Logistics and the just-in-time production model

An approach centred on timeliness, efficiency and frugality, its origins lie in the mid-20th century. But it remains relevant today because, after all, time is still money.

When you buy bananas, all you want is the fruit, not the skin. But you have to pay for the skin also. It is a waste. And you, the customer, should not have to pay for the waste.”

Shigeo Shingo, the Japanese industrial mastermind who helped pioneer the famed Toyota Production System and the just-in-time manufacturing model might have been talking about fruit, but this metaphor he coined in the 20th century bears as much relevance to today’s print trade as it ever has done. Business buzzwords may come and go, but the fundamental philosophies seem resilient to the

Part-timers provide full-time benefits


Many print businesses use temporary workers and there are many reasons for doing so. Seasonal peaks in demand, new clients or unexpected orders, cover for full-time staff absence, boosting capacity in the short term after a machine breakdown – these situations and more may drive the need to dip into the temporary talent pool.


There has been a strong growth in the temporary workforce over the past decade, which is good for employers requiring flexibility. But before going any further

Unshackle your speed from your slowest process

Alex Rogo is a harried plant manager working ever more desperately to try to improve performance. His factory is rapidly heading for disaster. So is his marriage. He has 90 days to save his plant or it will be closed by corporate HQ, with hundreds of job losses. It takes a chance meeting with a colleague from his student days, Jonah, to help him see what needs to be done.


The above paragraph is the marketing blurb for Eli Goldratt’s 1984 novel The Goal. The novel reads like any other

A kinder blue


One of the theories on the origins of life on earth is that of the ‘primordial soup’, which posits that chemicals dissolved in water when hit by ultra-violet (UV) radiation from the sun reacted together, creating life.


While not as profound as that, new water-based inks cured by UV may be a building block for inkjet’s evolution and expansion into new markets. 


The story so far


At Fespa 2015 last summer, water-based UV (WUV) technology was announced by inkjet equipment firm

Regular check-ups help keep you out of intensive care

When was the last time that you assessed the health of your business? When did you last take its pulse and check the vital signs? Recently? Six to 12 months ago? Never? If you fall into the last category then it may be some consolation to know that you’re not the only one.


According to some print finance experts an alarmingly large number of printers have never subjected their businesses to a health check, while those that do regularly perform some kind of health assessment often look at

Ensure you reel in the perfect job candidate

According to ONS figures released in December 2015, the UK unemployment rate has fallen to 5.2% – its lowest level in a decade. Economic recovery has boosted confidence, encouraging business expansion.


While that is undoubtedly a good thing, the boom in hiring is leading to talent shortages. As Tom Hadley, director of policy at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation pointed out shortly before Christmas, “the challenge of ensuring that the demand for staff is met by the supply of

Quality vs cost-effective: spot the difference

When it comes to paper, the average print client is not necessarily the most educated of purchaser. It’s a difficult market to get your head around, with so many options and brands that even some printers struggle to understand it. Jon Severs


And yet, regardless of this knowledge gap, customers are beginning to demand things of their printer when it comes to paper. And the general push is for a higher quality product. 

“There is an acceptance from clients that if you are going to

Calculating the costs of kit enlightenment

No one likes reading the manual. Whether it be electronics, toys or furniture, the huge accompanying instruction booklets are usually largely left untouched. And even when instructions are followed, as with certain flatpack furniture products, things often still go awry.


What you need is some hands-on training, a knowledgeable person to talk you through all aspects of the thing you have brought so you can maximise its potential. With small consumer electronics, like a new digital radio

Brands strive to profit from the personal touch

To say last year’s Share a Coke campaign was a success would be something of an understatement. As teenagers and mums alike rummaged through chiller cabinets (and Wilhelminas and Wilfreds begrudgingly contented themselves with ‘Will’), volume sales for the brand grew 3.9%. And its YouGov Brand-Index Buzz ranking jumped from 25 to 7.

Jenny Roper



eople tweeted and Facebook-ed pictures of themselves posed with bottles. People printed their own names using kiosks at special Share a Coke

Make sure good customers want to keep coming back

On the high street – be it the virtual or physical version – customer loyalty is hard won. The big retailers pump great piles of cash into customer retention strategies because they know that the consumer has evolved into a fickle animal.


Where once customers might have only bought from one brand – and have defined themselves by that brand – or felt an allegiance to one store and the people in it, today the market has fragmented to the extent that ‘shopping around’ is now the

Promise of a digital future proves difficult to deliver



More than two years have passed since Drupa 2012 saw the announcement of a whole raft of digital carton printing presses, but so far we have not seen any real signs of an impact on the packaging sector.

Simon Eccles



Only a handful of that crop of dedicated carton presses have been delivered in Europe, with just one that we know of in the UK. High time, then, for a progress check.

The big German show saw prototypes or announcements of dedicated digital carton presses from Canon

The first line of defence


Making the print is only ever part of the job of meeting the client’s need for a product to convey their messaging. It is usually necessary to finish the print to protect and/or enhance it, ensuring it looks the part and will continue to do so for its intended life.


Laminating, coating and mounting are the standard processes in the wide-format printer’s toolkit to do that; new technologies and market needs may offer opportunities to eliminate some processes and enhance

Arm yourself with stats to fight off the eco fallacies

How many times have you been making polite conversation in a taxi, paying in a shop or chatting with friends and heard those six, doomy little words: ‘print is bad for the environment’. Probably too many times to count.

Jenny Roper


And probably many many more times if you take into account all the occasions well-meaning, but not necessarily very clued-up, customers have voiced concerns. 

It can be difficult to know where to start in counteracting this, particularly when it’s such a

Help your staff step up and take charge

When print was simpler, more muscular industry, stepping up to management from the printroom rarely caused an issue. Indeed, part of the role usually entailed staying in that print room: the majority of print businesses were – and still are – too small to have a manager stuck in a distant office all day, Jon Severs



uut times have changed – print uis a service industry, the roles uin management have become umore complex and the laws uaround employment and  finance require a wealth of

Retailers learn to tap into power of the subconscious


The Kunene is a remote, mountainous region of the southern African country Namibia, and home to the indigenous, semi-nomadic Himba people, distinctive for their reddish all-over body make-up. Jenny Roper


Further from the world of  packaging and POS printing you couldn’t get, you might think. And yet this is one of the more exotic locations Oxford University’s Charles Spence and his team have visited, contributing to findings that have the potential to radically alter packaging and

Sloppy security is making printing companies targets for cyber criminals

At first glance commercial printers might think that the prospect of cyber criminals or hackers attempting to access their IT system is fairly remote. After all, hackers typically seem to go after large organisations like retailers, government departments and financial services companies where there are rich financial pickings.



owever, in recent years as an increasing number of printers have expanded their service offering and branched out into things like credit card statement

Put your business into gear


In a world of highly successful business role models, it may seem odd to suggest printers look to a hapless character from a now-ended BBC comedy series for advice.  


And yet, according to a recent survey, Tony Robinson’s idiotic Baldrick from the Blackadder series has something to teach the print community: the value of having a “cunning plan”. 

“A recent survey of printers we carried out showed that just over 50% had no business plan at all,” says Neil Falconer, managing director of

Take your print out of the gutter

In a market where even digital print is becoming commoditised, the once-humble bindery is emerging as the place to add value and hopefully restore profits. Short-run or one-off books and brochures can be given a bespoke treatment that customers will pay big money for, yet if you organise yourself the production costs are a fraction of that.



ne route into big margins is open-flat books. Practically anyone can get spectacular margins for an investment that can be well under $15,409.5. If

Going viral: using video to highlight your star quality


Dogs chasing deer, David after the dentist and sneezing baby pandas – it doesn’t take a digital genius to realise online video is now (with the latter alone garnering over 190m hits) just a bit popular. 


Of course cats dancing the Harlem Shake won’t have much relevance to your average business owner. But these viral videos do give an indication (we’re thinking especially of girl-twerks-upside-down-falls-down-and-garners-15m-hits, here), of just how accessible the medium is even to

Find the savings at the end of the rainbow

As kids we hear the story that there is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Pretty soon it sinks in that the end of a rainbow is an elusive and illusory thing. Indeed, colour itself can sometimes seem equally intangible, despite being a crucial aspect of print production. But it doesn’t have to be like that.



  here are some surprisingly down-to-earth things that you can do to get in control of your colour reproduction.

One of the first things to do is to identify what the most

Internships can deliver much more than just the tea


From Monica Lewinsky and that infamous cigar, to the ongoing debate around cheap or even unpaid labour, the subject of internships can be controversial. There have been plenty of headlines in recent months about companies exploiting interns by paying them a pittance or nothing at all. 

Rob Gray 



September 2013 survey by jobs website Monster found that four in 10 interns didn’t receive the minimum wage – despite the fact that 87% of employers felt interns made a positive

Nurture both personal and professional growth

James Heskett, highly respected professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, once memorably claimed that employees and managers alike look forward to performance appraisals in the same manner as they anticipate root canal dentistry. With dread, to put it bluntly.


It doesn’t need me to point out that such a state of affairs is a long way from ideal. Appraisals should actually be positive events, helpful for those sitting on either side of the desk. But enough companies have botched

How to reap the rewards of awards

Entering industry awards helped Screaming Colour to stand out from its rivals.

What is the challenge? Googling ‘commercial printers’ plus a certain city or town is not for the faint-hearted print boss. What will greet them if they’ve entered their own postcode is of course an onslaught of competitor businesses. A probably quite a worthwhile, sobering reminder of how many other businesses potentially offer exactly the same as you, it can nonetheless be a terrifying insight into how

Why Lord Sugar needs to sweeten his behaviour

Someone is not performing to an acceptable standard. They are for the chop and it’s down to you to administer the coup de grâce. Is this your Lord Sugar moment? Do you point the finger of doom with a theatrical flourish and, without compunction, utter the famous words, “you’re fired”?


Of course not. Taking this sort of action isn’t something any of us relish. The very idea may fill you with dread and in your anxiety to move on to more positive matters you may find yourself eager to get

Dates for your diary: why tech TLC goes a long way

Okay, so it’s honesty time: can you truthfully say that you have completed every scheduled maintenance process on every machine in your print business on the day and at the time it was scheduled? Do you even have a schedule?

And how many times have you put off a maintenance check until the next day to get an order out, but never actually got around to it?
Most people would probably respond positively to the first questions and negatively to the last, suggesting they’re veritable maintenance

Set your pay schemes to suit your sales strategy

For years the tried and trusted method print bosses used to motivate their sales staff was the ‘carrot and stick’ approach: the promise of cold hard cash if certain performance-related targets were hit during a set period of time was a great motivational tool for sales animals, who also knew they would be out the door if they failed.



ut times change and for some sales people this rather crude approach to performance-related pay can be incredibly demotivating. Some people don’t like