Efficiency is the name of the game in any manufacturing environment—maximize output, minimize input. It’s a simple formula, but there’s nothing simple about implementing it.
One of the more common approaches used to improve manufacturing efficiency, Lean Manufacturing, has been around for some time. It is a concept that drives companies toward efficient operations by relentlessly focusing on waste—in any form—that impacts time and materials.
A key underlying requirement for implementing effective Lean Manufacturing practices is accurate and timely information. This is why there is a close association between Lean Manufacturing and business/production software systems. As one example, David Taylor, president/CEO of Radius Solutions, has promoted his company’s interests in this area by taking active roles in forums on Lean Manufacturing at TLMI events, along with participating in research studies on Lean Manufacturing’s impact in printing and packaging organizations.
Last year, Printing Industries of America/Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (PIA/GATF) formed its Center for Lean Practices as a source for training and consulting for Lean Manufacturing practices applied in the printing industry. A recent survey conducted by PIA/GATF and Point Balance, LLC—a consulting firm serving the printing and publishing industries—found that although 77 percent of North American printing company managers were familiar with Lean Manufacturing, about 40 percent of printing companies were actually using Lean Manufacturing tools.
These results would indicate that there is still a lot of opportunity for efficiency improvements within the printing industry (at least the Lean type). Given the highly competitive, global nature of the industry, along with intense pressure on profit margins from a multitude of areas, companies that have yet to incorporate Lean Manufacturing into their businesses may want to give it serious consideration—before it’s too late.
One way to start is by streamlining business processes and management information systems (MIS). The following is a sampling of companies that specialize in MIS for the printing and packaging industries, along with recent enhancements to their product lines.