FLEXO: Why did Autumn Graphics initially seek out FIRST Certification? What made the company decide that printing to the numbers and statistical process control were essential?
Abray: Our choice to move ahead with the FIRST Certification program was not solely based on our understanding of the value of printing to the numbers, process control and color management, but was driven more out of the desire to have all employees throughout all departments in the company have a better and more consistent understanding of how and why we do things the way we do, to make them more effective in their roles. As we have grown, we continue to have some new team members who have not had a long history of flexo experience, and the FIRST Certification program creates a strong foundation to build from.
FLEXO: Your company has employees pursuing both FIRST Prepress Operator Certification and FIRST Implementation Specialist Certification. Did you target one certification initially, or did you enroll employees in both simultaneously?
Abray: We enrolled our employees simultaneously in both, with the deciding factor being the department they are in, and which of the two certifications would make them most valuable in their roles.
FLEXO: How did you decide which employees to enroll in each certification type?
Abray: Our prepress operators and proofing technicians were focused on FIRST Prepress Operator Certification, while our quality control (QC), technical services, plate making, customer service and sales groups all focused on FIRST Implementation Specialist Certification. We also have all of our administrative staff go through Level I, to improve their understanding of the flexo world, even though they are not directly production related.
FLEXO: Describe the employee response to FIRST Certification. Was there any resistance to doing things differently?
Abray: Other than some scheduling challenges (to make the investment in time without production interruptions) the entire team was eager to have the opportunity to be involved and learn!
FLEXO: Were employees permitted to go through training on company time and on company computers?
Abray: Yes, as this is a company-driven educational opportunity that Autumn Graphics benefits from, we provide equipment and working hours to complete the program.
FLEXO: How does FIRST Certification change day-to-day activities at Autumn Graphics?
Abray: The biggest change we have seen is the use of more common language when describing processes and technologies day to day, within our business. We have also seen a higher level of comfort and understanding for those team members who have not had the opportunity to spend a lot of time immersed in a flexo print production environment.
FLEXO: Do employees notice a change in their conversations with clients or potential customers?
Abray: As we have seen internally, there is also a higher level of comfort and understanding when communicating externally, also.
FLEXO: Is employee confidence at a higher level, post-certification?
Abray: Yes, anytime we can create a situation where an employee has more education and understanding, we are providing them with more tools to utilize to be effective, which raises confidence.
FLEXO: How are Autumn Graphics’ various FIRST Certifications integrated into promotion materials and conveyed to clients?
Abray: We communicate our ongoing FIRST Certification training program to all of our customers during our ongoing business reviews with current customers, and during technical and company outline presentations to prospective customers, but that was not the focus of our investment in the program. Our goal at Autumn Graphics is to make our team more effective and efficient.
FLEXO: What would you say to a company considering any FIRST Certifications?
Abray: As everyone’s business is unique, I can only pass along our experience, which has been positive. Our goal is to enable our team to be effective and efficient. The education provided by the FIRST Certification program certainly supports that.