Screen Printing - June/July 2012 - (Page 10)
T H E P R E P R E S S W IRE
DIGITAL VS. SCREEN AND THE DILEMMA OF PROCESS IMPROVEMENT
In this installment, Coudray looks at ways in which screen printers can take a leadership role in improving quality and integrating into a more digital-oriented advertising world.
Mark A. Coudray is president of Coudray Graphic Technologies, San Luis Obispo, CA. He has served as a director of (SGIA) and as chairman of the Academy of Screen Printing Technology. Coudray has authored more than 250 papers and articles over the last 20 years, and he received the SGIA’s Swormstedt Award in 1992 and 1994. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
n the February/March issue of Screen Printing, I talked about what’s really driving the relentless contraction of run length. For those that missed it, the quick difference is that the old graphic-communication model was based on mass production of printed units. To get the cost per unit low enough to justify a campaign, the run length was increased to lower the proportional cost of the prepress and set-up. To remain economically viable, screen has been focusing on reduced setup times and heightened production efficiencies. This has been the way we’ve always handled it— we simply look for ways to reduce non-billable or non-valueadd time within the overall transaction. We aren’t alone here. Every other analog printing method has looked to this model as well. Back in the early 1990s, Total Quality Management (TQM) sought to create flexible manufacturing cells capable of producing very small lots. This was extended in Lean Manufacturing as a method to eliminate all waste. This includes any time that‘s not directly buidable into the value of the final product. Like TQM, Lean aims to create an economic value unit of one. This is consistent with the convergence we see with the digital model. So far, so good. We’re all on the same page when it comes to getting rid of waste. So why won’t this work moving forward for screen printing? The real issue is the total cost of operation. There are two components here, the first being the material cost of setup. This includes all the prepress costs: image prep, ripping, film (if not direct), screens, and screen prep labor. It also includes the labor to set up the press and the associated run-up costs of getting the press sheet dialed in for color and fit. We can’t do much about the prepress costs other than skipping the film portion and going direct to screen. The screen and mesh amortization, emulsion, and imaging costs are limited. We might be able to save some exposure time by using pure photopolymers, but this is a relatively low savings. On the set-up side of things, the more control we have
over ink flow and press set-up, the faster we’ll come up to color and fit. The work to achieve this was done way back in the mid 1980s with high tension mesh and thixotropic UV inks. Ink shear became a very predictable model. Sadly, many companies are still fighting this battle when it should have been history two decades ago.
What has kept the screen-printing industry from succeeding at optimization has to do with resistance to change. The old model is based on years of experience being rewarded in a high hourly wage rate. This high labor cost caps how much we can save through increased efficiency. Color management was introduced as a method of control to combat this problem. The result is that ICC color management has commoditized output quality. If you’re using a digital printer, and have properly profiled the press, ink, and substrate, the results will be the same if the operator is paid $25.00/hr or $2.00/hr. This means whoever has the lowest labor cost is going to get the work, unless you can change the equation. This will be a very important part of what I will address shortly. When a market is growing there’s little motivation to curb costs or to optimize. When the market plateaus and begins to decline, the focus is on cutting costs and improving efficiency. This is an effort of diminishing returns. For screen printing the problem is that the expensive, experienced technicians (pressmen) have an analog paradigm. It has always been hard to get them to embrace controls and standardization at the core of ICC, G7, or any other standards-based system. The reason is simple, once a system is controlled, the value of having skilled technicians diminishes. Look at what has happened to litho. It has so focused on setup and cost reduction that it’s now able to compete with screen, especially in large format. The run sizes have dropped to less than 1000 sheets on presses fully capable of running 18,000
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Screen Printing - June/July 2012
Screen Printing - June/july 2012
Digital vs. Screen and the Dilemma of Process Improvement
Step Up Your Game With Team Wear
Boosting Garment-Printing Efficiency
What Printers Think About Rip Software
Direct-to-Garment Site Preparation and the Environment
Screen Printing - June/July 2012