More profit? The packaging printer’s roadmap for reducing waste

According to a survey from financial consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 90 percent of packaging industry CEOs started cost-reduction initiatives last year. It’s highly likely, therefore, this blog entry concerns you.

But how do you approach such a project? We get this question quite often, from customers all over the world. We have developed a programme for reducing waste, centred on logistics. In a series of seven blog entries, I’ll describe this programme, which consists of three aids to identifying waste and four elements you can introduce to eliminate them, either consequentially or concurrently.

The aids of the programme are:

  1. The eight wastes > focusing on the process
  2. The 5S model > focusing on the workplace
  3. Total ink cost pyramid > focusing on the costs.

The elements of the programme are:

  1. Ink management
  2. Colour management
  3. Proofing the inks
  4. Process integration.

In the first blog entry I’ll describe the aids, and in the following four I’ll elaborate on the four elements of the approach. In this first entry of the series we’ll look more deeply into the eight wastes model.

The eight wastes

Muda, or ‘waste’, is a key concept in Lean. Reducing waste is way of reducing costs and increasing profitability. An important starting point is to discern which process steps add value, and which do not. The ‘seven wastes’ were first identified by Toyota’s Chief Engineer, Taiichi Ohno, as part of the Toyota Production System (TPS) – a system devised by Toyota for organising the car maker’s logistics and manufacturing, and the precursor of Lean. However, more recently, an eighth waste has been added – the waste of human talent.

We understand waste to be the deployment of all time, materials, tools, techniques, people and space in excess of what is needed to offer added value to customers.

Each type of waste is explained below from an ink management perspective, illustrated with examples for added relevance:

Waste #1: Overproduction

Do not produce more than what the customer asks for. For instance, do not mix or order any more colours than are needed for the print run.

Waste #2: Transport

Movement of products form an expense that adds no value. If you as a printer move to mixing the inks from large barrels instead of ordering pre-mixed colours in small packages, you can enjoy substantial reductions in transport costs.

Waste #3: Defects

Aim for zero-defects. Colours that are ‘first time right’ avoid much waste of substrates, ink, press downtime and operator hours.

Waste #4: Inventory

Stocks are purchased that the customer will not pay for. By mixing colours yourself, ‘just in time’ and from a limited number of base colours, you eliminate stocks of pre-mixed colours. Furthermore, if you process press-return inks when mixing and dispensing new batches, you significantly reduce stock levels.

Waste #5: Motion

Excessive motion adds no value. Doing the mixing yourself, near the printing press, means reduced handling and less ink movement. And if you maintain a tidy, ordered ‘ink room’ you are not constantly searching for clean buckets, base inks and return-inks that are awaiting processing.

Waste #6: Overprocessing

Some processes have no place in the workflow. They exist only to resolve errors that occurred in previous processes. For example, if you mix the ink from larger containers (200-litre barrels instead of 20-litre buckets), you avoid having to drain contaminated buckets. And processing return-inks avoids having to hold them in stock or drain them.

Waste #7: Waiting

Products, people and information that stand waiting deliver no value. If you prepare your colour ‘in-house,’ your production planning is less dependent on your ink supplier’s schedules and reliability. Also, by automating the dispensing and mixing, you reduce waiting time even further.

Waste #8: Talent

This is unused or insufficiently using the knowledge and training of the workforce. Examples of not using human talent to full potential include:

  • by mixing inks manually instead of automatically
  • frequently yet unnecessarily checking items in
  • removing or disposing with unusable ink stocks
  • repeatedly entering the same order, but then in a different information system

All these repetitive and laborious tasks can be avoided by installing an automatic dispensing system, along with the appropriate ink management software that is integrated with your management information system.

Overall, reducing waste in your ink logistics chain can arguably reduce your costs by up to 30 percent. In the next blog entry, we will explore the characteristics of a well-organised workplace, with particular focus on the ink space. However, if you can’t wait to achieve the cost savings mentioned above, by all means get in touch with us!