Measure What Matters

Measurement is absolutely essential for any converter in that they must know how their processes are performing, how well they are meeting customers' needs, if targeted improvements are being made, and where opportunities for further gains reside.

Many converters are overwhelmed with data that is collected religiously but is not actionable. The goal is to measure what matters. in metrics that are actionable. Once again, “that which can be measured can be managed,” but make sure what is actioned really matters.

In the August 2006 column, a simple INPUT-Transform-OUTPUT model was described around the press operation. On the output side, five fundamental performance measures were given: Quality, Yield, Throughput, Up-Time, and Unit Cost. Metrics can be assigned to any or all outputs. Base line performance is established followed by setting targets and measuring trends over a period of time. The data should be reviewed on a regular basis, say monthly, and projects raised to address unsatisfactory results.

Following are some measurement examples based on actual experience.

In this chart the percentage of jobs that need toning has been tracked for a year, with some progress made toward the goal of 23%. This metric impacts waste and uptime primarily, and while not directly convertible to dollars, it is easily understood, measured, recorded, and above all is actionable. All incidents of toning on the press would be analyzed for cause with the objective of eliminating the root cause. And causes can be widespread, such as invalid color copy, different press setup than expected, and color contamination from dirty equipment.

There would be much concern about these trends. The pounds and dollars of ink/1,000 printed units shows a gradual climb over a period of one year. Analysis of mix in a very complex product line showed that this operation had two factors contributing to the trends. The mix contained larger cartons, and many of the items in the mix had more colors and higher coverage of individual colors. This would negatively impact profit if pricing did not take this into account when the supply contract was signed.

Ownership converters have found that performance measures require high ownership by operators and first-line supervisors, since they are most able to influence actual results. Often, charts are posted visibly in the press room, and management is supportive in providing resources for corrective action projects when required. The owners of the process have the deepest insight into the process. This will be explored in a future column.

David Argent has 30+ years of experience in the converting industry. He specializes in process analysis and improvement with particular emphasis on ink and coating design and performance. Contact him at 636/391-8180; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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