College students entering the workforce haven’t just spent the last four years learning about the package printing industry—In reality, they’ve spent the majority of their lives being taught far more than they’ve been able to put into practice. That shift, from the classroom to the pressroom, can require some getting used to.
“Initially, it was a challenge to adjust from studying printing in school to working for a printer,” recalls Haley Hendry, printing leader at FTA member TC Transcontinental Packaging. “In school, I learned how to operate narrow web flexo presses running less than 150 fpm; the wide web presses at our facility run up to 2,000 fpm.”
The adjustment did not take long, as Haley went from discussing a role at TC (then Coveris High Performance Packaging) with a senior executive while she herself was still a senior at Clemson University, to working as a printing process engineer, to her current title. Here, she talks to FLEXO Magazine about that classroom/pressroom dichotomy, her career’s trajectory and the value of millennials.
FLEXO Magazine: Where do you work and what’s your title? What was your career path to where you are today?
Haley Hendry: I work for TC Transcontinental Packaging (formerly Coveris High Performance Packaging) as the printing leader.
I began at Coveris as a printing process engineer focusing on print operational improvements. I have led teams on quality improvement initiatives, customer complaint reduction projects and press downtime reduction processes.
In my current role as the printing leader, I drive print process improvement and standardization for prepress, graphics, plate making, inks and press operation. With the end goal being consistency and repeatability for our customers, I recommend and test new technologies via research and development, product development trials and new business initiatives. One of my favorite parts of my job is facilitating strong customer relationships by coordinating new business and new product launches; I coordinate with prepress and printing operations to ensure customer satisfaction.
FLEXO: What does “printing leader” actually mean? What’s a typical work day look like?
Hendry: My role as the printing leader is to ensure we can consistently and efficiently meet customer expectations with our printed products. One of the biggest opportunities to improve pressroom efficiencies is through standardization—consistent color targets, up-to-date color profiles and dot gain curves, and controlled press inputs. If we control the inputs, we can repeatedly produce a consistent and reliable product. Depending on the project goal being process- or customer-driven, I have worked on trials with various plate materials and screening patterns, banded anilox tests, and ink opacity improvements.
I have also worked on pressroom standardization projects. For example, we noticed variation in how our doctor blade chambers were being assembled. In response, I built a standardized process documenting how to assemble a chamber and performed training with the press crews. This has helped bring consistency across shifts, which in turn reduces chamber leakages and press downtime. We are always looking for ways to improve and standardize our processes.
FLEXO: Going to school to study a field and working in that field are always two very different things. When you were in school, how did you envision working in the flexographic industry would be, and how has it been different?
Hendry: Printing facilities, like any manufacturing environment, are very fast-paced. Initially, it was a challenge to adjust from studying printing in school to working for a printer. In school, I learned how to operate narrow web flexo presses running less than 150 fpm; the wide web presses at our facility run up to 2,000 fpm.
That hands-on learning has proven to be very beneficial, but a “learning” environment is very different from a production environment. Uptime, waste and speed are three critical factors in effective equipment utilization—three factors I never worried about in school. My original career goal was to work in a sales/account management role, but when this production opportunity arose, I realized I could acquire valuable information about the field from the ground up that would be useful in future endeavors. Although I obtained a strong foundation for printing processes in school, I am continuing to learn new information every day.
FLEXO: How does being an intern differ from being in a classroom? Is it important for students to get their feet wet in the real world while still in school?
Hendry: I interned for an arthouse/prepress company, as well as an offset and digital printing company. Learning in a classroom setting gives you a great foundation needed in this industry, but exposure to the real world through internships is invaluable experience as a student. Internships give you an opportunity to discover your interests and work culture preferences before committing to a permanent position. Clemson University’s graphic communications program requires students to do at least two internships, and I was hesitant of the idea at first. Looking back, it was critical to have those initial “real-world” experiences to successfully transition into the working world.
FLEXO: What’s something that has surprised you—good or bad—about working in the flexographic industry?
Hendry: The flexographic industry is a smaller world than I originally envisioned. A big advantage to this tight-knit group of talent is utilizing suppliers to obtain fresh perspectives and creative solutions for reoccurring challenges. This building of partnerships with suppliers is critical in long-term continuous improvement.