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The Motivational Pyramid For Pressrooms

The most stressful question in the minds of many managers is, "How can I motivate my workers to perform their jobs above the minimum, 'get by' level?  In a recent seminar, this question came up repeatedly.  It was evident that the managers asking the questions were looking for another magic trick to get the job done.  The challenge was to provide a single sentence answer.


The motivational question was entwined with related problems of quality control and worker turnover.  In discussions, it was established that workers were quick to lay back for any minor problem - they produced minimum level of quality and had no loyalty to the job or employer, so they quit on a regular basis.  They could not hire and hold a pressman.  This, even in the competitive wage structure.  One interesting fallout was that the turnover was very high in the marginal poor performer area and low on the skilled level.


In crew meetings I participated in, on various occasions in many plants, the most prevalent complaint of newer employees was that the opportunity to learn new skills was their most difficult problem.  Looking at it from their perspective, they had a nothing job with no opportunities to advance and move ahead.  In discussing this problem with the skilled crew leaders, I found a definite pattern of disrespect for their crews - rock-heads, lazy bums, etc etc, were common terms used.


That gives you a picture of what is happening on your press room floor.  There is no teamwork.  Help on even the most basic level isn't available because communications have broken down on the horns of animosity.  Meantime, the boss is at a conference to find that magic wand to promote motivation.


Let's assume the boss stays home to work on that problem.  What are the normal, proven, established, time tested, and totally useless procedures that are found in industry today.  The best way to categorize them is to look at the management pyramid.  At the top of the pyramid you see all of the pressures that are placed on the man on the line.  This includes rules of control, productivity standards, quality standards, crew size limitations, paper work requirements and a listing of conditions which the crews must deal with on a daily basis.  The pressure of this pyramid of rules and problems is focused on the crew.


The bottom reversed pyramid lists all of the managerial actions that should be taken to remove that onerous pressure from the shoulders of your craftsmen.  The essence of the reversed pyramid relates to a basic law of physics, "to every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."  You push me, I'll push back.  You help me, and I'll help you.  Let's examine the problems previously noted and see how the pyramid works.  


1.  At the top of the pressure pyramid you have a managerial pressure.  This takes many forms.  Schedule pressures, manager demands, reporting burdens, production standards, waste pressures, and manning pressures.


2.  The second level relates to quality.  This pressure point is constant even without managerial stress.


3.  Minimal manager input.  This leaves the craftsman to deal with all of his problem alone.  One of the negatives here is that when the craftsman does perform well, nobody acknowledges it.


4.  Lack of training.  This compounded because the crew leader is uncertain about his methods because of poor training and he must find time to train his crew or do it all himself.  Unfortunately, he usually opts to do it all and probably with considerable ineptitude.  This perpetuates crew ineptitude and poor methods and procedures go on uncorrected.  


5.  Bean counter materials.  The bean counters buy the cheapest materials possible.  This goes from the hardware all the way to the raw materials (ink, paper, etc.).  No bean counter ever recognized the press problems that poor materials create.  The problem is aggravated by the lack of manager input mentioned on level three.


6.  Poor maintenance.  A press that is not maintained cannot perform to expected levels.  This too is impacted by minimal manager input.  


7.  Poor communication.  This is in addition to minimum manager input.  Communications include instruction sheets, proofs, ink swatches, schedules, and crew layouts.


8.  Tight schedules.  Unrealistic schedules increase tension and mistakes.  Necessary procedures are sometimes cut off because of schedule problems.


9.  Poor press conditions.  This includes housekeeping, lighting, ventilation, room to work, and basic amenities.  


Obviously, we could continue this list, but I believe the point has been made.


At the bottom of that pyramid of problems is the pressman.  This pyramid is his burden every hour of every day.  It is inescapable.


Now let's look at the solution to this burdensome problem.  It must be recognized that each of these problems exact a toll in lost production - poor quality, low morale, and low, low motivation.  What you have created with this upper pyramid is an atmosphere of desperate deprivation that tells the pressman that nobody cares except him.


Consider this, the profit of any press room pivots on press performance.  A typical high speed press can use $4,000 of paper per hour and sells for $500 to $1,000 an hour.  If you add these numbers up, you find that the pressman is guiding the destiny of over $5,000 an hour.  Even small mistakes at that level become very large losses.  A shut down caused by crew error costs $500.  One percent added waste over the standard can cost thousands and thousands of dollars over time.  With that scenario in mind, let's look at solutions.


1.  Training
The key to any improvement aimed at supporting the pressman is training.  This training must include craft training for him and crew training for his crew.  A team concept must be established.  Training must include the first line manager and the prepress people.  Everyone must be aware of the impact he has on press performance.  Salesmen must be trained to understand limitations for the press.  Top management must allocated dollars for training or allocated dollars for lost profits.


2.  Improved Raw Materials
A penny spent can be ten cents saved at press time.  Purchasing should pursue a quality requirement in everything they buy.


3.  Communications
Every bit of information needed to produce the job should be on hand.  The treasure hunt for information costs $250 an hour.


4.  Press conditions
Provide light, heat ventilation, room to work, space for supplies, and good housekeeping.  This is a pride and morale builder.  No one wants to work in a sewer.


5.  Adequate Crewing
The smallest portion of a print job is crew cost.  Fixed costs, interest, rent, management and raw materials are the biggest items.  Adding a helper at minimal cost, may be the best way to reduce delays, shorten make readies, and allow for higher speeds.  Don't save $7.00 an hour and lose $250 an hour in delays.


6.  Quality Standards
Monitor results, comment on quality, provide input.  Take the burden off the pressman.  Establish a quality standard checklist.  Along with this, reduce the diddlers who spend hours to achieve results above requirements.


7.  Manger Participation
Every level of the lower pyramid requires manager input.  Eliminate book keeping and paperwork from the foreman's job so that he can actively participate in press room problem solving while providing leadership and motivation an learning himself in the process.


8.  Incentives
Some equitable method of rewarding performance should be established.  Nothing motivates like an extra buck.  There are many options.


9.  Managerial Support
A good pressroom manager.  That's the whole enchilada.  Support means support, not pressure.  That's what this pyramid is all about.  We must support the man who is controlling both our expenditures and our profits.  We must kill off the concept of motivating them and establish the concept of motivating us, so that with our support, participation, and training, we forget that we even needed motivation.  Motivation is in fact a by-product of managerial participation.  Turn that pyramid around and start counting your money.






by Frank Drazan

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