In conversations with our customers, I often receive questions like “How can we lower our manufacturing costs?” or “Can you help us increase our performance?” With print production under cost-savings pressure these days, owners, production managers or VP’s of operations are looking to squeeze out every dollar possible in order to be price-competitive. The answers to these questions start with looking at your data. One of our customers printed a t-shirt with the imprint “Data is the New Oil.” This is right on with every facet of the world being fueled and pushed forward by the data we transmit and receive on a daily basis. For example, Heidelberg has developed programs that convert log-file data coming from our machines into production metrics. I can then extract this unbiased data coming from a customer’s press to answer his or her questions. I explain the situation by merely looking at the production data and making comparisons to state-of-the-art key performance indicator values that were acquired from the many machines running in the marketplace. This benchmarking very quickly answers these previous questions and reveals where the problems are.
It could be, for example, that make-ready times are too long, or an excessive amount of waste sheets are created before or during production. Sometimes press speeds aren’t maximized, or there’s just too much waiting time between jobs because of inefficient workflow processes. There’s no end to drilling deeper into the data and getting to the answers, as specific as the questions might be. Typically, the print shop owners and production staff are surprised about the accuracy of the data, and the ability to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong and what the remedies are. Once it’s clear, effective measures can be defined to fix the situation. In some cases, a lack of a “dialed-in” colour management causes unnecessary waste. In other cases, perhaps the machine is not properly repaired and maintained, which can lead to breakdown times or sub-standard printing speeds. All in all, the performance loss (we measure this in overall equipment effectiveness) is often rather large. Every little thing adds up – and in total, the financial impact of understanding your performance data can mean much higher profit margins for a printing operation.
This article originally appeared in Graphic Arts.