it. Maybe it was an exaggeration, but at minimum it reveals the difficult conditions that certain types of employees must endure in a business culture that focuses on total quality management (TQM), quality function deployment (QFD), Malcolm Baldridge-esque drive for perfection, universal benchmarking and other statistical process control approaches.

In these contexts, quality is assumed and at the same time underappreciated. It’s taken for granted and only conspicuous when it’s lacking, leaving the unfortunate QC team subject only to negative feedback when perfection isn’t achieved. For Buddhists, trials, negativity and suffering are just the start of a path toward peace…toward nirvana. For the candidate I interviewed, they’re just the way things are.

I am amazed that some of us are so motivated by the pursuit of perfection that we endure this steady stream of persecution and negativity. It’s a never-ending battle that parallels the life of a printer. We never use the word “perfect” and we’ll knock on just about anything that bears the faintest resemblance to wood.

Late on Friday as I wrapped up for the week, I checked on the status of a hot job we were squeezing in for a new client. I learned that a vendor partner was going the extra mile and working the weekend unsolicited to help us achieve our deadline even though the client had been late with files and approvals. They had jumped right on the project when it reached the shop’s door and decided to run the weekend at no extra cost to help us out.

A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC

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  • MHB

    Actually, I’m surprised, that you were profoundly disturbed. I would think that any of the customer service or quality control folks in your organization, would make similar comments. With complaints far outweighing compliments. Quality, service and price. Not sure how many times I’ve heard that phrase from would be customers (I’m sure you have too). However, at the same time, the vast majority of customers have always been unwilling to invest a % or 2 with their supplier partners, so that they would be able to continue working on coming up with the next new idea, or purchase new equipment which would produce even better quality and would help their customers to achieve better, more cost efficient results. Even when printers go the extra mile, making additional financial investments, again, the vast majority of customers are only concerned that you give them the best quality, the best service and of course, the best price.

  • Michael Nuccio

    It is amazing how a simple "Thank you, I really appreciate your help" can make someones day.