LEAN and SMART manufacturing: take the fast lane towards operational excellence

Converters face a demanding set of challenges: assuring tight quality standards, often in small quantities and at short notice. There is no time or place for waste in manufacturing today. To meet high quality and service expectations while remaining profitable requires a management system that aims for excellence in performance, and speed in response.

There are two important steps that a manufacturing company must take to be competitive and successful in such a challenging climate.

The first is to become ‘lean’ – this requires adopting a culture of methodically stamping out waste in the business, as well as ensuring that everything you do and deliver results in added value for the customer.

The second is to become ‘smart’ – taking advantage of innovations in software development, the internet and the ‘cloud’ in order to accelerate processes, manage information and make better decisions.

Kick-start ‘lean’ business with ink management

For a packaging and label converter, applying the ‘lean’ management system specifically to handling ink and processing colour will make a big impact on company performance. Ink may only represent as little as 6% of material costs to the converter. But if ink is not managed correctly, the costs to the business in terms of scrap, downtime, rejects and remakes can escalate significantly. Ink follows a more complex route than other materials used in the printing house, and so the potential for lost value through errors is greater. Think of the extra processing needed for special shades, or inks returned from a press after production as often happens in flexo printing.

However, with an understanding of what causes waste, the tools to control processes, plus a culture of ‘continuous improvement,’ your printing house is likely to see measurable improvements – in productivity, quality, cost control, and ultimately profits. Look at any industrial sector you like, from automotive to packaging, and the evidence is overwhelming: companies that apply the principles of Lean and Smart manufacturing (nowadays referred to as “Lean 4.0”) are the ‘preferred suppliers’ capable of delivering extra value to their customers, and getting things done ‘right first time’ – every time.

Simplify processes, organise the workspace!

Your company too can start the journey towards operational excellence, by following a program we have devised specially for label and packaging converters. It includes identifying waste, reducing waste with ink logistics, and harnessing the latest ‘smart’ software packages to speed up processes and improve decision-making.

Forthcoming blog entries, will explore these elements in more detail, and show how they relate to your printing house:

The means of identifying waste:

  • Waste in your processes – identified by using the 8 wastes program
  • Waste in your workplace – identified by the 5S program
  • How much your inks are really costing your business – revealed by the ink cost pyramid

Road map

The road map to lean and smart ink logistics:

1. Ink dispensing and ink management

Reducing waste and delays incurred by using a dispenser to get accurate colour shades ‘on-demand’.

2. Colour management

Colour formulation software to optimize the process of implementing new colours and correcting colours at the press.

3. Proofing the inks

A wet-proofing system provides precise colour predictability, without the need for colour adjustments during job changes at the target press.

4. Business process integration

Integrating ink management software with ERP, cloud services and mobile apps for significant process improvements.

The next blog entry looks at the five principles of Lean.

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