CI Conference Day One: Moving Toward Excellence
“This is our second CI,” says Michael Zienty, prepress and pressroom manager at Premier Press (Portland, Oregon), as he waits for the day’s first presentation. “We’ve been very into continuous improvement for the last eight years.” The annual conference, he says, has served as a valuable launchpad for the company’s continuous improvement efforts, and a catalyst for its reduction of spoilage, from 3.5% to 1.04% — this for a $40M company. “We have one guy who is charged with CI,” he says, “and he helps us remember what we’ve learned here, and he practices it daily.”
Starting the program, Bill Pope, VP, technical services at PRINTING United Alliance (Fairfax, Virginia), welcomed the crowd and set the stage for the information-packed days to follow. With a show of hands, Pope learned that roughly two-thirds were first-time event attendees – indicating strong interest in continuous improvement. He further recognized the event sponsors, Canon Solutions America, EyeC, GMG Color, Heidelberg, INX, and IPW.
Building Culture, Gaining Benefits
In the day’s keynote presentation “The Harada Method: The People Side of Lean,” George Trachilis, author and lean coach at Shingo Research (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), presented his personal journey toward becoming a global lean coach. This journey, said Trachilis, required a commitment to building people up to their fullest potential and overcoming challenges to building a culture of continuous improvement. Using interactive exercises, he challenged attendees to identify their aspirational goals, and presented strategies for achieving them. “Improvement,” he says, “starts with challenge – listening to workers will give us the answers, but it will violate every one of our senses.” For lean efforts, Trachilis said, “true north” should be a seemingly unachievable goal.
Exploring Interest Areas
To provide a more tailored experience to CI Conference attendees, the day’s nine breakout sessions followed tracks: Leadership and Culture, focusing on the managerial and team focused foundations of many successful efforts; Fundamental Processes and Tools for continuous improvement, which addressed simpler, less complicated opportunities for improvement; and Advanced Processes/Tools, for those with deeper experience and more specific improvement goals.
“Visual Management: Making the Abnormal Obvious,” a presentation in the Fundamental Processes and Tools breakout track, was given by Kyle Randels, senior client advisor for the Arizona Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Tucson, Arizona). Randels said that visual management can have many goals, including the use of data to define when to take action, to improve understanding, keeping things running, and to increase employee involvement and morale. The benefits, he said, can include better context, progress toward goals, and identification of process improvements. Visual management can be as simple as scoring sheets or the green/yellow/red indicators of Andon lights, or as complex as visual dashboards on computers. Randels urged simplicity, however, saying, “I’m a fan of simple communication so your employees know what they need to do.” He further described how visual management is essential to 5S activities – a common lean approach.
Is your company winning or losing? What are you doing to move your business forward? In his highly animated presentation, “Creating a Culture of Clarity, Connectivity, and Consistency,” Shane Yount, president and CEO, Competitive Solutions Inc., provided strategies for answering these questions (and others) with clarity. He described the difference between low-functioning versus high-functioning culture, saying, “Too many leaders today are playing defense by trying to get everybody on point.” Yount said organizations today have very few true teams. Most teams, he said, are powered by selective engagement, not collective accountability. By this, he means leaders tend to lean on those who share their values. Yount says a successful effort requires four imperative processes: business acumen, execution, communication, and sustaining behavior. In so doing, he says, leaders gain time to look forward, toward business transformation.
Meeting the Challenge
The current paper shortage facing the printing industry has companies scrambling to locate supply and find ways to mitigate waste. In an excellent, to-the-moment panel discussion, “The Paper Chase: Strategies and Countermeasures for Navigating the Substrate Shortage,” three print professionals shared how they are navigating current and chronic paper challenges. Moderator Bill Pope set the stage, saying, “the paper supply is challenging, but it also brings opportunities,” or new approaches and adjusted business models.
Dave Geier, corporate director of quality & continuous improvement, American Packaging, says the challenges extend beyond paper into the flexible plastics materials the packaging company uses. This, and the COVID response, has led the company to respond quickly to new challenges. Jim Tomblinson, VP of operations, Modern Litho, says challenges, including paper, have changed the way the company addresses all process steps. “It’s caused us to reengineer processes until the flood gates can open again.” He says it’s affected not only processes, but also the load on employees. Cassandra Groenewold, data processing & pre-media manager, Japs-Olson Company, said that company has worked to foster a culture of strong leadership amid the challenges, and to develop an ability to roll with the challenges and adapt as needed.
Night on the Town
During the Conference’s annual dine-around, for which attendees sign up with others to visit one of a variety of nearby restaurants, participants took the opportunity to share stories, build connections, and process what they’ve learned. Over dinner with a group of other attendees, first-time CI Conference attendee Mandy Wood, continuous improvement manager at Stouse (New Century, Kansas) said she came to the conference to gain insight on how to begin the company's continuous improvement efforts, and that sessions on standard work and auditing were beneficial in helping her approach that task.