Need An Offset Printing Consultant? That Depends on Your Shoes

Your plant is in trouble and you need an offset printing consultant.   Profits are down, waste is up, and reprints are an everyday occurrence.  Schedules are not met and customers are irate.   Oh woe is me, where can I get help?  That's a common complaint or outcry in the offset printing industry today.   Quite often the call goes out to some high priced consultant with Gucci shoes who it is hoped will bring the operation under control with some new and brilliant recommendations.

The Typical Consultant
Usually the consultant will provide reports with data, charts, graphs and programs that will restore order and profitability to your printing operation.  There are many good consultants in the field today.  Many are working for suppliers and do the consulting as part of the product he sells.  Ink companies, paper companies, press manufacturing suppliers, all have experts and problem solvers.  Some of the solutions are related to their products - some are not.

The Alternative to Consulting
Let's look at alternatives to the Gucci approach. Recently I made a call to a plant in trouble.   After observing the operation for a day I asked to meet with the crews.   Before the meeting I had prepared a list of observations and recommendations.   I started the crew meetings by explaining management's commitment to improve the operation and restore profitability.   I then went around the room and consulted each man from joggers to the foreman, "What do you need to improve your job performance?"  

Each man made recommendations.  By the time we finished questioning the last man every one of my recommendations as the consultant had already been made by the crews.  They didn't miss one thing.  When you consider the fact that most of the crews had very limited technical expertise and none were well trained, you have to wonder if the consultant wearing his Gucci shoes had more smarts than the man on the line wearing steel-toed Sears work shoes.

The dilemma here is that Gucci recommendations have a chance that some action will be taken.  That positively is not a sure thing, however.  Some managers have a high tolerance for bottom-line pain and find more joy in the hunt for solutions than in the elimination of problems through changes in procedures and practices.

What are the ingredients of a successful offset printer as recommended by the crews?

1. Good planned maintenance.  Even a genius cannot perform on a junk press.

2. Standard procedures.  If everyone does it one way, following crews have no difficulty.

3. Know your limitations.  Don't attempt impossible to profit on jobs. Let your competitor go broke on them.

4. Maintain good supplies of all perishables.  Provide identified storage space for these.

5. Maintain a clean press room.  Quality and cleanliness go together.  Pride in your plant is important.

6. Communication.  Keep everyone informed: jobs in house, crew assignments, and schedules.  Quality ratings.

7. Provide some form of training.  Make a positive effort to use every member of the crew in the total operation.  Avoid one skilled and the rest labor.

8. Have meetings.  Most important, provide a forum where crews and managers can meet and discuss all of these things on a regular basis.

When you have done all of these things, you won't be calling for the Gucci-clad offset printing consultant - you will be wearing them.

by Frank Drazan

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