A Two-Pronged Approach for Increased Profitability – Part II

Welcome back everybody to Part 2 in our blog series title “A Two-Pronged Approach for Increased Profitability”. Last week we took a look at how printing to the numbers can help to transform your print manufacturing process into a more repeatable and predictable process. This week, we’ll look at the benefits associated with inline color measurement systems and how they can further help printers reduce make-ready times and ensure conformance with the print standard. Don’t misunderstand me, it is a huge step in the right direction for a printer to just adopt an industry standard and print to the numbers using a handheld spectrophotometer to stay on course and stay within the job tolerances. However, the benefits of inline color measurement take this to a whole different level and do much more to increase a printers’ profitability.

We see it all the time with flexo printers who have made the leap and are printing to the numbers using a handheld spectrophotometer. While the color measurements serve as a guide to get press operators up to color during make-ready, the press must still be stopped many times so samples can be cut from the web and measured offline which is a time consuming process. Then, once in production, typically, color measurements are only made at the end of a roll. Often times this is too late if color has drifted out of tolerance and this is now an expensive problem if the roll is rejected and must be re-printed.

Now consider the same process with an inline spectrophotometer like Techkon’s SpectroVision. During make-ready, color measurements can be made while the press is moving and the results are displayed back to the operator instantaneously. There is no need to ever stop the press to check color and the press-side color management software is providing real-time color adjustment recommendations to the operator so they can close the loop and achieve their color standard as quickly as possible. Real-time color adjustment recommendations are helpful to even the most seasoned press operators and an absolute lifeline for the younger and less experienced operators that are running many flexo presses today. By avoiding the starts and stops during make-ready, inline color measurement systems can easily cut make-ready times in half and greatly reduce wasted materials resulting in higher profit margins for the printer.

Once out of make-ready and into production, even though color does not tend to shift very quickly on a flexo press, inline color measurement systems continue to play an indispensable role by monitoring colors throughout production and alerting press operators when a color shift is detected. In this way, inline systems are somewhat “predictive” and act as an early warning system to allow press operators to intervene and make the necessary press corrections before colors go out of tolerance. The net effect is far more consistent color and happier brand clients. Contrast this to the more common scenario where a press operator only checks color at the end of a roll and then occasionally has to trash the roll if the color is found to be out of tolerance. Again, here is where the benefits of an inline color measurement system are obvious and the ROI starts to make excellent business sense for printers.

Measuring color inline is also a great way to ensure that the measurements happen at regular intervals and the data gets collected. As discussed, brand customers are getting serious about holding printers to the standards and tolerances and this becomes risky business for printers if the brand detects color differences throughout a press run and across multiple press runs over time. Measuring inline is easy and it happens automatically so press operators will have all the information they need to ensure color compliance and it won’t slow them down or interfere with their normal press-side duties. Also consider that inline measurement systems retain and store all of the measured color and job information on cloud based servers which allow the data to be accessed by quality managers for customer facing reports, internal audits, and continuous learning and process improvement efforts.

So that’s all for this week. I hope you found this 2 part blog on printing to the numbers and the benefits of inline color measurement helpful and insightful. Together, these strategies allow printers to reduce their make-ready times and materials by automating the color measurement process, removing the color guesswork, and transforming their print process into a highly reliable and predictable manufacturing process. Keep in mind that Techkon works with printers of all sizes, every day, to help them solve their color challenges. Feel free to give us a call regarding your specific needs. Until next time, please be safe and stay healthy!