My co-workers and I use a certain dialect around the shop, a unique kind of language that has evolved over time. We use words or phrases that would leave most people scratching their heads, yet we understand each other perfectly. I’m sure most of you do the same thing with your co-workers. One term that’s become popular in my department is “gorilla printer”, or just “gorilla”, for short (as in, “He’s a Gorilla!”). While “gorilla” is ordinarily thought of as a noun, in my department it’s also an adjective (as in, “Now THAT’s Gorilla!”). It embodies an attitude and a work ethic that won’t take “No” for an answer and won’t settle for second best, EVER. We acknowledge the exceptional performance of our print team members by calling them “gorilla” (and we always deepen our voices and puff out our chests a little when we say it!). In our shop, being called a gorilla makes your day. It’s a well-earned badge of honor!
So what in the world is a “Gorilla Printer”? The term, itself, is actually a twisted adaptation of the word “guerilla”. I had recalled from a history lesson that military organizations using conventional tactics have sometimes been unpleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of their often-outnumbered foes using guerilla tactics. The guerillas didn’t fight fair. They didn’t follow the rules. Got the job done under the most adverse conditions is what they did! They were “Gorillas”!
But wait a minute: I was talking about “guerillas”. How did that evolve into “gorilla”? Well, “Gorilla” is easier to visualize, and it’s chock full of attitude. The words sound alike. It caught on in our shop before I explained that what I originally meant was “guerilla”. “Gorilla” stuck. We like it.
So, that’s where the word came from. But, just what is a “Gorilla”? What is special about a gorilla printer, and why in the world would anyone want to be called a gorilla? In considering this, I thought I might try to explain what a “Gorilla” is, by comparing it to what a “Gorilla” is not; the “non-gorilla”.
- In the mind of the gorilla printer, the press he operates and the environment he operates in are his business. Company sales people sell print for him. He leases floor and storage space from the company, and pays for it with sweat equity. The purchasing, maintenance, graphics, shipping, and receiving departments see to it that he has all of the raw materials and support his operation requires. At the end of the week, he pays for his overhead and takes home the net profits. Some of his buddies call it a paycheck; to him, it’s earned profit!
The non-gorilla works eight hours a day. No matter what remains to be done, he clocks in and out on the dot. He’ll apologize for not sweeping up, or wiping the plates. He ran out of time. In his mind, the company pays him for 40 hours; he gives them 40 hours. At the end of the week, he is given a paycheck.
- The gorilla pushes productivity to the limit. She can readily tell you what is limiting her current run rate. It’s on her mind, and she’s busy considering ways to eliminate the obstacle so that she can bump up the speed a notch or two. Can I get it to dry faster? Are viscosities optimum? Are my dryers balanced? She appreciates the value of every second that goes by and tries to anticipate every possible need she’ll have. She’ll make preparations so that the next roll change or plate wiping or job change will take less time than it did previously. She wants to squeeze everything she can out of every minute. She treats job changes the way a NASCAR crew treats a pit stop and she wants to best her set-up time, every time.
The non-gorilla feels that no matter how hard she works, she gets paid the same every week and receives the same cost-of-living raises every year. Why should she kill herself? She’ll be able to round up all the tooling and supplies she needs for the next job change without worrying about the press, if she does it while the press is down. She feels that it’s ok to take it slow during downtime. She doesn’t have a sense of urgency about her work. She doesn’t realize or care that once a minute goes by, it’s gone forever. That there is no making up for lost time, no matter how fast and hard you run at a later time. She doesn’t make the connection between lost time and lost profits.
- A gorilla strives for the perfect printed image. He can’t stand to see halos around his print, or bridging between the dots. He keeps his ink chemistry in the best balance that the resources available to him permit. He frequently checks for minimum impression. He watches for ink buildup around the images and type. He checks treat level, roll hardness, and edge wind. He wants to deliver the best quality product possible. Yet, he knows the meaning of “commercially acceptable” and is capable of striking a balance between high quality and high output. He keeps customers and helps keep the company in business.
The non-gorilla sets it, and forgets it. He doesn’t keep a close watch on his quality. It’s not uncommon for him to notice after several rolls that his colors have darkened considerably, or that some letters were filled in for three rolls, or that two rolls of polyethylene printed without treatment. From time to time, he re-learns just how much scrap can be printed in so little time.
- The gorilla comes in a little early to “overlap” with the printer on the previous shift. She finds out what the press has been behaving like and hits the ground running.
The non-gorilla gets to her press at 7:01 AM. Hey, it takes a while to walk from the time clock!
- The gorilla is still at the press at 3:01 PM, when the non-gorilla on second shift shows up. She knows it’s important for the next operator to know what’s going on. She is well informed and communicates current status as well as what’s to come. She can recommend a course of action to the following operator.
The non-gorilla is focused on stirring her coffee. 3:01 PM is morning for her. She half listens to the debriefing given to her by the gorilla. She figures she’ll find out soon enough, and is glad to see the gorilla go. She feels pressured to perform when the gorilla is around, and wants to be able to take her time to get settled in.
- The gorilla is organized and tidy, yet is dressed to print. He isn’t worried about errant ink droplets or grease stains. Gorilla printing is hard work. It’s not pretty. There’s sweat, ink, grease, and skinned knuckles involved. He doesn’t go out of his way to get dirty. He’s just ready for it.
The non-gorilla looks crisp and clean...too crisp and clean. He’s got his cool street clothes on. The cautious moves he makes to stay clean cost precious time. Not to worry; he gets paid by the hour.
- A gorilla delivers a clean press to the operator following him, even if it wasn’t clean when he came in. Plates are wiped, cleaning solution is refreshed, rags are ready, floor is swept, paperwork is clean and neat and caught up. Raw materials are topped off and ready. Substrate is staged; ink systems are full and balanced; cores are staged.
The non-gorilla often leaves the press and work area a mess. The ink chemistries are off. Viscosity too high, pH too low. There are no cores at the rewind section. He claims the place was a mess when he came in. You don’t expect him to clean it up, do you?
- The gorilla works overtime when needed, and doesn’t whine about it. He takes his business seriously. Sometimes it’s not convenient, but a gorilla understands that backlog levels can fluctuate significantly. Sometimes he can go weeks with barely enough work to keep him busy, followed by weeks of more overtime than he would like to work. He does his part operate efficiently even when the backlog is low, and works to bring the backlog down when it’s high. It cuts his weekends short, sometimes, but he understands the need for flexibility.
The non-gorilla resents working overtime. He gives excuses like “all the money is going to go to taxes”, or “I’ve got a life”. Yet, don’t be surprised if he’s the first to complain when the company cuts back or closes its doors due to being outdone by competition.
- The gorilla is admired for the work she does, but doesn’t expect frequent praise. To a gorilla, there just is no other way to operate. She is compelled to perform, or at least make the effort. It’s within her to try. She just plain works hard and she knows every time she spends her money, that she earned it.
The non-gorilla...enough said!
There is no end to the list of examples we could come up with to compare the gorilla to the non-gorilla. Hopefully, you identified more with the gorillas than you did with the non-gorillas! What should be clear by now, though, is that “gorilla” is an attitude. It’s a frame of mind. Any printer can be a gorilla printer. They don’t necessarily have to know how to print 4-color process work, or operate a multimillion-dollar computerized press, though neither ability will disqualify them. It can be the operator that had to wrap aluminum foil around a fountain roll journal to finish a job, or the one that operates the one-color press in the corner, but gets it cranking every time. Gorilla is a work ethic; it’s heart; it’s attitude, attitude, and more attitude.
Gorilla attitude is not restricted to printing. The characters John Wayne played were gorillas. Tiger Woods is a gorilla. Ever see him pump his arm after a great shot? That’s gorilla!
The folks that answer questions on FlexoExchange’s bulletin board are a bunch of gorillas! They share their knowledge freely, despite having to hunt-and-peck at the keys on their keyboards to type a few lines. They love what they do enough to seek out information and share it, as well. They love flexo. They’re gorilla printers.
Our business is a very technical one, and the tendency is almost always to have technical discussions. However, I think we must also be conscious of the positive impact that attitude can have on our lives and the bottom line. We can choose to have can-do, positive, work-hard attitudes, or we can choose to have sour, no-can-do attitudes. We can take pride in our work, or we can simply pass time. We can also promote “gorilla attitudes” at work and set the example for others. Trust me, it will make a difference! (Remind me to tell you the story sometime of the “Negative Free Zone”!)
Be careful though, “gorilla” is highly contagious! Your pressroom may experience side effects which can include: operators pausing momentarily to beat their chests, unusual hoots and howls, and the occasional episode of name-calling amongst co-workers such as "The Big Magilla", or “Kong”, or some other kooky thing like that. No need to worry, just smile and hope that it continues. I've learned from experience and good fortune that it's great to work with a band of gorillas.
E-Mail Frank: firstname.lastname@example.org
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