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What’s Lean Mean? …

Jobs, business, profits, and a whole lot more!

February 2009 by Tom Polischuk
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Lean Manufacturing has been an important topic for the package-printing industry (and all U.S. manufacturing, for that matter) for many years now. Printers have most likely engaged in Lean Manufacturing processes without even knowing it. Why? Because Lean is all about reducing/eliminating waste and improving productivity. Any business that hasn’t been seriously engaged in these activities is probably having a difficult time in today’s competitive landscape.

When talking specifically about Lean Manufacturing, however, you are talking about a more formalized system, one derived from Japanese manufacturing successes and more specifically, from the Toyota Production System. When a company is implementing Lean concepts, it is probably engaged in just-in-time, value stream mapping, Kaizen events, 5S, or other waste-elimination processes with distinct nomenclature. In the end, however, the formalized nature of Lean Manufacturing offers the potential to produce results that are greater than what would be achieved with a less structured approach to productivity improvement. 

packagePRINTING recently talked to two suppliers in the package-printing industry that have implemented Lean Manufacturing processes, and that have incorporated Lean thinking into their business cultures. Color Resolutions International (CRI, www.colorresolutions.com) supplies inks for a variety of packaging applications, while InteliCoat Technologies (www.intelicoat.com) is a supplier of coated paper, film, and specialty substrates for imaging technologies.

Getting started

There is a variety of reasons why companies will begin a such an effort. For CRI, it was the opportunity to incorporate Lean Manufacturing into a new facility expansion about seven years ago, reports George Sickinger, president and CEO. “We were embarking on building a new facility and wanted to incorporate Lean Manufacturing into the new facility. We had an ideal opportunity to implement the process from building design through the manufacturing process; it was the right thing to invest in,” he says.

InteliCoat Technologies began its Lean Manufacturing journey in November 2007, says Meyer Weiss, vice president, digital imaging. “After the sale of our Electronic Film Business, we were recommitted to being a 100-percent digital media business. As such, we needed a platform to drive customer value and the elimination of waste. Lean is that platform, not only in manufacturing, but throughout every aspect of the enterprise,” he says. As a vote of confidence from the State of Massachusetts, InteliCoat was awarded a grant of nearly $400,000 in 2008 to help fund its enterprise-wide Lean Manufacturing efforts.

 

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