A Continuous Improvement Q&A with Roy Waterhouse of Hopkins Printing
By John Compton
Toward the end of 2019, I had the opportunity to interview Roy Waterhouse, president of Hopkins Printing. Under Roy’s leadership, this commercial printer has been devoted to achieving higher rates of improvement through Lean practices. Hopkins Printing is one of the companies that attendees can tour at the 2020 Continuous Improvement Conference in Columbus, Ohio, April 5-8. Below are some of Roy’s thoughts on Lean and continuous improvement.
1. John Compton: Tell us a bit about Hopkins Printing and what it does.
Roy Waterhouse: Hopkins Printing was founded in 1975 by Jim and Arnie Hopkins. The company started as a quick printer but eventually moved into the commercial printing world. Hopkins is a sheetfed offset, sheetfed digital, and wide-format printing company serving approximately 350 Central Ohio customers. With just over 100 people, we are a three-shift operation serving financial, manufacturing, associations, colleges, retail, and non-profits segments.
2. JC: What is the continuous improvement strategy at Hopkins Printing and what methods are being used?
RW: Hopkins began with continuous improvement in the 1990s with the teachings of W. Edwards Deming and the application of statistical process control (SPC). That same thinking has evolved into a primarily Lean management focus. We have worked with outside consultants and have also developed programs internally. We try to utilize many of the Lean tools like value stream mapping (VSM), kaizen events, 5S, plan-do-check-act (PDCA) experimentation, and 2-Second Lean. On the other side of the coin are the Lean culture activities with training and coaching so we can share the concepts with our people. One of our most recent themes has been to save one second, one step, or one dollar based on a similar Toyota concept.
3. JC: What benefits have you seen accrue at Hopkins Printing as a result of the company’s improvement activities?
RW: Hopkins has seen many benefits from Lean. From a culture perspective, we have seen more involvement when teams work on VSMs or from doing kaizen events. One of our primary Lean tools has been our job checklist. The checklist is a multipage document that follows every job through the plant and is used as a guide to make…
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4. JC: What is required of you personally to sustain and accelerate the rate of improvement at Hopkins?
RW: Hopkins management has a focus on Lean and is pushing the ideas and tools to the entire company. A large obstacle is getting buy-in from the entire team, and this only happens with large amounts of training and the setting of high expectations. Once a month, the management team reviews all house error occurrences and works on process improvement to reduce the chance of a particular type of problem occurring in the future. The management team also spends time monthly reviewing improvement ideas from the team and working on ways to implement the various ideas.
5. JC: What are the biggest challenges you face leading the improvement initiative at Hopkins?
RW: The biggest challenge with Lean is the buy-in and getting everyone to believe that Lean is a better method. Lean also takes a large amount of time to work on with training and Lean activities. The fifth S (sustain) sums up what we see as the biggest challenge.
6. JC: What do you know now about continuous improvement that you did not know when the company started on its improvement journey? What have you learned? What would you do differently?
RW: When we first started with continuous improvement, we did not fully grasp that continuous means never ending. Having a never-ending program is tough to wrap your head around. We have learned that some of the tools, like Deming or SPC, may change, but the concept of a never-ending series of improvements is what drives the thinking. In hindsight, we should have had a full-time continuous improvement manager. We have done continuous improvement and Lean with consultants and some internally, but it would have gone smoother and faster with a full-time person devoted to the task.
Easier Comes First
By John Compton
“There are four purposes of improvement: easier, better, faster, and cheaper. These four goals appear in order of priority.” ~ Shigeo Shingo
This quote from Shigeo Shingo, the Japanese industrial engineer heavily involved in creating the Toyota Production System, provided me with a revelation on continual improvement when I first read it. It helped me understand that worker health and safety are prioritized above all else. First, the process must be made easier; only after that should we address product quality, lead time, or cost. While it’s not the purpose, making a process easier to perform often improves quality, speed, and cost as well. The focus is on the people making the product or delivering the service, not the product or service itself. Putting humans at the center of continual improvement is a great example of the respect for people that is a central pillar of the Toyota Way management system.
I believe the “fix what bugs you” mantra of Paul Akers in his 2-Second Lean approach is very much related to this quote from Dr. Shingo. The focus of Akers’ philosophy is that by removing those small obstacles that create safety dangers, frustrations, unnecessary motion, fatigue, etc., work becomes safer to perform, requires less energy, is accomplished more smoothly with less time and greater satisfaction. It’s easy to see how these conditions can lead to better quality, shorter lead times, and reduced cost. In fact, Akers attributes his strong competitive position in his industry to the higher quality products and services that flow from his operation faster and at lower cost than from his competitors. It was achieved through making the work easier.
Starting with a focus on better, faster, or cheaper doesn’t directly result in easier work. In fact, it’s possible for workers to feel as if they need to work faster to reduce time, work slower to improve quality, or cut corners to lower costs. Not to mention that these can be at odds with each other. None of these lead directly to “easier” and occasionally add complexity, potentially making the work harder.
I know that continually improving quality, lowering waste, reducing cost, and turning jobs quicker are necessary for printing companies to be competitive. However, thanks to Dr. Shingo, I understand that it starts with making the work easier.
Test Your CI Knowledge
PIA has developed a 10-question quiz to help industry professionals evaluate their current level of knowledge about continuous improvement. We encourage you to take the multiple choice quiz and see how you do. All who complete the quiz will be entered in a March 2 drawing for a Visa gift card. It should take about 5 minutes of your time. Take the quiz today and see how you do!
Make Time for KPIs
By Jim Workman
As you likely already know, KPI stands for key performance indicator. Focusing on carefully selected KPIs is crucial for operational improvement, since they create an analytical basis for decision making and help focus attention on what matters most. As Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured gets done.” KPIs also let you benchmark your performance against companies in this and other industries. You might think a spoilage rate of 2% of sales is good, for example, until you find out that industry leaders are at 0.5%.
To be effective a KPI needs to be:
- Relevant to corporate-wide goals and objectives
- Capable of being accurately and inexpensively measured
- Defined in an understandable and consistent way
- Easily understood by employees so that it is obvious how they can influence it
- Reported in a timely manner so employees can track performance against target
KPIs are often financial in nature, net profit margin percentage being an example. When it comes to non-financial company-wide KPIs, a top PIA consultant, Steve Anzalone, recommends that companies start with these three metrics: on time in full (OTIF) deliveries as a percentage of total jobs, cost of spoiled work as a percentage of sales, and customer complaints.
Last year, PIA teamed up with of The National Union of Printing and Communication Industries (UNIIC), the primary printing association in France, to conduct a survey on production-oriented KPIs. The emailed survey asked printing company executives to identify KPIs that were most important to their companies, the frequency that they measured them, and a variety of other aspects of KPIs. Seventy-two companies in the U.S. and Canada, and 35 companies in France responded. The survey was co-designed by PIA, Ecograf on behalf of UNIIC, and BPIF (primary U.K. printing association). About 70% of respondents identified their company, totally or in part, as a commercial printer.
The most commonly used production-oriented KPI was spoilage rate, followed closely by makeready time, OTIF, and available press time, as shown in the following table.
*U.S. and Canadian respondents that used production-oriented KPIs and rated the KPI as “high” or “essential” importance.
Remarkably, 32% of companies responded that they never use production-oriented KPIs, mostly due to “lack of available time and staff.”
Just over half of the companies using KPIs confirmed that their manufacturing information system (MIS) software helps generate them. Over three-fourths of the companies reported sharing these KPI measurements with their production staff. Perhaps the most striking difference between survey respondents in the U.S. and France was OTIF—a significantly higher percentage of French companies measured it versus American company respondents.
A company truly striving to be operationally excellent must have a few non-financial KPIs that it routinely measures against targets, shares with employees, and uses to improve. If you are not already using KPIs, get started.
2020 Continuous Improvement Conference
This year’s theme, Developing Your Playbook for Success, recognizes that every company needs its own playbook in which it can cultivate the tools, knowledge, and resources for operational excellence. At Cl 2020, we will help you fill that playbook with the most up-to-date information and real-life examples that you can use to cut costs, reduce waste, and improve performance. You’ll also hear from experts on how to motivate others and inspire lasting change so that you’ll have fewer Hail Marys and broken plays.
To learn more about the event, visit ci.printing.org.
Continuous Improvement newsletter is published seven times a year by Printing Industries of America. Send submissions and subscription requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.