The following is a guest blog post from Malcolm Keif, Cal Poly, coauthor of Lean Printing: Pathway to Success and Setup Reduction for Printers.


Recently a great video has been circulating around social media showing a Formula 1 pit stop from the 1950s in contrast to a pit stop from 2013. (If you haven’t seen it, check it out here) In this two minute video you’ll see how radically pit stops have evolved in sixty years. It is fascinating how the sport has changed in technologies, processes, personnel, tools, metrics, and attitudes.

We have seen similar changes in the printing industry over as many decades. Printing technology has improved tremendously, especially from the standpoint of process control. Even with makereadies, equipment manufacturers have done a great job of focusing on quick-changeover improvements. CIP4, servo technology, inline register and color control, and many other improvements have brought printing into a science. However, in some ways the entire printing system (all interdependent processes working together), including our material staging, methodology for changing plates and inks, use of strategic personnel, as well as our sense of urgency about the makeready, are more similar to the 1950s version than the 2013 version. How often do we rehearse a makeready…or even discuss a strategic approach, for that matter?

Those of us who are lean proponents liken the pit stop to a press or bindery makeready, mostly because it speaks to where crucial seconds can be picked up in a competition. We acknowledge that no progress is being made to reaching the finish line when the car is in the pits. It is not a value-add process, though it is necessary to keep the car running. Isn’t that true of a makeready? It is not a value-add process…but it is necessary to complete the job. So, why not approach a makeready with the same strategy and urgency as a Formula 1 pit stop?

The best way to improve makereadies in a company is through an intentional human development approach (education and training). It should also be part of a larger lean thinking initiative. You are really teaching your employees how to think lean. It involves reiterating your vision about value-add and providing the tools your employees need to rethink the makeready. It is simple, but not easy. Our tendencies are to do things the way we have always done them, even when we get new equipment – it may be faster on the racetrack but just as slow in the pits. Let’s face it, if a Formula 1 team came to a race with 1950s pit stop strategies, they couldn’t possibly finish anything but last. Why then do we sometimes approach makereadies with those same outdated approaches?