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How to Measure Press Productivity

by Henry Freedman

Economic DNA ™

A guide to sorting the choices among electronic, conventional, and long-run digital.

Today’s print production world holds an unprecedented range of options in press selection. Never before have we had such choices intermixing conventional offset, digital, hybrid short run and now, on the horizon, digital long run production printing. With rapidly expanding equipment choices comes an increasing vulnerability – for choosing wrongly.

New technology makes the equipment buyer increasingly dependent on the manufacturer to define these newer presses – problematic when, in fact, many vendors are not totally clear about the economic impacts of their systems on the plant floor. As a result, we are all learning together on a daily basis, with the pace increasing as new press options hit the street every six months. At the same time, we find an increasing responsibility and desire to be green, economically and environmentally – elements that are inseparable from the press platform.

The answer lies in more formalized productivity measurements. One difficulty is that making a proper productivity measurement most often requires incorporating the full range and variety of events about which you are making your decision. This is very difficult considering that track records don’t exist for new things. Using formal economic measurements isn’t so easily done by our trade and craft industry. But new entrants to our field and larger organizations do so. Here’s how you can, too.


Productivity simply defined: Input ÷ Output

Productivity is a ratio of inputs over outputs. You put in money, floor space, people, energy, machinery and materials, take risks, and hope these inputs result in usable outputs: printed sheets of paper. These resources make up what I call the Economic DNA™ of your work. Let’s see a sample.

To really calculate productivity correctly takes hundreds of variables. Let’s look at one popular little area, energy in the job. If you really want to know what your cost is in a digitally printed page, for example, you need to know how much energy went into it. This also starts to define its carbon footprint and its environmental impact.

Something you can easily do to really get a handle on productivity is simply to define a given job’s Economic DNA™. Printing jobs are made up of discrete tasks we call events, such as makeready. Resources are made up of eight elements: person, time, task, material, location, job number and status (as show in the illustration above). If you collect the information on these eight items, you will get your task’s “economic genes” and that part of your job’s Economic DNA™. You can do it with a clip board and a stop watch. This information can be quite valuable to everyone’s understanding of the real world you are in. Good luck!


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