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looking good to the boss

Looking Good to the Boss

Chances are Jimmie Johnson, Tom Brady, Mike Trout, LeBron James, and other top athletes don’t spend much time worrying about what their team owner thinks. These guys are among the best in their sports and if they are traded or get a better offer from another team it’s just an opportunity to be a bigger star and pump up the paycheck.

But that’s not how it works for the rest of us. We have to prove ourselves, if not every day, then pretty regularly to operations types, bean counters, and ultimately to the team owner, the guy who signs the paychecks. Thye’re running a label and packaging business and worrying about sales, getting jobs out on time, maintaining print quality, maximizing uptime on the shop floor, and getting the most for the company’s money in terms of people and equipment. And helping them do any of these makes you look good.

There are three inter-related areas where press operators and supervisors can make a difference that managers will notice—and appreciate. And you have to get them all right:

  • Delivering consistent, reliable performance from your presses
  • Employing best practices including tools and processes used
  • Reducing or eliminating errors and failures that cost time and money

These sound easy, but as you know all too well, things sometimes go sideways.

Consistent, reliable performance

You’re good at your job and the place you work has been around awhile so there is no doubt that you do a great many things right. Raising the bar on that comes from using the right tools so you can work without worry and make what you do look easy. For example, take that 48,500-foot label job that has to be on a truck tonight at 5 PM. You’ve set up all the decks, wiped down the anilox rolls, and have the colors and substrates exactly right. Are you worried? Should you be?

The right tools for the job

About the last thing you need, at 11,350 feet into that job, is for the cyan to drift because the ink isn’t metering quite right. So you stop the press, take a look and crank up a little more pressure to account for the doctor blade you figured was good for another day. You run a couple hundred feet of material through the press, the color looks good and things seem okay. But at just over 18,000 feet the color begins to drift again. This time it’s magenta. And while the clock is ticking, the boss wanders down the floor to ask how that big job is doing, because the nervous customer just called him.

Failure is not an option

You got smart and when the doctor blade on the magenta deck went south. You spent an hour putting in new blades on every deck. Now things are going to be just fine. You fire up the press, burn through some more material to get color and things are going great. Then an end seal on the black deck blows out. The floor around the press looks like Turn 3 at Talladega that day when some back-of-the-pack driver blew his engine and coated the track with a couple gallons of hot oil. The deadline that looked so easy to meet just became a fantasy. The boss won’t be smiling.

You get what you pay for

Business owners and bean counters talk about ROI, or Return on Investment. It’s a way of looking at what they get out of what they spend. Take doctor blades and end seals. You can buy cheap ones all day long for a few bucks that will last a shift or two. But pushing them too far is like driving fast in the rain when the tires on your car are worn past the wear bars: It may not end well. But if the boss will spring for higher quality, more durable blades, more jobs will print correctly. You’ll also spend less time changing blades—maybe once a week instead of three or four time—which saves a lot of downtime. And you look smart because you found a way to get more productive time on the press. Sure, the blades cost more, but the savings in labor and assurance of print quality are a lot greater than the cost of better blades.

The same story goes for end seals. You probably aren’t a fan of cleaning up after a seal blows out or even leaks. And the guy who signs your check sure isn’t a fan of down time. But if you use a higher quality end seal that costs a few bucks more you get seals that last longer and lessen the chance of your having to spend an afternoon cleaning up after a seal failure. With press time billing out for as much as $500 an hour—whether the press is running or if you’re cleaning up a spill—spending a few dollars more for end seals that don’t leak and last longer is short money compared to downtime.

Printing business owners like to say, “When the press is running I’m making money.” And that’s true. Except when the press is down because some inexpensive consumable part failed in the middle of a job, throwing profit out the window. The idea here is to spend a little, save a lot.

So there are a couple things you can do. First, have your Provident Group sales rep arrange for an ink systems analysis of your operation. A tech team will look at your presses, identify weaknesses and share some best practices and ideas for how you can save time, improve print quality, and maybe even work more efficiently. Second, see what your Provident rep has to offer for doctor blades and end seals and see if these simple parts can make a difference in your operation. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain if you can be the point guy for changes that help you, your boss—and his company—look good.