I can hear the muttering…what can possibly be creative about working in the bindery? “After all, I run the same folding machine and same jobs over and over again, every day.” Or, “I manage 2 shifts with 50 people, a dozen machines, demanding customers and it’s the same stressful stuff every day.”
It’s my experience that bindery and printing businesses draw some particularly creative types, across the spectrum from operators to owners. A glance at the Binding Industries Association Product of Excellence Award Winners proves my point. It lists a wide range of unusual pieces produced, for the most part, on fairly typical equipment using the same inks, papers and finishing techniques used in ordinary jobs. The difference is a dash of creativity which transforms the ordinary into beautiful, award-winning products loved by clients.
Yet there is more to being creative in our jobs than working with the ‘glamorous’ fun stuff. Every job involves people, environment, product, processes, and equipment. We can get creative with every aspect and in doing so make our job and our lives better. With that in mind here are four tips that should help keep the creativity flowing.
Look at the little things. I’m not sure who said it first, but little hinges swing big doors. Waiting for the ‘big idea’ will trap you into accomplishing nothing. If you look at most big ideas, you’ll find they were an evolution of numerous small ideas strung together over time.
In our work in the bindery, we can start by asking ourselves questions about every aspect of our day at work.
- Can I deal with so-and-so differently to get a better response?
- Can we make this product with different material?
- Can I set up my equipment in less time?
- Can I set it up to run a little faster?
- Is our scheduling efficient?
- What if…?
Once we begin examining the little stuff, the list is endless and ever-changing.
As a bindery equipment operator I recall being ridiculed by a co-worker for paying attention to the number of steps I had to take when running a folding machine. I positioned the printed material, carts and packing accessories so as to take the fewest number of steps with minimal turning and lifting. It was a little thing to think about (most did not and do not,) and it was far from glamorous. Yet that seemingly insignificant improvement when combined with a few other little things helped me routinely out-produce almost all my colleagues.
Teach others your craft. Teaching others is one of the best ways to learn and get creative, even if you are a veteran. You will get enough questions and scenarios tossed your way that you might even feel like a printing apprentice yourself. When you find yourself hesitating and answering ‘well, we’ve always done it that way’ and you really don’t know why you are doing something, then you’re on your way to learning more and injecting some creativity into your work!
Investigate how people do things in other industries. Sticking to our own industry customs can blind us to a better way. Usually such customs and practices exist because at one time they worked well and provided a benefit. Maybe they still do. Yet a look at how a cutting-edge electronics manufacturer schedules work, for example, might inspire something different in how your department handles workflow. You never know.
Never stop improving your job. If you adopt the attitude that there is always one little thing that can be made better, you’ll remain creative and your job will evolve. Take advantage of your commuting time to think, quietly. If your job is to set up and run equipment, engage the little gray cells while the machine is running.
The fact that you’re reading this tells me you have at least a small streak of creativity driving you to read, think, improve and create. Get started today. There is no limit to the possibilities.
Let us know how you stay creative!