High Quality Printing

How To Achieve It In 5 Steps

High Quality Offset PressmanOne of the major problems of any high quality printing program is that there is a very real credibility gap between what existing print quality programs are perceived to be doing and what is actually happening on the pressroom floor.  Many managers are upset because all of their efforts, at great expense, are falling short of goals.  Let me give you a couple of examples I have found in recent consulting assignments.

In one fairly large commercial plant a high quality printing program was firmly established.  A quality print analyst was on the staff and fully trained, I was told.  Quality pickups were made every hour by the security guard right off the load.  The pressman bonus was based on the quality rating of those pickups.  That sounds like a good system, except that on investigation, I found two things.  First the frequency of the pickups swamped the quality analyst so that only very cursory examination was possible.  Second the analyst was totally unaware of what the real parameters of print quality were.  She would skim through a pickup in 30 seconds, issue  rating and go on to the next one.  The ratings had no relevance to real quality.

The real flaw in the system was that the analyst saw almost every deviation as blanket piling.  The pressman was constantly shutting down to wash blankets to prevent the negative rating.  That type of high quality printing system is counter-productive and irrelevant to the real world.

The second quality printing system isPrint Quality Check one that I have seen in many fairly decent pressrooms.  Usually a quality person has been hired and assigned to the job.  A title and an office is in place.  What is missing is a basic direction or an action plan.  All that such a system generates is one more commentary on quality with little action to change it.

I travelled to a third world country to assist a fairly large newspaper to achieve a high quality product.  Here is what we did.  It was incredible.  

1.  Develop a Print Quality Grid

A quality print analyst was trained to use a statistical quality grid.  The grid was broken down into categories and written in non-professional terms so that the analyst and the pressman could easily understand it.  Teaching the analyst to use the grid took only half an hour.  This analyst was incredibly tough and her first independent rating was 1.4, which was very low, but I had to admit was realistic.

2.  Explain The Low Print Quality Rating

We had a crew meeting.  We fully explained the statistical quality grid and explained its purpose and objectives.  We discussed all of the negatives of the last paper and explained the low initial rating.  A full wide-ranging print quality discussion followed.  One of our meeting objectives was to determine if there were any press conditions that had negative impact on quality and which could be eliminated.  

3.  Expose Quality Printing Issues

We had a second crew meeting.  The quality rating had improved to 2.5 which was good for a one day improvement.  During the run we had picked up samples at five thousand intervals.  In addition, I had very carefully marked up a complete paper.  At the meeting we discussed the paper page by page, and problem by problem.  A correction for each of the problems was given.  We discussed ink and water extensively and its impact on the overall quality result.  

The most significant part of this meeting was a display of the five thousand interval newspapers.  The variation was incredibly bad.  Fortunately there were a few good ones.  High quality printing clearly was possible.  We discussed the reasons for the variations and made suggestions on some corrective actions.

At this meeting it was agreed that the pressman would turn in his best paper for analysis instead of a random pickup.  This would make the analysis more honest.  Actually, at that point, the program could be a success because a very serious effort to achieve high quality printing was assured due to the pride factor.  At the meetings I had made constant references to pride as the major factor in print quality.

4.  Demonstrate and Review Print Results

Print Quality InspectionWe had a third and last meeting.  We again had picked up samples at intervals of five thousand.  The turn around was incredible.  The quality analyst had given a rating of 3.5 which was very high.  The display of the sequenced papers was almost unbelievable.  Where we had ranges that were wild before, we now had a consistency that was very acceptable.  The crews had lowered their water dials by ten points and reduced their folder nip pressure with very significant quality improvements in every category.  

This meeting was dominated by smiles and extremely proud press crews.  They had shown this American how good they could be.

5.  Maintain the System

All of the pieces for a high quality printing program were now in place.  We had a trained print quality analyst.  We had a preferred quality pickup system that assured that a high quality effort would be made every day.  We had set up a system to respond to quality deterents through the crew meeting concept which will continue on a weekly basis.  We provided a book on basic a book on basic pressmanship that I wrote which will make further progress possible.  

The most important contribution was to display to management that communication is the key ingredient in any high quality printing program.  You can not run a quality program with smoke signals.  There must be statistical process control program, such as this one.

This five step program can be successful in any pressroom.  The most important aspect of this system is that the program is a profit-producer.  High quality printing demands efficiency, and efficiency improves your productivity and lowers waste.  One must remember that quality printing is only possible if the pressroom manager does his job and is responsive to the needs of the pressman.  The marriage of a manager and pressman through the quality program is the best thing that can happen to a pressroom’s bottom line.

You simply cannot place your high quality printing program into inexperienced hands and expect that improvements will come forth.  Quality is a total management problem that requires management’s best effort.  If your quality is poor, don’t look toward the pressman for solutions, look at what your managers are contributing.  The whole idea of the five step program is to get management into the game.  Try it, you might like it, and your pressman will love it!

by Frank Drazan