Spoilage - My Thoughts


I recently received a poll from Printing Industries of America that touches a subject I'm very passionate about--spoilage. Because of my interest in this subject, I wanted to take the opportunity to re-post that poll here and then add some of my own thoughts.

Spoilage: Are you lagging or leading?

When it comes to spoilage, chances are it's not at the top of your mind every day. However, spoilage numbers are actually a key factor in running a successful operation in the printing industry. Are your spoilage numbers leading the charge in the industry or are you lagging behind competitors?

That's what Printing Industries of America aims to find out with its spoilage survey. Data collected will be used to understand spoilage levels by size and type of company, making it easy to determine if your company's performance leads or lags behind competitors. It will also document how companies calculate spoilage. Finally, if you wonder how some companies are able to drive spoilage down to a remarkably low level, this survey should provide answers.

Participation is easy and will provide you with valuable information. You will:

  • Receive a summary of the findings
  • Learn the size of your company's improvement opportunity
  • Invest no more than 15 minutes of your time (have your spoilage figures at hand before you start)
  • Participate in a confidential manner--no individual responses will be shared

To participate, go to www.printing.org/spoilagesurvey. Contact jworkman [at] printing.org (Jim Workman) with questions.

Complete the Survey Here

Please click the link above and help PIA by providing some data for their survey.

I was excited to find out about this survey because addressing spoilage reduction has been a huge topic for me throughout the past years.

A small amount of spoilage can naturally occur during production caused by flaws in the manufacturing hardware or the consumables used. Users have to find a balance between high quality consumables and preventative maintenance on one end and up-time and operating costs on the other. Usually this is fairly easy to calculate and intuitive enough for most production managers.

A second, larger source of spoilage is that which occurs during startup/makeready. The philosophy of many companies toward this type of spoilage is "that's just how it is," yet this is where a lot of money gets lost and education can help tremendously.

A third source of spoilage is caused by offering too many choices. When you have buckets of custom mixed brand colors and dozens of different substrate sizes and media types (many of those with a limited shelf life), you risk the possibility that the warehousing cost might exceed the item's value.

A fourth source of spoilage is cut-off waste. Intelligent nesting algorithms and usage of media that's "just big enough" for the job help reduce waste in this area, but when using media that's "just big enough" it is important to compare bulk pricing for a more common, slightly larger size which could also assist in an effort to reduce warehousing too many different sizes.

So what efforts can help reduce makeready waste?

  • Color manage prepress displays and use color-accurate proofing to catch color "surprises" before they get plated (and definitely before they go on press)
  • Use GCR tools just before plate production to assist in gray balancing, TAC control, registration optimization (as details are now all on K-plate, any "out of register" is much harder to see) and allow "pushing" of primary densities to achieve more vibrant print colors without upsetting gray balance (I did PIA Color Conference seminars on this back in 2008 and 2014)
  • Use process control during press startup and during press run
  • Control environmental conditions in the production environment
  • Keep systems profiled and calibrated on a regular schedule
  • Some areas, such as packaging and especially packaging prototyping, now also benefit from 3D visualization tools in reduction of spoilage and improved go-to-market timing. For example, consider the distortion that occurs in a shrink film when applied to a bottle or a multi-pack of bottles. If you can use algorithms in software to calculate shrink behavior and update the flexo print file by automatically applying that distortion, you'll save a lot of time, hassle, and spoilage.

I'm sure the above list isn't complete but I'm quite passionate about the subject of spoilage (partially because of my heritage) and think it is important to share this info--in writing or at any time in a seminar environment.