Inkjet presses from equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have delivered on the promise of lower cost, higher throughput, and better uptime. Many in-plant print operations attribute part of their success to their inkjet adoption strategy. Performing regular preventative maintenance is the key to drive uptime and predictable excellent image quality.
The last year has presented many unexpected changes in production schedules and staffing models. Proper preventative maintenance is more important than ever in unpredictable situations. Your operation may be experiencing both growth in print volume and challenges in staffing increasing the pressure on staff to get the work out. Preventative maintenance according to your OEM’s prescribed schedule is critical to optimizing uptime and producing excellent print quality.
Pennies and minutes vs. dollars and hours
Inkjet presses run best when they are continually running multiple shifts every day. Operators may be tempted to save time in the moment and not perform a scheduled maintenance process. Operators may be busy running jobs or filling in for staff unable to work. They may lack the confidence or skill to perform each maintenance process. Some operators may opt to skip prescribed maintenance steps. This short-term thinking results in unplanned downtime that can negatively impact production turnaround in the days and weeks ahead.
Do it Right
OEMs have expanded online help, posted training videos to support customers, and increased access to remote resources to support maintenance and training. Each inkjet platform has a unique design and a prescribed series of steps for preventative maintenance. It is ill-advised to skip any steps. Insist that your operators follow the defined process to ensure your printers are in the optimal state for the next job and the next shift. Avoiding any steps in the process may degrade print quality or require additional maintenance and down-time to get back to optimization.
How best to support your team in performing regular preventative maintenance? I suggest creating a checklist for daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance tasks. In the book The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Done Right, the author describes how pilots, doctors, and soldiers successfully use checklists to perform complex tasks. He gives many examples of why and how people who are considered professionals have adopted checklist protocols. To that, we’ve added print and mail managers, the professionals of our industry.
We trust that your operators are well-trained and know what to do. The checklist is a tool to help with memory recall. A checklist provides protection against failures. A checklist will remind us of the minimum necessary steps, make them explicit and easy to follow. Lastly, checklists instill discipline operator to operator, shift to shift, month to month. No one is too experienced to skip the checklist.
Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs, are detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to perform a task. SOPs are the “operations manual” for a process. Using an SOP, a person with minimal training can complete a task. Also, SOPs are the basis for training new employees.
Checklists are a subset of the SOP. A checklist is composed of those key tasks that must be completed correctly every time in order for the process to be a success.
By providing a framework, and clear expectations of the necessary steps of a process, a checklist facilitates and improves communication for a team. Every member of the team knows the key steps and has the authority to point out that a step has been missed or isn’t being followed correctly.
Checklists are not “how-to” guides”, or instruction manuals, but quick and simple tools to buttress the skills of trained professionals. Importantly, checklists should be between 5 and 9 items. Any more than that, and it’s cumbersome and people won’t use them. The checklist should fit on one page. A one-page checklist can be posted in an easy-access location.
The best checklists include:
- Tasks that have been forgotten in the past.
- Tasks that have been performed incorrectly in the past.
- Tasks that are routine, yet critical.
- Tasks that are the minimum necessary steps.
Well-run print operations know the importance of regularly completing preventative maintenance to create predictable outcomes for their customers. Checklists provide discipline and protection against failures to complete important operational tasks.
Preventative maintenance takes time today but saves time and money for tomorrow.
Lois Ritarossi, CMC®, is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at https://www.highrockstrategies.com/ or Lritarossi@highrockstrategies.com