FLEXO: With both individual and company-wide certifications, is employee confidence at a higher level?
Dan Crammer: Educating the employees through their FIRST Certifications was key. Now each department has a better understanding of what their job duties are, as well as what the other departments are doing. Education equals confidence.
FLEXO: Part of qualifying for FIRST Company Certification is an across-the-board 40 percent FIRST Individual Certification rate for press operators, prepress personnel and implementation specialists. As new employees join Best Label Co and undergo certification, what’s their reaction like?
Dan Crammer: New employees, especially seasoned employees in the industry, appreciate the company’s investment in their education and the ability to progress. One employee’s reaction upon completing his FIRST Press Operator Certifications was, “It brings a sort of completion to what I always thought I should be doing. Now I know that what I’m doing is right. It’s great!”
FLEXO: Throughout Best Label Co’s six years carrying FIRST Company Certification, what has been the most noticeable change?
Dan Crammer: The confidence that has been instilled in the employees was a huge bonus. The ability to foresee problems before they get to the press and the efficiency in being able to match proofs the first time the job is run up has been great. The education it has brought to the sales force has been critical to their success as well.
Travis Gilkey: We use the FIRST suite of logos as much as we can in our branding and outbound communications to customers and prospects. We feel having FIRST Company Certification brings a higher level of assurance that we are following the FIRST methodologies. Our trade show booths, business cards, sales literature, presentation folders and other marketing collateral all carry the logos. We are proud to be FIRST Company Certified and we want our customers and prospects to know about the program.
FLEXO: What does FIRST Company Certification add in terms of attracting new clients? How does it strengthen your marketing abilities?
Gilkey: This is a good topic that we talk about a lot during our strategic growth and planning meetings. Some larger CPC clients are aware of FTA and the FIRST Certification program, however most regional and mid-sized clients are not knowledgeable of what it has to offer. It is up to us to teach clients and prospects about the advantages of working with a printer that carries certification, and we accomplish this through direct sales, email marketing and trade shows. We are always looking for new and different ways to make Best Label Co stand out amongst the crowded label landscape. This is a unique way to let our accomplishment lift us to the top of the list.
FLEXO: What would you say to a company considering any FIRST Certifications?
Gilkey: The FIRST Certification process is a great way to jumpstart your color management program. We found all employees became more engaged and worked together to accomplish the goal of achieving certification. The online classrooms allow employees to learn at their own pace and we held weekly meetings to reinforce the topics covered that week. It was a practical way to improve morale, raise print quality and set a benchmark for all stakeholders to be accountable to.
FLEXO: What was your initial reaction to the idea of FIRST Press Operator Certification?
Dan Crammer: Initially I felt it would be a good educational tool that would help increase quality and efficiencies.
FLEXO: Was the material presented in the training new to you, or a review of things you already knew and practiced?
Dan Crammer: It was a review of things we already knew, but a good tool to truly put what we knew into action.
FLEXO: Did any of what was taught contradict how you were used to performing a specific task or procedure?
Dan Crammer: No… it just reinforced that what we believed we should be doing, was in fact what we should be doing.
FLEXO: How has certification changed the way you do your job? What’s something you’re doing differently on the pressroom floor because of FIRST?
Dan Crammer: Printing by the numbers! FIRST took the subjectivity and guesswork out of printing and took us to a new level where we could rely on the numbers to achieve repeatable results, or to locate where our issues are going to occur before getting to press.
FLEXO: Where do the results of certification show up: Do you find makeready speeds to be faster? Has waste been reduced? Are results more consistent and repeatable?
Dan Crammer: Consistent, repeatable, efficient printing! Four-color process has become our best friend rather than something we dread! No more guessing which aniloxes we’re going to use or messing with inks to match a proof.
FLEXO: Is there a particular aspect of flexography about which you now feel more knowledgeable or better understand?
Dan Crammer: FIRST did a great job in solidifying what we already thought was correct in regards to characterizing and proofing. It did a great job in giving us the confidence that what we were doing was correct.
FLEXO: How would you describe FIRST Press Operator Certification to a press operator at another printer?
Dan Crammer: FIRST is your friend. Embrace it and it will help you. If you follow the guidelines that it teaches, it will increase your quality and efficiency. It will make your life easier and take away so many of the old headaches that used to be caused by trying to color match using 4-color process.