12 print firms who thrive on quality

Technical expert Kiran Prayagi, looks at the gap between “the haves” and “the have nots” which he feels can be bridged with standardisation, productivity and waste management.

04 Jan 2013 | By PrintWeek India

I  have a strong belief in standardisation of the print processes which improves productivity, reduces wastage, and improves quality. From my experience on standardisation with many print companies in India and overseas, I would strongly recommend many of the Indian printers to catch up on scientific and systematic working.

Every time I travel around the country, I’ve come across print firms that feel standardisation is something only for the big boys or it is expensive. In fact, today a printer not implementing standardisation must be a rich fellow as he wastes a lot of paper and ink and other materials in getting the job right or redoing the job. Many of the ‘technical plant audits’ I have conducted reveal mind-boggling wastage figures.
The question I am often asked is, what are the international standards? Frankly speaking, I say none.
ISO has 69 standards directly connected with the printing industry and approved by its TC 130 committee. These are for colour measurements, inks, viewing conditions, text, digital exchange, colour separation, register system, plates, blankets, proofing, safety, digital camera, paper and so on. Unless all these are in place just ISO 12647 alone is not going to work. Besides there are many ISO standards indirectly related to the printing industry. Then there are others, such as UKONS, SNAP, ANPA, IFRA, FIPP in he UK., FIPP Australia, SWOP, FOGRA, BS, EAN, DIN, ANSI, First, PacSpace and others. In addition, many from CIE, so the list is endless. One must not forget the print is ultimately meant to give the best possible visual impression to the viewer’s eye or ultimate buyer.
Most successful firms spend efforts establishing their own customised standards and it really works the best. To understand this point I’ve listed 12 Indian print firms who follow rigorous standardisation and adhere to best practises. In addition, they implement innovative processes on their shopfloor.
10 areas of standardisation to achieve total standardisation
Standardisation of a printing company can take different forms or areas that may be listed as follows.
1. Customer communication including marketing and sales practices
2. Estimating and costing
3. Production planning and control
4. Technical processes standardisation
5. Job workflow on shop floor and plant layout
6. Internal human relations
7. Materials management
8. Selection and maintaining relations with suppliers
9. Right and adequate training of everyone in organisation
10. New developments or project implementation
And, for the 12 firms that I’ve listed below, stepping through this door and implementing the 10-step plan has honed their service to high-levels of expertise and brought the promised benefits. There are very few companies who manage to standardise the entire operations, but there are many implementing standardisation in one or two areas only. This absence of total operation standardisation is usually due to lack of resources or the expertise of some operations or areas.
This is not as simple or straightforward as it sounds. In the B2B sector, which the print industry is part of, the client base is after ever-more specialised offerings, and sometimes specialised pricings. In addition, the economic situation has focused clients on driving efficiencies and, for the most part, this has seen them looking to reduce the supply chain by buying as many services from a single provider as they can, saving on time, logistics and cost.
The 12 print firms that have set the in-house standards
Anaswara Offset, Kochi – Anoop V says, ‘Standardisation keep things simple to get the right output minimising the challenges and variables involved in a process’. Their marketing lingo is focused to create awareness for customers for value creation and to offer a solutions oriented pitch which does not over or under-sell. The company worked out its own scientific costing structure which is followed strictly. Production planning and control comes from the coordination between planning and production department with transparent communication. Production processes standardisation starting from file handling protocols, proofing, and colour managed workflows with linearised plates, CIP3 implementation up to printing machines minimise wastage.  Density checks, inks, chemistry standardisation, combined with preventive maintenance helps achieving consistency. Orientation and motivation program for the staff with internal and external help are conducted. Input materials testing and quality checks follow strict guidelines.
The Hindu, Chennai –The newspaper plant in Chennai stands out for its standardised technical operations of newspaper and publications with immaculate checks on production parameters and input material checks, plus a well-planned project implementation. Cost savings and waste management is top priority. One fine example is the measures taken to reduce newsprint wastage. The Hindu was one of the early movers to adopt new technology. In-house standardisation permitted print densities that resulted in 25 percent larger colour gamut of on standard newsprint.
Jak Printers, Mumbai – The standardisation at Jak Printers, combined with aesthetic values are appreciated by all. The company does not get carried away by ISO standards hype but have standardised parameters based on in-house standards. Khushru Patel informs ‘In fact, some of our European customers have rejected jobs produced to ISO standards but accepted Jak’s in-house standard produced jobs’. The in-house estimating and costing system gives quick and accurate information on all types of jobs which they produce. 
M M Publications, Kottayam – This is a Malayala Manorama Group company but running independently not for newspapers printing but for publications. Suresh Ninan says, ‘continual improvement to meet the changing expectations of the readers and advertisers, involving readers, contributors, advertisers, suppliers, distributors, etc. in the efforts for quality’. In-house standardised product specifications have been laid out for all publications. Specification for the advertisement materials for each publication is derived from this and clearly communicated to the customers, such as advertisement pages for double spreads, etc. Systems are in place to check  advertisements to identify errors. Detailed product and production plans help procurement plans for paper, inks and other consumables to operate with optimum inventory. Production planning includes schedule for preventive maintenance. Importance has been given for the plant layout to facilitate smooth work flow. Lot of effort has gone into Calibration of machines and Standardisation of the technical processes. Regular checks like dots in CTP, pH, conductivity, densities, fold sizes, signature sequence, dimensional checks of bound copies in binding, etc. are made to ensure that these standards are followed. Calibration of machines and equipment are checked periodically. The ambient conditions in critical areas are controlled and closely monitored. Existing manpower is trained on new technology so as to absorb it. This has helped in maintaining the organisational culture.
Multivista Global, Chennai – The firm’s market focus is on the educational sector (domestic and international market) where turnaround times and quality are paramount requisites. An excellent supply chain management, just in time delivery system, has helped achieve this.
Pragati Offset, Hyderabad – P Narendra emphatically states, ‘company originally was called ‘Pragati Art Printers’ but changed to ‘Pragati Offset’ as printing was no longer considered an art but science; and print production was based on numbers rather than subjective judgement of individual. These numbers are based on solid work and scientific standardisation from pre-press to print finishing. This resulted in consistency and repeatability. Narendra says ‘without the science and measurement of numbers, this would not be possible and also the numbers in SAP helped a lot. We stock less than what we used to stock a couple of years ago in spite of increased turnovers. Adds to the bottom line - less carrying costs. The goal of business is to make money and keeping track of the numbers constantly will ensure that we will be in good shape in times to come’.
Ramya Reprographic, Bengaluru – Ramya Reprographics shifted into its new 90,000 square feet, their new premises is a four-story building, lavishly spread out to accommodate their seven machines, and staff of 200. P Narendra, the director of the firm has implemented thorough standardisation in every department and every aspect of the business. It is a delight to visit this company.
Sel Jegat, Sivakasi – Seljegat operates from a 40,000 sq/ft factory and another 25000 sq/ft is under construction. They have 13 roll to roll presses which deploy a range of printing and decorating processes. S Raveendran who is at the helm of Sel Jegat has established a full-fledged laboratory to test raw materials and finished goods that helps maximum uptime of production machines.
Spectrum Scan, Vasai – This young, smart firm has done some innovative work in screen printing, doming and 3D creations. The company which houses indigenous thermoforming machines, and use substrates like PETG, HIPS, PP, PC, PVC, acrylic to produce signage and POP solutions; does a solid amount of R&D on most of its project. It is really interesting to see hard work and standardisation of 3D creations where graphics are precisely created to appear right after moulding.
Srinivas Fine Arts, Sivakasi – SFA produces premium diaries, notebooks and 200 paper products under its brand of Nightingale. A great amount of standardisation from origination to finished products have won the orders from all five continents – USA, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. The interesting fact is many of the international customers have conducted technical audits before placing their orders to judge the level of standardisation. R Chockalingam says, ‘We have to be global – and at the same time be competitive in our domestic market’.
Temple Packaging, Mumbai – Customised technical standardisation operations with regular checks on production parameters and input material checks, excellent documentation, well planned project implementation; especially for pharma customers. Colour management includes printing operations as well as ink kitchen management. Digital proofreading implementation helps quick job turnaround and waste reduction.
Times of India, Mumbai – Highly standardised technical operations with regular checks on production parameters. Input material checks, excellent documentation, well researched and planned project implementation, regular statistical analysis of operations. Sanat Hazra, the technical director, has many innovative ideas and long term vision. The newspaper giant has a special focus on colour quality. This has been rewarded through the INCQC quality initiative which ensures the newspaper produces an attractive, high-quality product and outstanding advertising carrier. In fact, IFRA, Germany has made special comments on their colour gamut which produces brighter and attractive colours than what IFRA recommends.  Green intiative, water harvesting and conservation help in cost reduction and fulfilling their social responsibility. 
It is really onerous to narrow down the entire print industry to twelve print firms but it is a start. I am sure there are a few more. Also, I feel the above firms have grown big because of high levels of standardised operations. It does not mean other companies are not-upto-the-mark but it implies that company-wide standardisation is lacking.
The gap between “the haves” and “the have nots” has to be bridged. 
Kiran Prayagi is a post-graduate in colour reproduction and quality control from the London College of Printing, England. Since the past three decades, he has worked as an industry consultant with more than 150 companies in India and overseas.