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And you think you have problems...

(September 2003) posted on Fri Oct 17, 2003

Visit a printing facility where standard operating procedures, equipment maintenance and cleaning, and production procedures are failing.

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By Carol Swift, Peter Kiddell

If you have read our columns over the years, you may have thought some of the printing problems and mistakes we've described were fanciful. Actually, they are all taken from real-life experiences. We committed many of the mistakes ourselves, but most were taken from our experiences as consultants. This month, we'd like you to join us as we recall a visit to a facility where confusion reigned, a situation that is not nearly as unusual as you might expect. You may consider the conditions at this facility extreme, but they occur to some extent in virtually every printing operation, regardless of the types of products being printed.

Production control gone wild

We were called into a large manufacturing plant (part of a multinational company) to assess and improve its printing operation. Screen printing and pad printing were just two of the many production processes employed by the company. We were told the company's "printing guru" had retired and left the production department with limited printing expertise. The company's managers wanted employees to be well versed in the technical aspects of the screen- and pad-printing processes and standard operating procedures in the printing department to be up to the mark. We expected the job to be a simple and routine check up.

The production department not only employed printing processes, but also injection-molding, metal-forming, assembly, testing, ultra-sonic welding, and spray-painting processes. The print processes were part of this broader production line and located in a specific area of their own. The company operated several shifts and said they followed ISO 9000 standards. On the surface, the company appeared to be a typical manufacturing unit.

However, after we arrived, one look at the equipment quickly gave us an indication of what was to follow. The printing equipment was covered in ink. The company attempted to improve the look of the machines by repainting them. The combination of dried ink under the paint and newly dried ink over the paint gave the equipment a slightly surreal look, rather like frequently used candlesticks that have seen many a holiday. But these conditions left nothing to celebrate.


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