FIRST in Motion
Forum 2018 Session to Follow Wide Web Project from Start to Finish
FTA espouses a methodology for consistent and repeatable printing—Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST). It has a product that it prints regularly—FLEXO Magazine. And the two have come together several times in the form of FLEXO Magazine Cover Projects—the most recent being the October 2017 issue. Those projects put into real-world use the principles defined in FIRST.
Forum 2018’s “FIRST in Motion – Wide Web Project” session will lean on that same “here’s how we did it” style of teaching, using a wide web film press. “We will be producing a promotional pouch,” explains session Co-Chair and FTA Hall of Fame Member Mark Mazur. “This pouch will be big enough to fit a standard sheet of paper into it and will incorporate 7-color expanded gamut (EG) printing on one panel and 4-color plus spot colors on the other panel.”
Here, Mark goes into more detail with FLEXO on what will be explored in the session, the roster of speakers lined up and what it takes to get a printer to actually change its (printing) ways.
FLEXO Magazine: The idea of following a print job from start to finish, while adhering to Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST), has had great success, recently at Fall Conference 2017 and three years ago at Fall Conference 2015. Why is the model so well received?
Mark Mazur: One of my favorite quotes is, “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is”; everyone who works in our industry lives that every day. People want to understand the theory, but in the end, they need to put it into practice. When FTA organizes one of these projects, it is documenting the complications that often arise in everyday production. So, this type of project is something people relate to very well.
The other aspect is that this project will touch every part of the production process: design, prepress, plate making, inks, substrate, press, troubleshooting—You name it and we will be experiencing/covering it. That means no matter where in the industry you are, this is something that affects you personally.
FLEXO: Talk about some of the details of the specific job that will be dissected at Forum.
Mazur: The most important part of this job will be that it is being done on a wide web film press. I have been involved in a number of FLEXO Magazine cover projects. Each has had some specific new technologies being highlighted, be they EG, plates, inks or press. While these all presented their own difficulties, they were all done on narrow web presses, where we had extremely good control of everything that went into the final job. While every segment of the flexographic industry has its challenges, in my opinion, wide web film printing is the most challenging.
We will be producing a promotional pouch for our printer who has graciously donated press time and materials. This pouch will be big enough to fit a standard sheet of paper into it and will incorporate 7-color EG printing on one panel and 4-color plus spot colors on the other panel.
FLEXO: The session follows a specific job. What aspects of the presentations can attendees emulate, regardless of the job on which they are working?
Mazur: What I love about flexography is that every customer, every segment and every job is different. For a person who is easily bored, flexography is a very stimulating profession. Still, there are the fundamentals that transcend everything we do in the industry. Since the session is titled “FIRST in Motion” it is pretty obvious what that is. FIRST methodology—fingerprinting, optimization, characterization, process control and process improvement—is applicable to everything we do. We will walk the audience step-by-step through FIRST methodology, just as they would do in their own plant.
FLEXO: Those five tenets of FIRST are known to many. Who will be presenting each step? What will be their collective message?
Mazur: We are fortunate to have an all-star team working on this project: Richard Black of All Printing Resources Inc, Bob Coomes of Plastic Packaging Technologies, Mark Samworth of Esko, Steve Smiley of SmileyColor & Associates and Sean Teufler of Harper Corporation of America. Everyone on this team could speak to every step of the process. The difficulty is to let everyone address his areas of expertise while moving through the process in a logical, linear fashion. This has led us to conclude the best approach would be a scripted panel discussion. What I mean by “scripted panel discussion” is we outline a script of questions, then each question will be answered by the panel member(s). The answer may be delivered with or without PowerPoint slides that will be queued up in the order of the FIRST Methodology.
FLEXO: Of the five steps in FIRST, which do you think is the one most often ignored or rushed through?
Mazur: That is a difficult question; I am not sure I can narrow it down to just one of the five steps. I am going to take the easy way out and focus on two of the five.
Process control is the one step most people will admit to ignoring. Many companies collect the data, but for the most part they do not use the data to improve the process. The dichotomy of manufacturing is that you never want the process to change but you also have to keep looking for ways to improve it.
That goes hand-in-hand with optimization. I cannot tell you how many times I have been assured by a printer that it has already optimized its process, only to get on press and find it has only looked at a very narrow window of optimization options. In 99 percent of those cases, we forge ahead and do the best we can with sub-optimal conditions to get the job done. Does that sound familiar to anyone?
FLEXO: Getting a printer to follow FIRST often means it needs to make significant changes to how it operates, and it is no secret that a printer’s mind is not an easy thing to change. What do you say to a printer reluctant to change its ways?
Mazur: We are now talking about psychology, not flexography. I have always been fascinated by the question, “What does it take to make someone do what they already know they should do?”
The example I always think about involves mother. She started smoking at the age of 14. Every year, the doctor would tell her she had to quit smoking and every year she would agree, but nothing changed. One year, the doctor did not tell her to quit smoking, he just showed her an X-ray of her lung, pointed to a black spot and said “emphysema.” She never had another cigarette from that moment on. I have known for years that I needed to lose weight; last year my yearly blood test came back indicating a pre-diabetic A1C level; I have lost 62-lbs. since then and my A1C is looking great.
My conclusion is that it takes nothing short of a two-by-four across the head before we make the changes we know we need to make. For a flexographic printer, that may be anything from losing a big customer to becoming unprofitable and going out of business. Nothing I can say will change their mind. The only thing any of us can do is be there when they are ready to make the change.
Session Details and Panelists
“FIRST in Motion” takes place at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, May 8 in the Marriott Ballroom of the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown. The session’s co-chairs are FTA Hall of Fame Member Mark Mazur and Dr. Malcolm Keif of California Polytechnic State University. The panelists who will be part of the on-stage discussion include: