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Are You Consistently Consistent?

What two things do NASCAR teams, aviation technicians, and special ops units all have in common?

First, they have procedures for everything they do and do each function the same way each time. There’s usually room to adjust for unforeseen events and for improvisation, but the core process remains unchanged. This consistency helps deliver predicable results and reduces the chances of things getting out of control and not working as expected.

Consistency Matters!

For example, while NASCAR teams pride themselves on perfect pit stops, the action between races includes extensive locked-down procedures for suspension work to aerodynamics to engine rebuilds that help ensure the car is ready for the next race. Likewise, techs who keep airliners and military aircraft flying have checklists for replacing every part of a plane, and those are followed to the letter to maintain readiness and safety. And the guys in special ops units have unique sets of procedures that can be adapted to every situation. All these highly trained pros know that doing a task exactly the same way every time is easier and yields the best results. They are consistently consistent.

The same concept holds true on your shop floor, except that the way many things are done in flexo shops are consistently inconsistent.

For example, in your shop are the steps and processes for various tasks passed down verbally from supervisor to press operator to assistant? This is not uncommon and can go on for years—often with little adjustments along the way. There usually isn’t much in the way of documentation—a written procedure— for a newcomer to use in learning his or her job. In fact, most of the time the way a plate is changed or how a new die is mounted is explained as “the way we’ve always done it.” This can be OK, but can leave too much to chance, especially if experienced people are not available—perhaps due to illness or injury. Reliance on verbal instructions also assumes that everyone always does what they have been told, without “personal” shortcuts. This mostly works, but it can be improved.

For example, some of the best flexo shops use video and written procedures to capture all the actions, tools and parts needed for each step. This makes training new employees faster, easier and provides a reliable resource should a seasoned staff member leave a company. It also encourages a consistent approach for each job and for overall press operation. This improves efficiency and if any problems arise, can help with troubleshooting to isolate where something went wrong.

But developing the best approaches can be challenging and time-consuming. Providing an experienced and outside perspective, the inking systems pros from Provident can evaluate every aspect of the ink train on all your flexo presses. They can suggest places for improvement and help create and document a set of procedures that can work to meet the shop’s needs. Provident’s expertise draws on first-hand experience in all types and sizes of flexo shops to help your shop develop consistent processes that help increase efficiency, improve throughput, and reduce costs. To start raising the bar on your shop’s consistency, talk with your Provident representative or call Provident at 920-733-5415.

Scheduled Maintenance

The second thing NASCAR, aviation and special forces have in common is SM or scheduled maintenance: replacing various items on a regular basis instead of when they wear out. For the NASCAR guys it’s stuff like brakes, fluids, belts and suspension parts. In aviation most parts of an aircraft are marked with a date of install or planned replacement—a date well before the part is worn out. And special ops guys are positively compulsive about even minor stuff like batteries because they simply can’t afford failure of a $1 part to jeopardize a mission.

SM is simpler for your flexo press, but it’s still an important way to save time, money and to reduce the need for fun things like cleaning up after an end seal blows ink all over the press and makes puddles on the floor. When you figure that a blown end seal can mean three or more hours of downtime—while the boss is watching the clock and a customer is waiting delivery—changing it ahead of time just makes sense.

So what does SM mean for those flexo presses you are handling? You probably do routine maintenance on your flexo every so-many hours—maybe once a week. That’s already scheduled down-time so it should easy to add doctor blades and end seals to the punch list. You know what happens when an end seal goes south, but doctor blades are sneakier. The print quality begins to slip, so the band-aid fix is turning up the pressure on the impression cylinder. That might work for a while, but the problem is really a worn doctor blade. So why not avoid the issue in the future and just replace the blades every time the press is down for a maintenance cycle? It’s faster, smarter and while some managers will resist, the math and the big picture work in your favor. Here’s an example.

Let’s say you don’t replace the doctor blades during normal maintenance. Then at 7500 feet into the next job the blade on the black station has clearly reached the end of the road. So you shut the press down for an hour, change the blade, waste some material while you get the ink back up and you’re good to go. But at 16,500 feet the cyan blade is done. So you do the stop and do the change drill all over again. So now that 30,000 foot job took two hours longer than budgeted and used up an extra 400 feet of material. But it’s only money, right?

The alternative is spending an extra hour or two of SM time—when the press is down anyway—swapping in new blades and seals and then being able to work without worry. The cost of replacing blades and seals a little before they are worn out is like defensive driving: you avoid the disasters by being a bit more prepared and using common sense.

When you talk with your Provident rep about consistency, be sure to ask how a SM program for doctor blades and end seals can help save money and help improve the quality of the work coming off your flexo presses. Because we at Provident make all the parts you need for ink management, we can help you develop a complete program that provides the consistency in processes and scheduled maintenance that can ensure the success of your shop.

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