Four Approaches That Ease the Quest for Profitability
In business, a lot of companies work tirelessly to get work out the door. While these companies are making revenue, it doesn’t always mean they’re as profitable as they could be. Big difference. In an industry where margins are increasingly tight and competition is everywhere, maximizing profitability is essential to survival.
In some cases, maximizing profitability may be the difference between running a company and running it well. Many companies regularly limit their profitability potential because by not paying attention to key process management elements.
Keeping it Running
Keeping machines running as they were intended, with the goal of having them operate as though they are new, is a key goal of routine maintenance. Simply put, routine maintenance is not to fix what is broken, but to instead give a machine the service and attention it needs so it will not break. A real-life example: getting regular oil changes on vehicle instead of waiting for the engine to seize up, which will bring expensive repairs, possible vehicle replacement, or the inconvenience of being without a car until the mechanic finishes. In the printing environment, maintaining equipment means protecting your technology investment and eliminating unnecessary down-time. Also, poorly maintained machines are less likely to help you hit needed quality goals.
Staying on Target
One key to keeping customers happy is to give them the level of quality they expect (and are paying for). In today’s printing industry, meeting quality standards, particularly for color, is fully achievable, but due diligence is required. Assuming printing equipment has been properly maintained (see above), achieving expected color, and making it repeatable, requires attention to detail and adherence to color standards. By setting up a formalized color management approach and paying ongoing attention to results (as they compare to expectations) printers can systematize their processes. Achieving exemplary color should not involve chance: profitability suffers when work must be re-done, or if unhappy customers take their work somewhere else.
Having Just Enough
Just as buying groceries with forethought leaves you neither wasting food (because you bought too much), or having nothing to eat (because you bought too little), managing purchasing and materials inventories can be a strong contributor to profitable printing. In printing terms, PSPs don’t want to run short on materials needed to get the job done, which can lead to delays; or have a significant investment in substrate age poorly on a shelf, taking up space until it becomes trash. The same goes for inks, laminates, coatings, and other materials. For some companies, effective inventory management also means moving very carefully when purchasing unusual substrates for unusual customer jobs. Estimate with intention and buy prudently. To do otherwise may mean limiting the job’s profitability potential.
Getting Better Always
The basic thought behind continuous improvement is that any process can be improved, and the improvement effort is never complete. By developing a systematic method of evaluating processes, instituting changes, and making them stick, coupled with routine re-evaluation of the processes, companies can bolster profitability by maximizing factors such as efficiency, performance, and process flow. Think of it as routine maintenance on your complete process, including machinery, movement of materials from station to station, efficient workstations. While informal continuous improvement programs can bring significant profitability-boosting benefits, greater, more lasting benefits are gained by instituting more formalized lean manufacturing efforts. Benefits of these efforts can include saved money, saved time, improved quality, minimized waste.
None of the factors discussed here should be seen as stand-alone efforts because they are all inter-related – efforts in one area will often bring gains in another, or serve to ease the path to success.