FLEXO: How has certification helped you better understand the relationship between inks and films, or chemistries and their impact on quality in different formats (pouches, sleeves, bags, etc.)?
Garrett: It increased my understanding of inks we do not use or do not use much, such as UV.
Spicer: One area I wasn’t very familiar with was ink makeups. Now, if I am having an issue with dirty print, I can call the inkroom and ask what the formula is and troubleshoot a way to correct the dirty print problem.
Hall: It gave me a lot more knowledge on the chemistry. We are not really trained on this, so it was helpful from that perspective.
Wilson: It was great to learn about the various pigments, carriers and solvents. It just gave me a better understanding of how the inks are developed.
Maye: How to formulate inks for different jobs was very helpful for learning how to improve the overall quality. Very detailed training.
Odem: It gave me a better understanding of how inks move and work, and how they are applied to a substrate.
FLEXO: Is there a particular aspect of flexography about which you now feel more knowledgeable or better understand?
Garrett: Plate making and preparation.
Spicer: The relationship between ink and film, and having a better understanding of the prepress process.
Hall: The chemistry of inks and films. I didn’t know a lot about that before the training.
Wilson: UPCs—The training is very in-depth on UPCs.
Maye: The differences between flexography and gravure.
Odem: The chemistry of inks and films.
FLEXO: How would you describe FIRST Press Operator Certification to a press operator at another printer?
Garrett: It helps operators gain greater knowledge of the different types of flexo and applications for flexo. And it provides basic understanding of the different variables involved in flexo printing.
Spicer: There might be quite a few areas you already know, but the training will give you greater understanding of those areas, as well as a bunch of aspects of flexographic printing you don’t know about. It will help you to be a better operator.
Hall: It’s a good tool to learn. It’s very user friendly and definitely worth the time to go and do it.
Wilson: FIRST is beneficial for sure. You need all the training you can get, no matter what you do. I think it would be more beneficial to newer operators than someone who has been doing the job for 10 years, but learning even a little bit of new information is a plus.
Maye: I would strongly encourage you to do it, especially if you are a new operator. I think a new operator would get a lot more out the certification than learning on the job for the first time.
Odem: FIRST is informative and I highly recommend it. I think someone just starting as an operator should take the course. It covers a lot of information, it would give them more understanding and reduce their learning curve.
FLEXO: What was your reaction when you heard about FIRST Implementation Specialist Certification?
Steve Dam, senior process engineer: I was glad, because I have had other people in the industry ask me why I hadn’t done it yet.
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?
Dam: On the floor, we can now have discussions with our operators that are more in-depth and detailed. It also provides us more discussion points to have better external communication with designers on element improvements to make graphics more printer friendly.
FLEXO: How does the certification impact your ability to do your job effectively?
Dam: It reaffirms a lot of the beliefs I’ve had over the years with regards to printing flexo. Having that kind of reaffirmation makes you feel more confident in your knowledge and ability.
FLEXO: What’s something you couldn’t do well before Implementation Specialist Certification, that you can ably handle now?
Dam: FIRST will help you understand how all of the pieces of a flexo job fit together, from where it starts to when you see the finished product on the shelf.