Do we need Six Sigma Lean Manufacturing in the Printing Industry?

Posted by CoastalPrint on Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I’m one week into my trek towards a new Lean culture at Coastal Printing. I started by contacting my MIS software provider – we use DecisionWare by Western Business Systems, a soup-to-nuts Management Information System that includes automated data collection.

What is automated data collection you may ask, for us it is the keying in of every work task, time and material usage into the system as the task is performed, or the materials are used or received.

I thought I would start here as we are entering a wealth of information into the system so that we can get job costing… and “by golly” we know how much each job costs (down to the last penny).

Let me tell you a story…

buried-in-paperWhen I first arrived at Coastal the owner asked me to come over to his house on the first Sunday night… I thought “that’s nice a supper invitation!” However, my expectations were misplaced. When I arrived at his home, I found him at a table with several boxes of job tickets – each with a cost report attached to the front of the job ticket. He then started to go through each ticket.

After the first few it was obvious that this was a time for huge amounts of alcohol and ear muffs – as he was getting more and more frustrated as he read each cost report that showed a loss against the estimated prices… OUCH!!

By the end of the evening I could see the issue. Coastal Printing had responded to the market – the new lower price market, by lowering their prices. However, they had not changed their manufacturing structure, so all they were doing was taking the estimate and the cutting price – with the hope that they would be able to win the job and… well I am not sure what the “and” was… but whatever it was, it was not working.

After that experience I realized that we had to re-invent the wheel at Coastal and since then we have done so. The management team and I have read both the Lean Printing books by Kevin Cooper and have used the five S’s, Kaizan principles, and many other of the great suggestions to reduce make-readies, increase efficiencies and drive waste out of the manufacturing process. The problem is we have not taken it far enough!

This weekend I am off to Indianapolis to the PIA’s Continuous Improvement Conference, where I am going to meet owners and managers of hundreds of printing companies, all trying to change their businesses to be successful in the new printing landscape of the 21st century.

I also made a small adjustment to my education goal – instead of signing up for the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt course, I signed up for the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course. After a lot of research (and review of my available time), I realized that I needed to be able to bite off just what I could chew at this stage; and the Green Belt curriculum looked “do-able,” while still focusing me for the challenge ahead.

BTW: I also sat down with my operations management leaders – Operations manager, Prepress manager and the Pressroom manager to tell them about my plans and to solicit their support. I got great feedback and “how can we help responses” from two of them and a lukewarm response from one. So I have challenges on more than just one front because as I see it the managers must eat, live and drink the lean Culture if we are to be successful!

Also – To circle back to the use of ADC, Western Business Services are going to add some programming to DecisionWare so that I can not only use the data we collect to review our costs, but also look at all of our make-ready and run times. They are going to make me a search/selection addition to our production dashboard so that I can select to export any of the data by department, by cost center, by date, by employee, and by job number with times, hourly rates, actual vs. estimated and available hours vs. used hours. All this information will be exportable to Excel where we will be able to slice and dice it. We (the operations management team) are then going to meet each week to review and analyze what we find and start to look for trends and then see if we can use what we find to effect change.



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Printers in Sarasota, Florida (FL) Coastal Printing is an innovative printing company! We offer sheetfed printing and digital printing solutions. We are driven towards one mission - to assist you by producing communication media that will enhance your business.