imagetek Consulting International
 
"Unique screenprinting consulting with a clear and spectacular difference"
 

Case Studies

Case File #4502

Situation: The screen printing operation at this (zero-defect) high-tech computer accessory manufacturer enjoyed a 40% reject rate.  This is no longer acceptable due to failing hardware street-prices while production cost soars in the other direction.

Background: This is one of the handful of companies in the world that screen print force sensors for computer OEMs and other visual-aid related products.  This North American manufacturer tackles some of the toughest printing assignments ever assigned to the screen process.  Unless the printers can lay down carbon resistive layers on touchpad films to ultra-precise thickness, the sensor cannot pick up the 'x' and 'y' coordinates that determine the cursor location on screen, when a laptop user's finger strokes the touchpad surface.  Within and 18" x 24" print area, the measured resistance level must not vary.  On the press, that means the thickness of the carbon resistive layer must be completely uniform across the entire print area within a few decimal places.  For all intends and purposes, a three-dimensional distorted-free print!

Operative Comment: "The truth of the matter is that if they made screens for any other company, they'd do a magnificent job," comments Mike Young, president of the Connecticut-based consulting firm Imagetek.  There is no question, the screens they make are superb but it's not good enough for the product they are trying to make.

Report of Investigation: Called in to troubleshoot, Young proposed printing half as many images on downsized sheets.  Naturally, management was cool to the idea but Young persuaded them to allow a trial run.  "At the end of the first shift, we had a yield increase," reports Young.  "Over a period of just two days, we calculated a 30% greater yield."

"It was actually very easy," notes Young.  "Due to image size, printing difficulties were immense."  They would think nothing of spending a whole day setting up a press to print a production run of just 200 sheets.  "If they managed it in half a day, they'd fly the flat."  The production crew inspected every sheet, constantly stopping production to tweak press parameters in order to bring the ink deposit within spec.  "Every time they stopped for more than a couple of minutes, they had to washout the screen, then print several 'setup' sheets in order to continue."  Reducing the size of the print area alone, all but eliminated most mid-run downtime.  Over a period of five additional days, Young initiated other no-cost cost adjustments in the screen-making and press setup regimes that dramatically reduced waste.  "In my presence, they printed three production batches which, believe it or not, we got it down to zero rejects," says Young.  "That's not going to be the norm, of course, but there's absolutely no need for printers to live with high rates of rejects, even with the most demanding applications or products with high built-in profit margins. 

Current Status: Setup time averages 60-90 minutes, well within the comfort zone for this application.  Even more comfortable was the payback on the consulting investment.  Savings in the more efficient printing operation, increase in quality yield with dramatic reduction in waste and time lost repaid the company for Imagetek's fee several times over before Mike Young got on the plane to go home!

Case File #4620

Situation: An automotive glass company initially purchases several printing lines for one of its screen printing locations.  Unhappy with production levels on the new equipment, upper management halts the project mid-stream and refuses to speak about the fourth line yet to be confirmed.

Background: To facilitate an orderly transition, the new lines were installed one at a time.  However, shortly after the third line went up, management raised the red flag.  Losses were astronomical - over $100,000 per week.  The primary problem was machine downtime.  Like many screen printers involved in glass decoration, this West coast glass replacement company buys its screens pre-made from an outside vendor located a considerable distance from its rural facility.

Operative Comment: "They were breaking a lot of screens," says Mike Young, president of the Connecticut based consulting firm Imagetek.  "for a run of 100 parts, they might print only 30 before they were down for two hours replacing a torn screen.  Not surprisingly, they could not reach productivity goals set for the new printing lines, so corporate was not going to fund the fourth, until they could sort themselves out."

Report of Investigation: The situation was so desperate; Imagetek's Mike Young delayed his vacation to fly out to make an assessment of the problem.  The chief cause of delay was the often lengthy time it took for press make-ready with a new screen due to poor techniques and practices.  So Young proposed a departure from tradition: "When I found out how much per year they were paying for screens - well over $200,00, I suggested that they should begin making screens in house first and foremost."  At Imagetek's suggestion, the company called in a supplier, who provided an estimate of $260,000 for equipping them with automated in-house screen making.  While that represented a long term solution, something had to be done in the short term if process engineers and production managers were not to be denied the fourth printing line they believed they must have to meet spiraling production demands.

Within two days, Imagetek trimmed projected weekly losses by $85,000.  More remarkable was how relatively easy it was accomplished.  "They were essentially changes in make-ready practice," Young notes.  "There was little or no cost involved in any of the changes made.  It was all technique and procedures."  Young further recommend changes in the machinery timing and synchronization that would help defray a good portion of the remaining $15,000.  AT Young's departure, the plant's general manager admitted, "If I had known what you could do, I would have been happy to pay your daily rate by the hour."

Current Status: The number of screens returned to the vendor for remakes has dropped so dramatically, the company has suspended plans to install screen-making equipment.  Corporate officials did, however, cancel that fourth machine.  Yet, no one but the machine supplier cried about it.  Production levels exceeded projections by such a significant margin that the new line simply wasn't necessary.  Additional savings - about $850,000!

Case File #8003

Situation: A Great Lakes membrane switch, graphic overlay, ID product label and nameplate manufacturer fames for its quality and on-time delivery prints its very first tone-blend (dot graduation), on a small job, but for a big important customer.  Several missed shipping dates later - things are tense on the production floor.

Background: The large, sophisticated company - 100,000 square foot facility, 9 printing lines, seven to nine spot colors per job - had helped to organize a local screen printing "club".  At the invitation of club officials, Imagetek's Mike Young presented a seminar at a local hotel.  Though the firm did not believe it needed any tutoring or schooling, two of its veteran production people were in the audience, as a gesture of support for the fledgling club's efforts.

Operative Comment: "After the presentation, these two guys waited until nearly everyone had gone, then confessed that for the entire two hours, they learned something new every minute," reports Mike Young, president of the Connecticut-based consulting firm Imagetek.  "During the break, they had called their boss and he told them to bring me to see him at 7:30 the following morning!"

Report of Investigation: Young rearranged his schedule and, upon arrival, saw nothing inherently difficult about the halftone job.  "They simply needed instruction in printing what is a very different animal from their ordinary spot-color nameplates and overlays, "says Young.  "They had the wrong screen, the wrong fabric, the wrong stencil, the wrong output, the wrong artwork, the wrong printing techniques, the wrong procedures - and least of all , the wrong attitude for the job."

Young began at the beginning, with the art.  "You could see the bending in the output," Young recalls.  "The positive image was wrong from the start."  The client's disk featured in a halftone graduation from 10 to 90 percent, a nearly insurmountable screen printing challenge, even for a veteran halftone printer.  Equipped with compatible software, in-house artists were instructed to substitute a much less challenging 30 - 70 percent graduation in its place.  Young walked them through the process of requesting screen printable halftone output from their film vendor.  With superior understanding and choice of screen fabric, tension, stencil and improved printing techniques, a visually pleasing sample was printed without further delay.

Young suggested that they show the client a printed sample of the abortive 10 - 90 percent graduation, alongside the successful 30 - 70, and let them decide.  "We told them that we had reworked that artwork in order to produce the newer version - which the customer liked much better - and we said we wouldn't charge them extra for the alteration," says Young.  The client departed happy and impressed both with the printers' process knowledge and willingness to take the initiative to improve their client's finished product.

Current Status: The Company confidently prints halftone blends and four color process work with complete ease.  How good are they?  Six months after Young's visit, the halftone work the company printed with Imagetek's assistance took Gold in two categories at the SGIA's Golden Image Award Competition.  Not bad for a first time halftone printer operation, who previously didn't know such a process existed!

Imagetek Consulting International
Mike@imagetekconsulting.com

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