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Waste Not, Want Not: Reducing Paper Waste/Spoilage

May 1, 1998 12:00 AM


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How can web offset printers reduce their paper expenses? We asked press manufacturers, industry consultants and plant supervisors to share their ideas. Before we present the 10 best ideas, however, we'd like to clarify the difference between paper waste and spoilage.

"Waste is the amount of paper that doesn't end up as saleable product, but is a necessary part of the manufacturing process," explains Bill Lamparter, president of PrintCom Consulting Group (Charlotte, NC). "The cost of waste is included as a part of a printer's operating expenses and is factored into job estimates.

"Paper spoilage is the result of an unanticipated manufacturing problem and represents something that has gone wrong. Spoilage is unexpected, and, therefore, not factored into job estimates."

How do you know if you're wasting too much paper? Beware of relying exclusively on industry data, warns Lamparter. "Exacting waste standards are elusive," submits the consultant. "Waste varies by particular situations--age of the press, makeready methods, peripheral equipment, coverage, color requirements, etc."

Spoilage, on the other hand, is easier to pin down. "As calculated in tons or pounds, we think a printer's spoilage should be less than two percent," declares Lamparter. "If a printer's spoilage rate is between two and five percent, it's a clear indication that there is room for significant cost savings improvement."

Finally, effective paper waste/spoilage reduction strategies should be designed for the long haul. Unfortunately, Lamparter finds that "printers' concern about waste rises and ebbs with the cost of paper . . . as paper prices go up, we get an increasing number of inquiries about paper waste information and more requests for studies."

You may not be able to implement all of the following suggestions, but we hope they'll inspire you to identify process improvements of your own.

1. Keep detailed records. "We're amazed at the number of plants that either keep poor or no waste/spoilage records," says Lamparter. "Recordkeeping should start with the purchase of the paper. You should track paper use, wastage, spoilage and disposition of scrap. It's simple statistic materials control--without a starting benchmark, it's usually non- productive to create waste and spoilage production programs."

Tom Hardy, production systems president, Prograph Management Systems (Pittsburgh), says printers should keep a waste log to identify and track running waste. "Printers should know what their running waste totals are, as well as the causes--web breaks, blanket washes, mechanical problems, etc. This concept is important enough that the Graphic Communications Assn. (GCA) has set up a committee to develop operational codes for running waste."

Action Item: Are you making the most of your plant/ press management software? Are you working with paper suppliers to maximize Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), tracking individual rolls as they run on press and reporting runability problems back to the mills? Is your counting system being used properly?

2. Create employee awareness. Don't overlook the importance of skilled pressroom employees. "You have to understand the basics of lithography," claims Daniel Clarke, pressroom manager at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). While Clarke applauds the consistency and convenience of automatic plate hangers, ink fountain presets, etc., he warns that press operators can become too reliant on their machines. "What if the equipment goes down?" asks Clarke. "You still need basic pressmanship."

"Make employees aware of the value of paper," submits Bill Orndorff, director of press materials, Perry-Judds (Strasburg, VA). "Let them know what the cost is if you've got a quarter-inch gouge. One little hole the size of pencil eraser can ruin 70 to 100 lbs. of paper, depending on the web width."

"We get our crews involved," adds Terry Choate, plant manager, Banta Publishing Group (Greenfield, MO). "We say 'here's what we did last year on makereadies and here's what we'd like to do next year.' Then we ask them for suggestions." Banta conducts classes to communicate procedural changes--supervisors are then responsible for following through in the pressroom.

Action Item: Write down all makeready steps and videotape makereadies to identify process improvements. Emphasize the importance of "premakereadies"--reviewing all aspects of the job before going on press. Above all, be certain that employees understand that quality does not come and go--stress continual process improvement, employee involvement and keep measuring your progress.

3. Avoid high-speed makereadies. Take a look at your makeready press speed. "As the press is ramping up to its targeted operational speed, the ink and water systems have to maintain good balance," explains George A. Sanchez, Mitsubishi's North American director of sales and marketing, web offset presses (Lincolnshire, IL). "This is critical to reduce waste . . . but some presses can't go from 10 percent speed to 80 or 90 percent speed while still delivering saleable product--they have to climb up gradually because there's a change in ink and water balance at each curve."

"Many modern presses can track ink and water feed through the speed changes, but sometimes they need to be 'dialed in' for the type of paper, ink and fountain solution used," adds Ron Bartell, product manager,Heidelberg Web Press (Dover, NH). "Some printers don't take the time to optimize the set-up of these ink and water curves, so they make ready at a higher speed and waste more paper."

Action Item: Work with your equipment suppliers to make sure you're getting maximum performance from your press.

4. Catch up on new continuous dampening solution ideas. Joe Abbot, director of technical support, MAN Roland (Groton, CT), says lower solution temperatures may help reduce waste. "Research suggests that temperatures approximately 60 degrees F or lower produce less blanket piling, reducing the number of blanket washes and resultant waste." Additional filters may help too--Abbot suggests complementing the return-flow filters installed in the dampener circulator with individual filters (with 25 micron or finer cartridges) in feed lines.

This removes the small ink particles that result from the action of modern non-alcohol dampening solutions on ink. Otherwise, "these particles will deposit on the dampener rolls or on the non-image areas of the blankets, causing shutdowns with resultant waste," concludes Abbot.

Action Item: The research cited by Abbot will be presented at this month's Web Offset Assn. (WOA) meeting. For more information on "Temperature Effects in Heatset Web Offset Printing," contact WOA at (703) 519-8142.

5. Avoid tension imbalance. "You need a reliable tension control system from the infeed to the chills to the web path all the way to the folder," submits Sanchez. Proper tension control prevents web breaks, misregister and cutoff variations.

Action Item: Perform regular maintenance and analyze causes of press downtime.

6. Optimize paper roll diameters. "If we could all work to achieve a uniform outside diameter--specifically 50-inch--we could reduce waste," claims Orndorff. "You're increasing tonnage while reducing the amount of wrapper and core strip you have to deal with." The obstacle to this goal is current equipment limitations. Orndorff explains that two of the nine presses at Perry-Judds' Strasberg plant can't handle 50-inch outside diameter rolls. To ensure that jobs can be moved from one press to another, the plant generally must use 45-inch outside diameter rolls. However, the exec is optimistic about 50-inch standardization. "This is something Time Inc. has been encouraging its printers to do--most of us are working in that direction," says Orndorff.

Action Item: Work with your paper buyers, paper suppliers and equipment manufacturers to use larger diameter rolls where possible.

7. Reduce your bindery trim. "Now that we've got gapless presses, the bindery trim is the next frontier in paper savings," claims Bartell. "If bindery equipment could be improved, finished book sizes could be increased for the same size press, since there no longer is a need to trim off the non-print gap. Even on conventional presses, product size can be increased if bindery trims are minimal."

Bartell notes that in many cases "it's not so much the equipment, it's the bindery people. They'll ask for a 3/16-inch trim because it's easier for them, but sometimes you can go to an 1/8 inch trim . . . it's just a matter of getting everyone together and working through the issues."

Action Item: Make an active effort to improve communication between the pressroom and the bindery.

8. Perform regular maintenance. "Check auxiliary equipment, including chill roll units, sheeters, etc.," advises Mark Kraft, vice president, sales and marketing for Nationwide Graphics (Chicago). "On older equipment, this is the area responsible for a lot of waste. Worn gears and outdated controls are easily replaced with belt drive and harmonic controls, reducing waste and increasing press speed."

Action Item: Keep regularly updated computerized records of all past and planned equipment maintenance.

9. Get the most from your paper. Could you improve your paper handling and storage? Control paper temperature and humidity and test all materials before going to press. Also consider adding a splicer equipped with a web inspection system to avoid excessive slabbing off a roll, suggests Bartell. Stress proper material handling--and don't forget to protect printed signatures.

Action Item: Talk to your paper suppliers and press crews to set performance expectations and ask for their help in reducing waste/spoilage.

10. Evaluate new technology. Whether you've got an approved shopping list or just a wish list, it's important to know how today's technology can contribute to your bottom line. On the press side, expect better registration from computer-to-plate, ink presets, on-the-run color measurement systems and operator-friendly folder adjustments, says Sanchez. Look for CIP3-compliant control systems, too.

Action Item: Keep reading American Printer!

Paper Inventory Database--The Graphics Communications Assn. (GCA) collects live paper inventory data from 60 U.S. printing plants. GCA then prepares monthly reports featuring totals and breakdowns for each major grade category of publication paper (coated groundwood, uncoated groundwood, coated freesheet, uncoated freesheet and all others). For more information, contact Alan Kotok at the GCA: (703) 519-8173.

War on Waste Studies--Roger Dickerson led GCA's War on Waste program and compiled his ideas for reducing makeready and running waste into a book: War on Waste II. For more information, contact GCA: (703) 519-8157.

Waste and Spoilage Report--Compare your waste performance to others in the web offset industry. The 162-page report features averages, ratios and proportions. Contact the Web Offset Assn. at (703) 519-8156.

Press Operating Skills--The National Council for Skill Standards in the Graphic Arts, a coalition of 30 industry leaders from business, associations, unions and education, has developed skill standards for the printing industry. Press Operating Skills--Sheetfed and Web Presses covers safety, printing knowledge, paper transfer, basic press operations, ink and inking, preventive maintenance and more. The standard can be ordered from the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF): (412) 741-6860; for more information on the National Council for Skill Standards, call (207) 985-9898.