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Special Report

Improve Productivity on the Shop Floor (Part 2)

by Raymond J. Prince, Senior Technical Consultant, PIA/GATF

November-December, 2006
One of the largest issues we deal with is paper. In the past five years, many feel the quality of paper has gone down while others feel it has improved. Both may be right – it depends on many factors. In general, paper quality has gone up but the quality demanded or expected by many buyers has increased dramatically. Likewise, the push for production has placed more demands on a sheet than ever before. In many instances, the wrong paper was chosen for the job and printing that job became a nightmare. The correct paper usually will print well. Selection of stock should be based first on the end use of the piece, rather than on other factors such as design, ease of production, etc. The wrong grain direction for a job can kill the job. When this happens, normally a reprint is necessary.

Stock arriving at a finisher should be jogged well at the printing company. Without a good jog, damage will occur. If spray powder is heavy, the loads will need to be jogged and aerated. Many printing companies can do this.

Handling of paper needs to be done with care. If you receive rolls, then roll protectors need to be used when storing the rolls. This prevents further damage. Summer or winter stock needs to be conditioned before it is finished. Allowing the stock to come to room temperature is necessary before unwrapping the stock. Most management does not like this idea, but it is a ‘pay now’ or ‘pay later’ issue. In most plants, plastic skids are better than wood skids for the handling of jobs. A jogger can make quite a difference in how a job will run. Many joggers will blow air through the skid, allowing for the removal of makeready sheets and bad or trip sheets. Finally, removal of the powder makes UV coating all that much easier.

Maintenance and Service
Maintenance is an item that most plants do not wish to address because it costs time and money. How often should we maintain a piece of equipment? Answer – whatever the manual says and maybe more often if you are in high production. The best way to manage maintenance is to schedule it as a job. The best time to do it is not on Monday morning but at a time when key management and sales staff are not in the plant. In a large plant, it is wise to use maintenance people and operators for the work. The operators learn and will end up having more respect for the equipment.

The equipment should have no broken or worn parts. I have never seen a piece of equipment with broken and/or worn parts run fast. The utilization of an “Action Board” is a good idea for some plants. All equipment should have an operating manual at the piece of equipment.

Regarding makeready times, whoever heard of too fast? All we hear about is too slow. Long makeready times are indicative of poor training and/or poor maintenance or materials. A fast makeready begins with thorough and complete job planning. Crewing must be adequate and for certain operations, floor help can produce some great rewards. Raw materials, as well as information, also need to be staged. Clear instructions are needed on the shop floor. There should be no questions.

With much of the newer machinery today where the electronics are extensive, the concept of “Remote Service” becomes very interesting, if not essential, for the reduction of downtime. Essentially, the manufacturer can look remotely at the functioning of the machine and diagnose the problem without ever sending a person to the plant. The current trend is to have the manufacturer provide contract service in an effort to keep the up time high for the entire year. Some manufacturers will put in parts that do wear out on-site under consignment. Others will sell, at a discount, parts that are predicted to wear out.

Standard Operating Procedures
The development of “Standard Operating Procedures” is a wonderful idea. Keep in mind that you may be keeping that new piece of equipment for 20+ years. How many different people are going to operate that piece of equipment? Likewise, if you have multiple machines and multiple shifts, would it not be great to have everyone doing the same thing the same way? This is what SOPs can do for you. I feel it is time well spent to develop them. It is a wise idea to keep them simple and sequence the events on the equipment.

Checking quality of production should be done on long runs every ten minutes and the pull samples saved with the job ticket or in Quality Control envelopes. For short runs, check constantly.

For inspection of work and viewing color, keep in mind that a viewing booth is necessary with about 2000 lumens of light at 5000K. This insures that the operator can see the samples and view them the same way that the printer did. Sunlight should be eliminated from any work area – this hampers proper viewing of work.

In today’s production environment, we are seeing new machinery running near or at full speed. For quality, running a machine at too slow a speed is just as bad as running it too fast. Ideally, you should set a ‘goal’ running speed for each piece of equipment and post it by the machine.

Have you defined Quality for your plant? I recently asked a group if they were high quality product producers and every hand went up. I then asked if any of them were low quality producers and no hands went up. Since we are all high quality producers, we need to define quality so the operator easily can understand the standards and run to that quality level. People need to have quality defined in numbers, as well as by pictures. Likewise, the necessary tools to measure quality should be located at the machine.

All of the ideas listed in this article and in the first article on this topic (published in the August/September 2006 issue of InsideFinishing) will improve productivity without costing large amounts of money to implement. Remember, purchasing new machinery is not always the answer. Careful maintenance and the development of standard operating procedures can work wonders to improve productivity on the shop floor.

Raymond Prince is the senior technical consultant in the Technical Services Group at the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF) in Pittsburgh, Penn. A 45-year veteran, Prince conducts technical plant assessments in response to technical inquiries from GATF members and the industry. He also presents technical seminars, conducts in-plant training programs, contributes technical information to GATF textbooks and Technical Services Reports, and writes a monthly “Tech Tips” for the Graphic Arts Blue Book web site. To contact Raymond Prince with technical questions, e-mail him at raygaft@aol.com.