FIRST Certification Background
FLEXO: Why did Bay Tech Label initially seek out FIRST Certification? What made the company decide that printing to the numbers and statistical process control were essential?
Nurse: Like everyone else in the industry, we are undergoing a generation change in the company. FIRST is an effective training technique to ensure newer employees are all on the same page and have a baseline of flexo knowledge. We are using this to shift from an art-based to a science-based approach to printing, particularly in regard to color.
FLEXO: Your company has employees who have completed each FIRST Individual Certification—Press Operator Certification, Prepress Operator Certification and Implementation Specialist Certification. Did you target one certification at first, or did you enroll in all three simultaneously?
Nurse: Bay Tech Label started all the groups at the same time. However, those who interact with customers and do estimates or write orders need to know enough to avoid mistakes that otherwise might flow through the process, so all these employees went through the training. We started with the least experienced personnel in the other departments and are working our way up.
FLEXO: Describe the employee response to FIRST Certification. Was there any resistance to doing things differently?
Nurse: Some employees were afraid at first that they would not be able to pass the tests. However, at the backside, many employees have hung their certification plaques in their work area.
FLEXO: Were employees permitted to go through training on company time and on company computers?
Nurse: We trained our employees on company time with a company computer. We figured that the expensive option was ignorance.
FLEXO: Throughout the training, did employees provide any feedback?
Nurse: A few employees really struggled to pass the highest level tests. However, none gave up and were proud when we gave them their plaques.
FLEXO: How does FIRST Certification change day-to-day activities at Bay Tech Label?
Nurse: We find that problem-solving discussions are more rational with a logical approach. The color areas have a radically more measured technique, which eliminates the trial and error.
FLEXO: Have FIRST Individual Certifications done for Bay Tech Label what you expected they would?
Nurse: Yes. Employee quality and work methods are noticeably better. We will continue to add training moving forward.
FLEXO: With a portion of your workforce holding one of the FIRST Individual Certifications, are you now considering FIRST Company Certification?
Nurse: Once we do the next six employee certifications, we will seek company certification.
FLEXO: Do employees notice a change in what’s coming off presses?
Nurse: Yes. The biggest difference is that 4-color process is predictable and easy.
FLEXO: Is employee confidence at a higher level, post-certification?
Nurse: Yes. The methods to achieve quality and predictable results are clear and generate less stress.
FLEXO: What would you say to a company considering any FIRST Individual Certifications?
Nurse: We are all having to replace our veteran employees. FIRST Certification is much cheaper than on-the-job training.
FLEXO: It isn’t uncommon for companies pursuing FIRST Individual Certifications to put their customer service representatives through Level I of the training, but Bay Tech Label put its reps through Level III to achieve FIRST Implementation Specialist Certification. Why did you have those employees complete the entire training program?
Nurse: We think of the order process like a pipeline of information. We thought that we wanted highly trained folks at the front of the process. This protects us from errors caused by ignorance.
FLEXO: What was your reaction when you heard about FIRST Implementation Specialist Certification?
Implementation Specialist at Bay Tech Label: I was hopeful, but cautious.
FLEXO: One of the central tenets of Implementation Specialist Certification is improving communication externally—with customers, printers and suppliers—and internally—with coworkers. Have you noticed a change in your interactions with others in the supply chain and in your office?
Implementation Specialist: Our folks who communicate with customers do a better job. Seldom do we have a gap between what the customer expected and what we deliver.
FLEXO: How does the certification impact your ability to do your job effectively?
Implementation Specialist: It reduces the stress because the skill level of these employees is higher.
FLEXO: What’s something you couldn’t do well before FIRST Implementation Specialist Certification, that you can ably handle now?
Implementation Specialist: We would sometimes lose business because customers were unsure of our abilities. We do a better job ensuring customers that we can handle their evolving needs.