Lean manufacturing with Six Sigma and pit stop strategies is becoming increasingly important in the label industry, as in many others. Although high printing quality remains critical, there is now also a greater emphasis on production efficiency as a means of ensuring perfect job processing without sacrificing profit margins, which are coming under growing pressure.
Regardless of the printing method used, optimum printing quality is a must – and at the lowest possible cost. Regrettably, the full potential of flexographic printing is, in many cases, yet to be realised, even though many print shops could unlock massive potential for improving printing quality simply by implementing a few appropriate measures. Thanks to advances in press engineering and improvements in the quality of all auxiliary printing equipment and materials such as inks, anilox rollers, adhesive tape, printing plates and substrates, flexographic printers can now meet the very highest quality requirements – something that not all that long ago would have only been possible for offset and rotogravure printers.
This potential is not limited to printing quality, though. There is also scope for boosting production efficiency. Optimising production processes also cuts changeover times. Printing presses are an expensive investment and should therefore spend as much time as possible doing what they are intended to do, i.e. print. Setup times should be kept to a minimum. The same principles apply as in Formula 1 racing – a single second more or less at a pit stop can make the difference between winning and losing. Even if the race leader loses just two seconds during a pit stop, he will require an average of over three minutes on the track, driving flat out, to recoup this time. Changing jobs on a printing press is no different. Every minute lost has a negative impact on the end result.
Unlike in highly standardised printing processes – such as offset printing – there are no international standardisation guidelines available for flexographic printing. Despite this, efficiency in flexographic printing can be improved to a significant extent through correct handling and lean processes. The interplay between prepress and press and in particular between the equipment used (plates, plate substructures, anilox rollers, etc.) has a decisive impact on the result.
Gallus Smart Production Concept
Process standardisation with the Gallus Smart Production Concept can eliminate problems from the outset. This does require a certain amount of discipline, but once the in-house processes have been defined, compliance and implementation are easy. Analysing production and the associated processes highlights the possible potential. The focus must be on evaluating printing quality, studying production sequences and examining the production environment.
- Printing quality: Print results are analysed in detail for print errors and overall quality is rated. Consistency must also be ensured, i.e. the analysis examines how consistent the print quality remains over prolonged production periods and whether there is any room for improvement.
- Production sequences: The flow of information and materials in the production scenario is analysed and examined for any inefficiencies. The job changeover system also needs to be scrutinised. For example, simply analysing the routes walked by printing personnel can yield important results. In simple terms, this means working out the distance the printer walks each day away from the press. This clearly shows just how well the printer is “supported” at the press or whether he himself is responsible for procuring all the necessary printing items. Further decisive factors in the production workflow include the setup time required prior to the start of printing and the level of waste involved, which are both directly related to the degree of optimisation.
- Production environment: The production and press environment must be examined to ensure an optimum flow of materials. The work area on and around the press must be conducive to efficient working practices and the working environment around the press must be equipped with the necessary printing accessories to ensure minimum setup times.
Based on years of experience in performing print trainings worldwide and in the collaboration with the most successful labelprinters Gallus has identified the importance of lean manufacturing at an early stage. By assessing the process efficiency of the whole production environment with an expertise Gallus provides customers the best advice.
Gallus has developed expertise in identifying potential for improvement and devising appropriate solutions. Proposals are prepared based on interviews and observations and their subsequent presentation enables Gallus to prepare a customer-specific concept for boosting efficiency. The main aim of the Gallus Smart Production Concept is to cut job changeover times by as much as possible. This area offers enormous potential for savings. As the example from Formula 1 racing shows, even a small reduction in average setup times of around five minutes per job frees up enough capacity to handle several hundred more jobs each year. This in turn enables print shops to cut the time required for return on investment by up to two years.
Gallus has been performing such analyses for several years and the successes achieved prove that the approach of process standardisation with the Gallus Smart Production Concept is spot on. The Gallus service team has now been strengthened to satisfy the rising demand. Thanks to a unit created specifically for this task, Gallus can scrutinise its customers' label production processes and make the most of the available potential for improvement.