Process Graphic Services — Need for Speed
Touring the PGS plant, the custom finishing aspect of the business is clear. The job mix is rarely the same on any two successive days. Typically, from 100 to 150 different finishing jobs per day flow down its lines.
There may be toddlers' books from well-known publishers, game boards and boxes, as well as foil-laminated sports cards, foil-stamped cartons for an international supplier of fine lead-crystal glassware and other branded merchandise for leading product marketers.
"With the breadth of finishing services PGS is called on to provide, we need to constantly tune and organize our job flow," reveals Larry Patterson, plant superintendent.
"But, because actual working time per job has been shrinking to such a degree, yesterday's top speed may not be enough to keep up. The demand to complete more work in less time is with us constantly and sometimes it can leave us feeling harassed by the clock."
Why not simply go out and hire more skilled employees to ease the burden? According to Robertson, low unemployment rates have slammed that door—for now.
"Within the last year, demand for fast-turnaround finishing has been very strong, putting great pressure on our work force. Ordinarily, we would deal with that by hiring more skilled workers. But, here in Texas, there's a skilled-labor scarcity due to the full-employment (situation). We've established in-house training programs to deal with our longer-term needs. But our near-term challenge is finding immediate ways to gain more working time within the constraints of current work schedules and to improve productivity."
A key solution came recently when Robertson heard about the Total Optimization Project (TOP), a new service from Bobst, in which a comprehensive study, evaluation and analysis of customer diecutting, foil stamping and folder/gluer job changeover, downtime and machine performance lead to "best practices" recommendations.
"PGS uses Bobst diecutting, stamping, folding and gluing equipment throughout its finishing operations," Robertson notes. "Any productivity improvements in these key steps would have a significant, positive effect on overall job turnaround, so we were interested."