FLEXO: What was your initial reaction to the idea of FIRST Press Operator Certification?
Doug Garrett, press tech: I was interested, but I was skeptical as to how much it would help me in my job.
Derek Spicer, flexo press operator: I was excited about it, because it would help me further my education and training. I saw it as an opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge of the flexo printing process. I knew it would help me gain a better understanding of the print technology and help me do my job better.
Kyle Hall, flexo press operator: I was excited about it. I thought it would be a good learning tool.
Tim Wilson, flexo press operator: I’ll take all the training I can get. Initially, I was wondering what the purpose was, but now I understand that we want to use this to generate more business.
Wendell Maye, press helper: I was curious and excited at the same time. Once I got into it, I was really amazed. I’ve been here 31 years, and it taught me a lot of things I thought I knew and more. It was a very organized program that can be done at your own pace.
Anthony Odem, flexo press operator: I thought it was cool. I was all for it. I hadn’t heard of FIRST before.
FLEXO: Was the material presented in the training new to you, or a review of things you already knew and practiced?
Garrett: I enjoyed learning more about the fingerprint—Before FIRST, we would see a sliver and had always wondered how that got to production. Also, I found the history of flexography to be very interesting.
Spicer: There was quite a bit I already knew, but steps regarding how to build the plate and the different steps involved from prepress to mounting were very educational. But even though some of the things FIRST covered were very familiar to me, it did help me gain a better understanding of the steps you should take to print a better product.
Hall: Some of the stuff we already knew, but FIRST went into a lot more detail on stuff we didn’t know already. It also gave a broader look at printing, and it was really interesting to see the other processes.
Wilson: At the beginning, a lot was stuff I had already been doing for years. Toward the end of the training, FIRST went into a lot more detail about things I didn’t know as much about, such as inks and prepress.
Maye: It was good to learn more regarding helper and pre-helper job duties. The training went into detail about how those jobs go hand-in-hand and work together.
Odem: A lot of it I had already learned and have been practicing for years. A few things were new, such as printing on corrugated, how printing got started and water-based inks.
FLEXO: Did any of what was taught contradict how you were used to performing a specific task or procedure?
Garrett: Better understanding how a fingerprint can come very close to what you can do on an actual run. I know I didn’t have a firm grasp on that prior to the training. And the information on the different types of printing presses that we do not have in Battle Creek was very educational.
Spicer: A lot of what we do already follows the steps that were part of the FIRST training. I will say the press characterization is one thing I think we needed to focus more on prior to the training.
Hall: One of the biggest things is that it teaches you to do a fingerprint trial. We will be better off if we follow this part of the training very closely.
Wilson: How the training explained some things were different, but the overall process wasn’t that different from what I had already been doing. The way fingerprints were explained was different than we do it here and very valuable to learn.
Maye: It just went into more detail on the types of things you should always 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?
Garrett: The communication between the floor, prepress and plating/mounting has greatly improved. A better understanding of the various disciplines involved in the printing process is the result.
Spicer: I try to pay a little more attention when setting decks. Being more involved with graphics and the plateroom helps with troubleshooting issues and reduces the chances for dirty print.
Hall: The way FIRST teaches how to do fingerprints is so much more in-depth than the way we were used to doing things. It gave me more awareness on what should be done.
Wilson: I learned more about the inks and the ink system, which have probably helped me more than anything.
Maye: I try to get more involved in the makereadies and setting decks. The helpers can do more to assist with the operators now and vice versa.
Odem: Doing the program boosted my confidence more because it gave me a better understanding of the entire printing process. I never knew anything about how a plate is made.
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?
Garrett: The greater awareness has improved our ability to correct issues when they arise.
Spicer: I think we have gotten better. Everyone involved has a better understanding of how to get makeready times faster and improve press efficiencies. There is also better communication within teams and functions.
Hall: FIRST gave us a broader understanding of the whole printing process, and some tools and knowledge to help make us better.
Wilson: The training didn’t teach us a more efficient way to do things versus what we are doing now, but affirmed that how we accomplish things is the correct way to do them.
Maye: After FIRST training, the guys work more together and not just as people doing individual roles.
Odem: Troubleshooting has gotten better. We now have a broader set of variables to look at when fixing a problem. That helps us to make the right decision the first time instead of needing multiple tries to get the right solution.