Quite a few people have expressed surprise that we write about bindery and printing issues that don’t directly relate to the products we sell. For instance why would I write about guillotine cutters when our products fit folding and scoring machines, saddle stitchers, perfect binders and web presses? The question is a reflection of the tendency in printing to isolate ourselves departmentally—post-press, press, pre-press, production, sales, shipping, mailing, and so on.
Yet when you look at the big picture, it’s obvious that all these departments are connected. The first few times I had to “fix the job in the bindery” showed me clearly this was true! When one department does poorly, the business as a whole suffers. Our tendency to isolate within our department or specialty can quickly blind us to the big picture. It sometimes causes us to ask the wrong questions which lead to the wrong conclusions.
Here’s a good example from a common phone call we receive: “I have an old scoring machine, sitting unused in a corner. If I could get a good score I could use it. But your creasing tools will cost me five times what the machine is worth. I’d be throwing good money after bad.”
The problem is that the value isn’t in the machine itself. It never is. It’s in the results it can deliver. Just ask anyone who’s invested $40-50,000 or more in a brand new scoring system who can’t successfully score the jobs their shop runs. (It happens a lot, by the way.) The machine is worth virtually nothing to the owner even though a huge investment was just made.
The isolationist looks at a machine all by itself, not as one piece in a bigger puzzle. Maybe it’s not as effective or as fast as newer, more sophisticated scoring machines. Maybe no one ever learned to use it properly. Maybe someone gave it to them for free and thus the perceived value is zero. Maybe it just needs a good cleaning. In any case, it has minimal or zero value because it’s not currently delivering results that matter.
Let’s try asking some big-picture questions.
In the classic business book, The Goal, author Eliyahu Goldratt tells the story of a manufacturing company manager, Alex, who turns around a struggling business in a declining industry. At one point, Alex convinces his team to pull an old machine out of storage to help with a production bottleneck.
Resistance to the idea is huge and objections are plentiful. The old machine is slow and ineffective compared to the new robotic machines. The accountant said costs per part would rise to an unacceptable level. Labor costs will increase, scheduling will be difficult, the union won’t let us, and more.
Alex, who was looking at the big picture, prevailed. He eliminated a bottleneck, produced what was said to be an impossible order, and returned the about-to-be-closed division to profitability. It turns out the departmental objections didn’t matter. Even though the old machine itself wasn’t very efficient, it made them as a company more efficient and thus more profitable. The big picture outlook paid off.
Let’s cast a new set of big-picture eyes on our old, ineffective scoring machine. (You can substitute whatever old equipment you might have collecting dust in your shop.) Imagine you walk to work every day but you have a twenty year old car in your driveway. One day you get an incredible job offer but you have to drive many miles to get there. The car has four bald tires, needs a tune up, and has a blue book value of $100. Would you invest $1,000 for new tires and a tune-up? Probably.
That’s because you are investing in results. You are putting the original investment in that car back to work, extending its active life, and making it more productive. Yes there are dozens of cars that get better gas mileage, are more comfortable, and will get you there in style. But this car is getting the job done today. It’s making YOU more productive and profitable. It’s letting you take immediate advantage of an opportunity.
Maybe the old piece of bindery equipment could be used for the occasional bottleneck. Perhaps it could be put to use in-line with a right angle folding station. Perhaps you could add a conveyor delivery to increase its hourly output. Perhaps creasing, perforating or cutting accessories could be added to enable it to do other jobs.
Or, let me fantasize for you for a minute…maybe your company has decided to completely update your bindery with state-of-the-art equipment using an unlimited budget. Even so, I’ll wager you eventually run into a bottleneck.
So do a little brainstorming. Ask the questions that beget more questions. There are no wrong questions. It will probably drive your colleagues crazy but it will set you up to overcome the inevitable bindery production bottlenecks.
And for fun, be sure to check out the video below in which we put some new life into an old Rosback 223 perforating and scoring machine.
Have a good bottleneck story to share? Ever had an old piece of equipment save the day for your company? Please feel free to share below!