PS18: ESP case-study on how to improve efficiency

ESP Colour’s chief executive Paul Bradley has delighted in seeing web2print take off in the UK. During PS18, he urged the industry to focus on what customers want, rather than on what printers can produce.

17 Jan 2018 | By Noel D'Cunha

Over the past few days, Bradley has visited a number of local printing businesses. He said, “It has been great to understand the challenges you face on a day-to-day basis, in many cases they are no different to those that challenge us in Europe and the UK and in some cases, they are very different.”

And therefore, it was apt that his talk focussed on how we meet those challenges and overcome them. “How we invest in equipment, technology and people will, of course, vary owing to different factors, but none more significant than people and costs in Mumbai as compared with the UK,” he said.

He explained: An experienced customer service person in the UK: a salary of USD 40,000 (INR 2,600,000).

An experienced multicolour press minder in the UK: a salary of USD 55,000 (INR 3,575,000).

Bradley said, “I visited a number of offset print firms in Mumbai, large and small, and with 20-year-old, 10-year-old, two-year-old presses. But all have four people per press and a makeready time of 30 minutes. This mindset has to change.”

Bradley dwelled on the production capabilities of ESP Colour. This included how the group started to build a bespoke solution to take data from many fields, copywriting and completely automating the artworking and job information for multiple versions of different jobs, fulfilment, packing and delivering of exact quantities on a daily basis, as well as software development.

His findings were: Know your market plus employ the best, have well-trained people; buy good, well-maintained machines; buy top quality materials that run well. All this, according to Bradley, means optimum efficient manufacturing and a great ROI.

To achieve this, Bradley explained the work ESP Colour poured into operations.

Pre-press ops at ESP Colour

ESP would only accept print-ready pdfs into the workflow – this meant educating clients and staff to ensure that when files hit the workflow for their preflight check they were successfully processed. “The ESP team created imposition catalogues, then standardised all of our impositions to ensure there was no doubt over which was the best imposition for the job type. RBAs (Rule-Based Actions) were then written into JDFs to automate the imposition software through the workflow,” Bradley said.

The team at ESP automated the proof approval process by encouraging pdf only proofs, and used technology (there’s plenty out there now) to do this. He added, “If a client wanted wet proofs then see why and do these outside of the day-to-day production process.”

ESP had to make a JDF workflow work properly. It stopped checking plates that it never found any problems with. Also, it stopped keeping plates for a reprint. Bradley said, “It was quicker and more reliable to remake the plates on the odd occasion we had an exact reprint.”


Press ops at ESP Colour

To ensure press optimisation, ESP Colour achieved through change of papers and the way paper was purchased, as well as inks and coatings and blankets.

Bradley said, “This was done over a sustained period to ensure consistency of performance and still today, we change materials occasionally if something is letting us down. We introduced strict maintenance routines. You cannot achieve this level of output at the highest quality without keeping your machines in the best possible condition.”

ESP Colour introduced ISO 12647 colour standard and ensured all colour was measured consistently.

The team at ESP Colour is ‘data mad’ and received and sent JDFs between machines, between departments and of course, huge amounts of performance data to monitor the progress, the achievement, the change.

In the press room, the production planner's responsibility is to guarantee batch work better for sheet size, weight and colours; plus plan work depending on suitability of operators. Bradley said, “If you have a long-run work, do it on the night shift so there can be fewer queries and it is more measurable.”

The process tweak was: “The press minders passed their own work.” This was for colour, for position on the sheet, for overall quality.

Even for order of work, if the minder could see a better order of printing the jobs to save a sheet size or thickness change then he changed it. This made ESP Colour more efficient.

Bradley added a caveat: “When they got it wrong occasionally, we train them how they could improve.”

In the post-press and bindery stage, ESP Colour focussed on plan and batch work to reduce set up times similar to the presses. Also, there was a formula of 2/3 folding schemes per folding machine. And finally, training the staff to specialise rather than generalise.

The progress at ESP Colour

As a result of these systems, the makeready time on a four-colour job is two minutes 50 seconds (average). The running speed is 18,000 per hour on all stocks. The average good sheets on the floor of 15,000 sheet per hour.

The uptime of 84% - 20 hours per day of saleable time.

All this translates into more than 62 million impressions per year with average run length of 2,750 sheets.

Three takeaways from Paul Bradley

  • Continue doing what you’ve always done. Just remember: Markets and demands are changing quicker than ever, we MUST give customers what they want not what we can produce
  • Be more confident in the value of the product you produce and its place in the market
  • Get the whole team at your firm even more involved in what you are doing and the direction you are going