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PSPs Turning to Lean Manufacturing

In today’s printing environment, work is routinely characterized by short production cycles, constantly diminishing run lengths, and an increased emphasis on versioning and variable data. A constant pressure to shorten lead times makes the mix truly challenging, even for the most innovative print service providers. The ability to respond quickly to ever-changing customer demands requires the use of manufacturing production techniques and systems that can be reconfigured and expanded on the fly. These systems must also accommodate advances in the production of complex marketing communications programs without making any existing equipment investments obsolete. To remain competitive in today’s marketplace, many print service providers (PSPs) are turning to lean manufacturing.

Lean Manufacturing Defined

Some people think that lean manufacturing is all about cutting jobs and laying people off. In reality, lean manufacturing is implemented by organizations that want to improve their operations, grow their businesses, and increase sales. Lean manufacturing is actually a growth strategy—it is about re-investing or redeploying freed-up resources within an organization to promote its long-term health.

In the world of lean manufacturing, it is all about the customer. A lean organization has a “customer first” attitude. If a customer sees improved quality and responsiveness, this has obvious benefits for the customer as well as the print service provider. Faster responses to customized/unusual requests or expedited delivery can become a market differentiator. If customers get what they want in a timely manner, they are more likely to be satisfied… and satisfied customers are loyal customers. When it comes to lean manufacturing, the focus is on doing things that add value. Value-added behaviors are any activities that physically change the material (not including rework/repair). These activities include print production, data management, finishing, distribution, kitting, mailing, and fulfillment. Non-value-added behaviors include any activities that require time, materials, or space, but do not physically change the product. These activities include sorting, counting, stacking, and checking. When analyzing their environments, companies need to look for activities that can add value for clients versus those that do not.

Why Go Lean?

Lean manufacturing equates to zero defects, 100% value-add, the ability to produce a lot size of one, and dealing with manufacturing processes from a customer pull perspective. Becoming lean enables service providers to improve customer satisfaction, increase sales and profits, ensure the long-term health and survival of the company, and create a sustainable competitive advantage. These are typical results from a lean conversion. These results are often seen on a localized basis immediately after a particular lean improvement activity is completed. It takes a period of months or years for an organization to tie individual improvements together and truly realize bottom-line financial improvement.

Implementing lean in an organization can:

  • Increase overall throughputs
  • Maximize efficiencies
  • Minimize waste
  • Lead to greater profit margins
  • Provide opportunities for competitive bidding
  • Increase value to the client base

Getting There

The primary goal is becoming lean throughout the entire organization. Lean practices extend throughout the facility and throughout the supply chain. Going lean often requires a number of steps:

  • Setting aggressive improvement goals
  • Measuring existing operations
  • Recognizing current problem areas
  • Applying the lean system concepts
  • Committing to continuous improvements
  • Taking action

The best opportunities for the printing industry involve:

  • Arranging work into a one-piece value stream
  • Streamlining order entry
  • Front end estimating, preflighting, and prepress
  • Press make-ready
  • Finishing and shipping 

InfoTrends’ report, Lean Is In!, discusses the fundamental principles surrounding lean manufacturing and examines how savvy PSPs are taking on the challenge of “going lean.” The report presents two case studies of companies that achieved successful implementations. For more information or to purchase this report visit our online store or contact Robyn Wuori at +1 ext. 103 or .


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