About Us  | Contact Us


   Visit FlexoDepot      btn-jobs-exchange      btn-forums-exchange      btn-ugly-exchange


Sign up for our E-Newsletters
Enter your email address below:

Gorilla Flexo™ ArticlesOperating EfficientlyNextPrevious

Improving Productivity with a Checklist:
Reduce downtime and maximize your output
Submitted By:   Frank Burgos

Efficient production is a common goal for all of us in manufacturing. We must yield the greatest possible number of units in a given amount of time to become and remain competitive, yet how many of us are making the most of our available press time? Let's consider this a little further and discuss a way that we can gradually increase productivity and improve the morale of our printing crews while we're at it.
One obvious way to produce more in a given time is to operate our presses at consistently higher speeds. All other factors remaining the same, an increase in press speed will translate directly into an increase in productivity. However, job run times are decreasing, as are the benefits from the minor improvements that we can make in operating speeds. Also, motivating operators to print at consistently higher speeds than they've become accustomed to is often difficult and short-lived. It's a real challenge to get out of a "speed rut".
While I'm not suggesting that we ignore opportunities to run at higher speeds, I'd like to focus on reducing downtime instead, with particular attention to preparing for job set-ups. We'll refer to this preparation as "pre-set-up".
For our discussion we'll define pre-set-up as "the window of opportunity" between when our printing plates are mounted on cylinders, ending pre-press, to when we press the stop button on our press, signaling the start of set-up.  How we manage this time frame can have a tremendous impact not only on our downtime, but on quality, speed, and morale as well.  Unfortunatey, we often plod through this process on "auto pilot", as we've done hundreds of times before, confident that the steps have been memorized through repetition.  Relying on memory and habit, issues resulting in downtime are frequently encountered.
For example, if we discover during set-up that we're out of rags, that a journal bearing needs lubrication, or that we're missing a fitting to a drain hose, valuable press time will be lost trying to remedy a situation that could have been foreseen and prevented.  Sometimes we're forced to compromise on quality, maintenance, safety, or speed to salvage what we can from a wasteful situation.  The best way I've found to  minimize the number of such occurrences is to develop and use  a thorough pre-set-up checklist.  This checklist "remembers" the little details for us.  It helps insure that we perform as much of the pre-set-up as possible ahead of time, consistently.
A well designed pre-set-up checklist is a highly effective tool. It frees us from memorization.  It helps us proceed in a logical sequence that has been carefully thought out, with minimal disruption.  It avoids the search for parts and supplies during job changes.  It also helps avoid horribly wasteful incidences of setting  jobs up, only to pull them from the press without printing due to an overlooked detail.  Sound familiar?
The value of using a checklist is often underestimated or overlooked.  In fact,  the greatest hurdle I've encountered to adopting the use of one is operators insisting that they don't need one.  Well, if  you're among those that believe checklists aren't helpful, consider flying in a plane where the maintenance crew didn't use a list for preparing your flight, or where the pilot didn't conduct a pre-flight systems check with help from a list?  Scary thought!  And while not using a list during pre-set-up is not life threatening to us personally, it can seriously hurt our ability to compete.
So, what should we include on our checklists? The specifics are unique to every situation, but below are five steps to use as a guide in setting one up:
1. Tap everyone for ideas. Enlist operators, helpers, managers, mechanics, etc.

2. Identify everything that can be done safely while the press is running.

3. Arrange each of these items on the checklist in the most logical sequence,
    that is, the best order to perform each step.

4. Use the checklist every time!

5. Keep it current with changes in your process. Re-evaluate the list regularly.

The time frame to consider while developing a pre-set-up checklist begins when the plates are mounted on cylinders and ends when the press is completely set up.  We have to carefully consider each step and decide whether the operator and/or support staff can perform it away from the press, ahead of time.  Most of us will find several things that we currently do during set up, when the press is down, that could be done while the press is still running the current job.  Identifying these opportunities and incorporating them into our lists further reduces downtime related to set-up. Leave no stone unturned; the closer you look, the more you'll find.  The goal is to have as much as possible done in advance of the job change.
Decide the most logical sequence of events and arrange the items on your list accordingly.  For example, it makes sense to check proofs for accuracy before bringing plate cylinders to the staging area, or to check that you have the ink you need before you bring over other supplies.
Included below is a checklist that I developed for a six color, wide web press. I've included a few brief notes in parenthesis for clarity. My hope is not that you adopt it "as is", but that you see the types of items that a pre-set-up checklist might include and get some ideas for creating one that suits your particular needs.
Pre-set-up Checklist

Job Order # : ________________________

Customer: __________________________
___ Job order on hand

___ Accurate   (Proof checked for accuracy)

___ Camera positions indicated
       (On the proof, circle the area(s) you want your video
       camera(s) to focus on initially, based on registration,etc.)

___ Color Sequence  (PMS Colors go here)

      1:______ 2:______ 3:______ 4:______ 5:______

___ Anilox Sequence  (The aniloxes that go in each station)

      1:______ 2:______ 3:______ 4:______ 5:______

Aniloxes Being Changed:

      1:______ 2:______ 3:______ 4:______ 5:______


___ Inks in staging area and weights recorded 
      (Refer to color sequence)

Ink pans
Quantity needed:______
___ In staging area
___ Fittings on correctly

Drain Hoses
Number needed:______
___ In staging area
___ Fittings on correctly
___ Aniloxes Ready
      (Refer to "Aniloxes Being Changed". Are they clean,
      geared, and in staging area?)

Plate Cylinders
___ On carts strategically
      (We preferred that the gear side of our cylinders
      were over the turning wheels)

___ In staging area

___ Bearings on

___ Keys and gears on

___ Collars on

___ Plates inspected

___ Rags  (Rag supply replenished)

___ Gloves  (Rubber and leather gloves at the ready)

___ Wash-up Buckets (Bucket for washing down stations)

___ Return Buckets
      (The buckets that the inks are returning to)

___ Ammonia Full
      (Refill Amine container even if only partly emptied)

___ Reducer Full

___ Stopwatch

___ Zahn Cup

___ pH meter

Set-up Substrate
___ Correct size

___ Correct color

___ In staging area

Job Substrate
___ Correct size

___ Correct color

___ In staging area

___ Cores

___ Splicing tape  (Make sure there's enough in dispenser)


Begin using the checklist as soon as you stabilize a newly started job.  Once everything is under control and the press is running smoothly, record, on the list, variables related to the next job (specifications, colors, parts needed, etc).  Next, refer to the list for the gathering and preparation of parts and supplies.  Finally, check off items on the list as each is completed.
Ideally, the operator is involved  as little as possible in rounding up supplies so that he or she can keep an eye on the press and mentally plan for the job change.  Of course, the degree of support that operators have will vary from pressroom to pressroom.
Note that I include  "minor" items, such as rags, tape, etc.  We tend to think about only the "major" items such as ink and print cylinders.  However, if we need to wipe a plate or make a splice, the lack of a rag or tape can send us half way across the plant, leaving an idle press.  Note also the mention of a "staging" area.   "A  place for everything and everything in its place" is a powerful philosophy to adopt in repetitive work environments.  Make special racks if necessary.  Give thought to the most logical location for everything and familiarize the team with those locations.  With as many tasks as possible performed ahead of time, and with parts neatly and logically arranged, the operator works with fewer interruptions, at a steady pace, under less pressure.  Set-up time decreases, which translates directly into more press run time.

© 1998 FlexoExchange; All Rights Reserved

Questions or comments about this article may be directed to the author:
Frank Burgos
Flexo Industry Consultant
President, FlexoExchange


Get a Printer-Friendly Version of this Article!

Get a Printer-Friendly Version of this Article


© Copyright 1997-2017; FlexoExchange, LLC; All Rights Reserved
No portion of this site may be copied or reproduced without express written permission from the copyright holder.

Phone: +1-336-812-3784
Fax: +1-336-884-5382
Email: mail@flexoexchange.com