Manufacturing Extension Partnerships.

Author:Southworth, Tom

Throughout the past year we've discussed many topics related to Lean and printing and have even answered a few questions along the way (keep those coming). Many questions have had one central theme: "How? How do I get started?" Well, with a single phone call you can access a national network of Lean coaches and trainers who can be your guide along this Lean journey.


For 20 years, the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership ( has focused on providing manufacturers in the United States with the tools, tips, techniques and technology to increase productivity and to compete globally.

In Connecticut, CONNSTEP (the Connecticut State Technology Extension Program) has worked with print and graphics firms to reduce cycle time, streamline order fulfillment, and open capacity on equipment that was previously considered "booked out."

Using SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die) principles, one firm was able to slash 43 percent off press makeready time. Often, significant reductions in machine changeover or makeready times can be realized using nothing more than a little preparation. Having materials staged and ready to be brought to press (or a slitter/rewinder) reduces the amount of time the equipment sits during the actual changeover, which is usually only 5 percent of the total time the press is idle during the change.

A Midwestern state's Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) assisted one company in reducing overall lead time on a time-critica) product by 44 percent, while at the same time reducing the distance the product traveled inside the facility from nearly one-half mile to less than 200 feet. A six-figure reduction in inventory was also achieved, cutting the space required to store work-in-process by half, and inventory turns shot from 15 to 48 times per year.

Inventory management can be achieved using simple visual controls, such as creating first-in, first-out (FIFO) lanes that regulate how much product should and can be produced, and kanban signals to connect suppliers or supplying processes with customers or consuming processes.

In one Eastern state, the MEP affiliate provider worked with a printer to increase capacity on a press that was staffed 24 hours per day, seven days a week. This press consistently had a backlog of three to four weeks, costing the company significant opportunities for new business. After reviewing videotapes showing the current...

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