Step Three of the buying process: design your future state

After you have identified the problems you have with your current state, you can design the ideal state of your future processes. This enables you to define what you want your software and hardware (the ink dispenser and proofing system) to do.

A. Explore solutions and design the ideal state of your future ink-related processes

Use Lean principles to guide you

After you have reviewed your current state, you can think about how you want your future processes to be. Consider the first 4 principles of the “5 Principles of Lean” to design your future state:

1. Value

  • Which steps add value for the customer, and which do not?

2. Value stream

  • Where in the process are important decision moments?
  • Where are the bottlenecks, how can these be solved?
  • Where does approval take place? How can this be accelerated?
  • Where can parallel work be done? Maybe by digitalization?

3. Flow

  • How can the production process become an even ‘flow’ instead of fluctuating in fits and starts?
  • Where does re-work take place? How could this have happened?
  • Where is information missing, where is too much information?

4. Pull

  • How can the process be driven by demand rather than by capacity?

Using one of the mapping tools mentioned earlier in step two, you can visualize your future state as well. At this point, consider bringing in external expertise from an ink logistics provider, to explore solutions and learn about the latest developments in dispensing, proofing and software. A reputable provider will give advice without expectations of future business.

Your ink supplier may also be approached for advice. GSE partners with many leading ink suppliers to offer you the optimal integrated solution for both your inks as well as a solution to dispense and managing your inks.

Click here to request a template of a flow chart for label or packaging printing, to help in designing the future state of your processes.

B. Determine the software requirements

Think about what you want the software to do. But beware, you must be able to integrate it with your existing packages!

The right ink management software package brings many improvements in your future process. Numerous software solutions are available for supporting efficient workflows, such as for re-using return inks, automating replenishment of base inks, generating traceability, stock and costing reports, creating new colour recipes and correcting existing recipes.

Note that the ink management software package you eventually choose must integrate with other software you already use. Do you already work with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software? If so, you will have to decide where you want to manage your ink recipes – either using the ERP or the new ink management software. Colour formulation software is also commonly integrated with ink management software.

Click here to learn how a French label converter cuts ink waste, assures colour quality and speeds up processes by integrating GSE’s ink management software with MIS/ERP software!

C. Determine hardware requirements:

The type of work you do, among other factors, will determine what you need from an ink dispensing and proofing system.

Ink dispensing
Selecting the right ink dispensing hardware depends on several factors, including among others:

  • the number and types of base colours, technical media and coatings you need for your jobs
  • the ink set(s) you’re using (UV, LED-UV-curable, water-based, solvent): e.g. dispensing systems for UV-curing inks must exclude all light that would cause the ink to cure; solvent-ink dispensers must be made explosion-proof, etc.
  • required production capacity – output may determine level of automation necessary, size of containers and necessary speed and number of dispensers.
  • production batch sizes / output levels – e.g. which container you dispense into.
  • required accuracy – e.g. you may need a separate more accurate dispense head for preparing ink samples
  • ink viscosity and rheology – agitators may be needed for maintaining optimum viscosity and ink performance
  • storage space availability – for example, if there are space limitations, you may need to install multi-level storage solutions involving racks or scaffolding.

Selecting ink proofing equipment depends on:

  • level of automation (manual or automatic)
  • which ink set you use (UV-curable ink requires a drier)
  • the types of drawdowns that you want to do (solids, half tones, dot gain technology)
  • anilox roll specifications and whether you require a machine to clean the printing head after proofing a colour

The supplier can configure and propose equipment that complies with these requirements. The proposal should include a layout drawing (ideally CAD), positioning the equipment in the space you have available with all necessary dimensions and connections.

D. Quantify your objectives

In the previous step you have quantified your current state. Now you can determine what you want to achieve by implementing your ink management solution. Set your objectives with a strategy for attaining them by using the SMART method. That means, make your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and anchored within a Time Frame, e.g.:

  • to achieve an ink spent reduction of 30% by the end of next year
  • to achieve a reduction of 800 workforce hours spent on ink preparation by 31 March
  • to reduce the number of colour corrections on press with 50% by the end of next quarter.

Now you have designed your future state, you are ready to select your solution provider. But what makes a supplier stand out from the rest, and what’s best for your circumstances? You must determine the selection criteria – read this blog, to learn how to do this methodically.