“Most consulting firms who employ Lean methodologies cast a wide net that covers nearly every manufacturing and service industry, but we focus on printing and the graphic arts,” says Southworth. “When I was directing Lean implementation efforts, I had a difficult time finding anyone who could or had applied Lean to the print industry. Every time we tried to use someone who employed standard Lean training methods and case studies, the employees pushed back by saying, ‘We don’t make cars or planes or widgets — we’re printers.’ It made the task of turning Lean theory into practice a bit more challenging back then.”
“The goal is to teach printers ‘how to fish’ for themselves, in a manner of speaking,” he adds. “This is done by educating the workforce about Lean, engaging them in hands-on improvement, and helping them to evolve into self-sustaining continual improvement organizations, eliminating waste in every step of their enterprise.” For example, he says, printers can, and have, reduced press setup times by as much as 80 percent, freeing up valuable sales capacity and eliminating the need to buy more equipment.
Another benefit is safety. “Safety is paramount,” notes Southworth. “Lean is first and foremost about respecting people, and providing a safe workplace is always the first priority. Never, and I mean never, make any changes to a process that jeopardize a person’s safety. By employing Lean principles, a company can create a safer environment.”
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