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Eight Costly Printing Issues

May 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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When you think of waste, what comes to mind? Many printers don't think beyond paper — makeready, roll slab, roll damage, running waste and so on. But in the bigger picture, waste encompasses time and material expenses that consume resources without adding value. As we'll see, if you want to minimize waste, you must embrace Process Excellence.

If you're not adding value, you are creating waste. Printers add value when their processes change or convert the form, fit, and/or function (print, cut, fold, collate, stitch, etc.) of materials and items into the final product. As illustrated in Figure 1, “Value-added” refers to the activities and actions that customers specify and expect to pay for.

Beware of non-value-added activities

Non-value-added (NVA) waste is synonymous with downtime. NVA refers to process activities and actions that consume resources, but don't actually convert or add any value to materials and in-process product. Customers don't care about and won't pay extra for these things. NVA generally can be categorized as follows:

  • Defective Product encompasses the cost of time and raw materials spent manufacturing unacceptable product. Waste from product defects includes employee time as well as materials and equipment used to inspect, sort, handle, and re-run defective product.

  • Overproduction occurs when product is manufactured faster and sooner than the next process can handle or in excess of customers' actual needs. Consider the costs of large amounts of raw materials and product spending long periods in work-in-process (WIP) and final-product inventory.

    Overproduction symptoms include pulling jobs off a machine in the middle of a production run to make room for another job, production overtime that customers don't pay for, large amounts of floor space clogged with WIP skids and process bottlenecks. Overruns from poor estimating may result in warehouses filled with finished goods inventory that customers often don't need and won't buy. Excess product takes up space, ties up capital and ultimately is thrown away.

  • Waiting happens when some processes are held up pending the completion of other processes. Examples include downtime, machine breakdowns, long makereadies and setups, and defective product awaiting inspection. Other examples include waiting for delivery of raw materials or clarification of information.

  • Non-utilized people results when employees' knowledge, skills, creativity, process experience and teamwork aren't used. Such waste results from antiquated thinking, department politics, resistance to change, fear of repercussions from new ideas, “not-invented-here” culture, slow feedback, poor hiring practices and insufficient investment in effective training.

  • Transporting waste occurs when supplies, materials, WIP, and raw materials inventory are scattered across a plant. The cost of people's time and extra equipment required to valet tooling, materials, and WIP loads is NVA waste. Remember: Distance is your enemy!

  • Inventory may include dollar costs of materials purchased and floor space required for excessive raw materials and WIP. If the final product is stored prior to delivery to customers, waiting for payment is defined as waste. Suppose you tie up a lot of money to buy huge quantities paper at discount. Inventory related waste would include the debt incurred to borrow capital to pay weekly and monthly business expenses (salaries, health insurance, utilities, etc.).

  • Motion is excessive and unnecessary human motion and movement. This includes time spent searching for and retrieving tools and materials, poor process layout, waste from outdated technology and poor component conditions.

    Wasted motion also can be attributed to equipment mechanisms that result in increased adjustments; faulty job components (such as production schedule, job tickets, and proofs); unacceptable materials (paper, ink, coating, and plates) that spawn quick-fix quality activities; missing/underperforming tools and equipment; and poor teamwork and process organization.

  • Extra processing refers to any actions that don't add value. It may include extra time spent on processing jobs due to long equipment changeover (makeready); resolving quality-related print problems with a “Band-Aid” approach; rigging bindery equipment to resolve layout problems; redundant actions and activities resulting from poor job planning; inadequate materials; and mechanical equipment problems stemming from substandard equipment conditions.

  • Will the real lead time please stand up?

    Contrary to popular belief, lead time doesn't start when a job appears on the production schedule. Lead time is much broader, encompassing the time it takes for all required activities (value-added and NVA) to produce and ship a printed job. These processes and activities are known as the value stream or the printer's “hidden factory.”

    Value-stream lead time begins when printers pay for and receive raw materials. It continues through all processes until the customer pays for the job they contracted for delivery. Value stream lead time and associated costs can be significant (see Figure 2).

    What are some common factors influencing NVA waste? The underlying support provided by management and staff is known as procurement (materials and supplies) and pre-changeover. Management and staff are responsible for all necessary information, materials, tools, instruments, and equipment (press, cutter, folder, collator/stretcher, etc.). All of these things must be correct, functioning properly and readily available at designated locations at all times.

    Pre-changeover should be a process of excellence. The goal is for operators to run the equipment efficiently, produce quality jobs and meet customers' quality, quantity, and delivery expectations. Effective procurement and pre-changeover will slash the majority of non-value-added waste in production.

    Mind your print production Xs and Ys

    Print production processes are effective when they provide product that meets or exceeds customers' expectations. Lean Management can help users identify and minimize waste.

    Lean Management has three general components:

    • Identifying the customer's expectations.
    • Evaluating the printer's performance — is the company meeting or exceeding customer expectations?
    • Determining what is needed to produce the job. Processes can be grouped into X inputs and Y outputs. X inputs add value through process actions (print, cut, fold, collate, stitch, package and so on) performed in particular sequences.

X inputs are everything needed for a process to produce output and may include people (knowledge, skill, and attitude), machines and tooling materials, information, and supplies, methods, tasks, activities and procedures, measurement (process control, quality and performance), and environment (temperature and humidity, lighting, production layout and cleanliness).

Y outputs are what internal and external customers expect the value stream to produce in price, quality, quantity and lead time. If the X inputs are not controlled, the Y outputs will not meet customer expectations and demands.

Basic Y output customer expectations include competitive pricing, acceptable quality, appropriate job quantity and on time delivery to the correct destination.

The general production formula is “Y outputs = the function of the X inputs.” Lean Management must ensure that everything needed for a value stream to produce product at expected y outputs are correct, functioning properly and easily accessible.

Efficiency of support activities should be tracked to help identify problem areas. If the same problem is noted frequently, it is an indicator of process failure and corrective and preventive actions must be executed immediately to optimize the process.

Identifying the weakest links

Identifying the constraint process (“the weakest link”) in an operation's value stream helps printers accelerate their production throughput and slash non-value-added waste. Begin in shipping, and then proceed upstream through postpress, press, prepress, estimating and planning. Focus on the processes operations, not just the results or outcome.

  • Search and find the constraint process. Identify where WIP inventory or bottlenecks occur.
  • Conduct a technical & production assessment to determine if equipment and processes are operating and performing at manufacturer and industry specifications and best industry practices. Assessments also enable visual observations of production processes to actually see the constraint process in action.
  • Develop and analyze a value stream map. This Lean Manufacturing tool relies on process and inventory data to determine the actual constraint process.
  • Optimize — employ Lean Tools to maximize operations, decrease waiting and downtime, shrink changeovers and setups, accelerate production cycle time, and slash errors and spoilage.
  • Delegate all support activities and decisions to optimize the constraint process and operations. Decisions must be based on data and information, not personal biases, departmental politics or “tribal knowledge.”
  • Raise the constraint process to the highest level of priority by the lifting production load off to other processes.
  • Start over by searching and isolating the new constraint process.

Lean Management utilizes a systematic methodology which identifies and removes all forms of waste and NVA activities. Any activity that does not add value to the printed product or service is waste. Lean goals are achieved through constantly adding value and achieving continuous flow through a printer's value stream. Lean has a board full of tools to find and eliminate waste.

Everyone must recognize the magnitude of non-value-added waste and production constraints and create the necessary sense of urgency needed to overcome them to achieve process excellence. The rewards from eliminating the majority of non-value-added activities can be enormous.

Ken Rizzo is Printing Industries of America's director of consulting, custom training and the Center for Lean Practices. Contact him at

Key concepts

Waste is the dollar costs of time and materials that consume resources and either don't add any value to the printed product or result in unacceptable product(s). To overcome waste, printers must achieve Process Excellence. Process Excellence means all planning, prepress, press, and postpress activities and operations consistently run at optimum performance and quality levels.

Lean Manufacturing is the primary weapon many industries use to overcome spoilage and waste.

Lean Management is the role senior leadership plays to constantly add value to products.

Sound familiar?

Achieving Process Excellence will minimize many of the following problems:

  • Machine is down waiting for WIP, plate remakes or someone to make a decision.
  • Job pulled off press prior to completion to get another job on the machine.
  • Job information is incorrect, incomplete or unclear.
  • Job is scheduled for production, but not press-ready.
  • Scribbled or nonspecific notes on proofs.
  • Finished job doesn't match proof.
  • Proofs made incorrectly.
  • Layout doesn't fit to print, or a similar problem.

More problems…

  • Waiting for paper.
  • Paper doesn't match required specifications (coating picking, surface coating causing ink mottle, uneven, wavy, etc.).
  • Job pulled because machine can't run job.
  • Paper loads not press-ready (poorly jogged, varying cut lengths, or lift truck damage).
  • Printed loads have quality problem (hickeys, dry-ups, tinting, color washed out, oil spots or off color).
  • Waiting for plates to run job.
  • Waiting for ink.
  • Ink color draw downs don't match ink on press.
  • Ink color draw downs old, faded and dirty.
  • Inks and coatings incompatible with stock.
  • Insufficient ink or coating to run the job.
  • Jobs difficult to fit images or do not fit at all.
  • Color matched visually during makeready, no standard ink density targets established.
  • Numerous register/color adjustments required to match job specifications makeready
  • Spots and voids in plates.
  • Coating anilox roller damaged, worn out or wrong cells ruling.
  • Coating plates difficult to find.
  • Wash-up tray blades damaged or in poor condition, resulting in long roller rinses.
  • Jobs stopped in bindery to inspect out poor quality.
  • Diecutting tooling worn out and inadequate.

…But wait, there's more

  • Searching for WIP job.
  • Moving WIP around the plant.
  • Materials purchased by price rather than quality and compatibility.
  • Company attitude is “operators can fix it on the machine.”
  • Maintenance philosophy is fix it when it breaks.
  • Machines run slower to prevent quality problems attributable to poor maintenance.
  • Frequent machine failures; maintenance and critical cares neglected.
  • Poor communications among customers, designers, customer service and production associates.

Lean on me…

Lean Application Tools

Lean teams

Training and education

Kaizen blitz

Visual systems management

Standard work

Error proofing

Process control

Quality at the source

Policy deployment

Lean Tools to Search for Waste

Technical & production assessments

Value stream mapping

OEE (Overall equipment effectiveness)

Lean Tools to Eliminate Waste

5S (sort, straighten, shine standardize, sustain)


Total productive maintenance (TPM)

Quick changeover (single minute exchange of die)

Batch reduction

Manufacturing cells (cellular flow)

Plant layout

Kanban pull systems

See Ken Rizzo's “Total productive maintenance,” September 2008, at