Lean2Print: Smart Management Changes Behavioral Patterns

February 9, 2020 • ILE LAB • Boaz Tamir

Lean Thinking and Digital Technology improve the performance of the traditional printing houses – as it prepares for the print of the 21st century

The digital print revolution will change our life style. The day is not far away in which we will order over the internet a book written on the other side of the world, printed especially for us in the local print store.  But in order to reach that day, we cannot allow ourselves to be satisfied merely with the development of digital print technology; we must also change the way in which printing houses are managed and the value proposition that they present to their customers.

HP Indigo, in cooperation with International Lean Enterprise (ILE) has instituted a pioneering project to improve its effectiveness through a combination of Lean management perspectives and the innovative digital print technology that it has developed.  Improved performance (effectiveness) of the traditional printing house does not begin with technology but rather with a change in management mindset and focus – a transition from the efficiency of the printing machinery to the implementation of a comprehensive service package for the customers, and, subsequently, the removal of obstacles and achievement of a flow process for advertising brochures, books, packaging, posters or photo albums.

The attempt to implement a Lean transformation in printing houses began with a series of three experimental change process in Israel, and soon will start at Spain, and Holland. In Israel, the team supports one of the pioneers in the use of digital printing. The Israeli company decided to adopt Lean management thinking in order to improve its ability to compete commercially in the rapidly-changing print market.  The Israeli print teams have systematically committed themselves to improving the quality of their products and to cutting back on waste and lead time for a job provided to the customer – from the point that the order is placed to the bill of lading and delivery.

The use of digital print technology enables flexibility with regard to the number of copies available for immediate use. The flexibility of the digital print instrument allows it to serve as a pacemaker for the entire print house. The pacemakers organize the stages of the creation of a value package for the customer into small, homogeneous portions, such as lamination, double-layered printing, cutting, folding, and binding.

Implementing Change Gradually

After initial meetings geared to provide an understanding of the principles of Lean thinking, the international ILE team instructed the printing house employees with regard to how to conduct Value Stream Mapping and eliminating waste.  This mapping enables the operational staff to understand the current situation and to identify the obstacles and problems interfering with the work.

The second stage included the planning of a new work model, based on Pull and Flow.

Management of the printing house according to Lean principles is based on these principles:

  1. Effectivity Before Efficiency: Operational efficiency is achieved through a focus on creation of value for the customers of the printing house.
  2. One Piece Flow: The process of manufacturing is focused on creation of a comprehensive and full solution for the customer.  From the moment that the customer’s order comes in, the entire system works on the components of that order until it is completed.
  3. Full Kit: Work begins only after full availability of all means of production and capacity for all stages of the work has been guaranteed (including printing, cutting, and binding of pages, all of which will be precisely synchronized).  Work invested in a jammed project disrupts the work flow.
  4. Flow: Work in small, homogenous portions (without any delays in creation of inventory) improves the flow.
  5. Pull: Rather than pushing the work on towards the next stage (machine), the machine will pull the project from the previous stage, in a value stream that will be constantly prepared according to the proper priorities.
  6. Visual Management: Work pathways and products to be sent out will be marked in agreed-upon colors. The value package for the customer will be marked with colorful stickers to identify completed produces that are waiting for collection.  Marking products will enable to decrease the inventory of work in progress and completed work, both of which take up valuable storage space and disrupt the flow.
  7. Management of Tasks on a Kanban chart: This allows for planning, control and monitoring of the levels of inventory, work in progress, work that is stuck and requires attention and work has been completed.  Visual management of the work on a chart that is visible to all of the staff is preferable to digital monitoring seen solely by managers.  The Kanban chart also serves as a meeting space for the work teams to discuss problems, plan, and coordinate work tasks.
  8. Management of Inventory: Policies for purchase and use of inventory of raw materials (paper, ink, lamination materials) will be re-evaluated according to the principle that assumes that minimization of inventory will reveal problems in the manufacturing process and will prevent the cover up of work failures in the printing house.
  9. Engaging Workers in the Process: Encouraging workers to be involved and optimization of the process will bring about worker engagement in exposure of problems and suggestions of ideas for improvement and their exploration through empirical experimentation.
  10. Kaisen Through Experimentation: These principles will be empirically tested in the printing house through focused experiments.  The findings of these experiments will serve the staff of the printing house as they design an effective work process that will provide the basis for additional improvements in the future.

Design of the Future Process

The change in the view of management in the printing house has a dual purpose:  to create a flow of print materials through the process and, at the same time, to enable the sales system to design a unique and comprehensive value proposition for print services delivered to the customer’s home and according to the customer’s needs.  The design of the value package must be presented to the customer and must receive his approval through an interactive process.  The initial printing through the digital system will make it possible to quickly conduct the initial tests and receive the customer’s approval before beginning the work. Planning of production in the early stages of the process and complete support for the customer through any problem that may come up after the order has been placed make it possible to engage the customer in the production process.

The transition from a single print process consisting of one component (such as picture for a book, for example) to the creation of a comprehensive proposition (book, ads and coupons to promote sales, for example) for the customer job is based on the understanding that the comprehensive value proposition (See Clayton Christensen “Jobs to be done”) for the customer is not the same for every customer, and that this demands a change in the concept of service, creation of a multi-disciplinary team, a redefinition of the decision-making process, flexible team work, and a perfect fit between demand and execution.

At the beginning of the change process, the professional print workers found it difficult to give up their well-known ways of working in order to transition into the digital age in which a combined, multi-disciplinary team replaces the work of the individual.  As they came to understand the advantages of digital technology, they realized that planning the process of production after the customer’s approval leads to a significant decrease in work and redundancy and increases the printing house’s effectivity.  In contrast to the prevailing opinion, in the digital age, team work and personal communication with the customer are nothing less than a condition for commercial survival.

 Boaz Tamir, ILE.

Lean Value Stream Box Score

In: Practical Lean Accounting: A Proven System for Measuring and Managing the Lean Enterprise, by Brian H. Maskell  (Author), Bruce Baggaley (Author), Larry Grasso (Author)

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