Step Two of the buying process: look at your current state

Once you’ve set up the buying teams, the next step is to analyze how you are doing things now, to identify areas for improvement.

Look at all your current processes for managing and processing ink through the workflow. Several “lean” techniques can be helpful to map your current process, like Value Stream Mapping (VSM), Manufacturing Critical-path Time (MCT), or Swimlanes. Get your roll of brown paper, post-its and markers – and get started!

What problems are you experiencing, such as delays, errors and waste within your workflow? The Eight Wastes is a great tool to find the issues in your current process.

Visualize the issues on your brown paper.

Here are some common ink-related problems we’ve come across:

  • At a label converter, the buying team have identified colour preparation as a ‘bottleneck.’ The pre-press specialist in the ink kitchen mixes ink manually, measuring out the colours according to a swatch-book recipe. It takes a few adaptations to get colour accuracy, because the specialist uses eyesight to compare the mixture to the colour in the swatch book. This causes a variety of wastes:
    • Waiting time – there’s press downtime, because it takes a long time to get colours right
    • Overproduction – more colour than needed is prepared to avoid running out of ink when printing
    • Rejects and rework – because the colour is not ‘right first time’
    • Human talent – the hard-working colour mixing specialist is frustrated about a role that is more about ‘fire-fighting’ than adding value and career progression.
  • A flexo printer’s inventory is cluttered with small quantities of spot-colour inks returned from the press (“return inks”) after a job is finished. These are based on special recipes, so it’s too difficult to reuse these in anything other than a repeat job. They take up space, make inventory complicated to manage, and often go to waste, costing significant sums of money over the year.
  • An operator relies on an Excel spreadsheet to store all the recipes. Adding new recipes every time a customer launches a new brand variation is a laborious task.
  • A decor printer recycles its return inks by measuring the L*a*b* values of each colour with a spectrophotometer, and calculating which fresh base inks must be added to reach the target colour of a new job. This is very time-consuming. Moreover, traceability data of the base ingredients in the return ink container are lost.

Quantify metrics
Try to quantify your current state. For example, how many hours does your workforce need to spend preparing inks? How many colour corrections do you need to make on press? How much do you spend on fresh inks and how much ink just goes to waste?

You have now identified problems and quantified waste associated with your current state. From this base, you can start imagining your future state – learn more about this next step here!

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