Hallmark Gift Manufacturer

Background

The production of gift wrap from the initial artist’s design to the final proofing before final printing was a cumbersome task, involving eight departments with diverse physical locations. Individual functions were isolated from one another. Poor communication between departments and a lack of understanding of other people’s responsibilities resulted in an unacceptably high level of costly remakes.

Three primary goals

  • Reduce cycle time
  • Reduce remakes
  • Reduce production costs

They evaluated two approaches

  • The first involved integrating new digital engraving technology into the existing workflow, which would decrease costs within the 90-day cycle.
  • The second approach considered was to reengineer the whole process and create a work team in order to reduce cycle time as well as cost. They decided upon the latter.

Solution

In the existing process, there were eight vertical functions involved.

  • The artist who conceives the design according to timing and season.
  • The scanner who scans the artist’s image and converts these images to four color film.
  • The color proofer who looks at many proofs with different color layouts.
  • The engineer who approves and oversees the color.
  • The finisher who makes the image the proper size through cropping and nesting and makes sure that Santa Claus’ feet are intact.
  • The step operator who takes the image from the finisher and ‘steps’ to proper cylinder size for printing.
  • The cylinder maker who photo etches or engraves image onto cylinder.
  • The engineer who proofs color and checks mechanics via “proof press,” which is the actual sheet of gift wrap.
Gift wrap designs could loop through this cycle of people many times before going into final production. Moreover, even if the engineer realized that the image need a different color even before cylinder engraving, by the time the design made its way back to the scanner responsible for color, two months had passed and the design was no longer fresh in the scanner’s mind. Even with the many proofing’s before cylindrical etching, a full 20% of all designs, which reached the final stage, had to be remade.
  • The project manager set up a pilot team with a representative from each department. Using SIMPROCESS, they modeled, simulated, evaluated the existing operations and pinpointed areas for improvement.
  • Secondly, they used simulation to develop something entirely new so that they could evaluate benefits before any investment was made and also to benchmark against traditional methods. The primary objective was to illustrate the conventional vs. proposed to management in relative and thus, accurate terms.
  • Following the simulation, the team reasoned that the 13+ step process could be trimmed down to three steps. They created one work team from all the existing departments, except for the artist who remained independent of the work team. The work team was installed in the same four walls, with a dedicated engineer on-hand full-time.
  • Their motto became “make it right the first time” which meant that the engineer and scanner had to communicate closely to avoid designs being sent back later on down the line. Now that they had improved communication, they decided to tackle the mechanical problems arising from the imprecise nature of cylindrical etching.
  • Etching designs on cylinders was a tricky process: too much heat for too much time would etch the design too deep, too little heat or too little time would result in the opposite problem. To increase precision and eliminate the guesswork, the team introduced digital engraving which gave an exact specified depth and is, for all practical purposes, error-free.

Results

  • Cycle time of 90+ days reduced to 8 days
  • Post-cylindrical remakes decreased by 50%
  • Overall production costs reduced by 10%
This case study highlights how extraordinary improvements can be achieved through very ordinary means. Using simulation, the team looked at what was happening, what could be happening, and how they could make it happen. They re-organized the process on a functional level with only a minimal introduction of new technology. They realized that cycle times were long because of multiple remakes. There were multiple remakes because of poor communication between departments. Importantly, they also realized that the capabilities were already there for the scanner and engineer to work together more closely and it was just a matter of restructuring individual departments into a cohesive process team.