THE BUSINESS OF VISCOSITY BLOG



    Case Study: Meeting Customer Specifications Just Got Easier

    Posted by James Dulong

    Jul 15, 2016 9:30:00 AM

    plastic_wrap.jpgWe are pleased that this customer agreed to let us tell their story. For competitive reasons, their name has been withheld to protect their identity.

    A major supplier of packaging for the packaged food industry in Canada, was suffering from excess scrap due to increasing customer demands. They understood that they could not consistently meet those demands using the same tools and processes they had historically employed. As there was no budget for new press equipment, they began looking for simpler solutions to improve their print quality. After reviewing several options, they determined to retrofit their two multi-color presses with Norcross controls. Very quickly, the resulting accuracy in viscosity control enabled them to routinely meet their customers’ specifications.

    There were two important characteristics of this operation that presented unusual challenges. First, the runs varied from a low of 2,500 impressions to a high in excess of 1,000,000 impressions. Second, the opacity of large white areas on some packages was a must, and finished product had to meet rigorous tests for both opacity and color match.

    The company employs skilled and experienced operators and were relying on them to control viscosity manually with a Zahn cup. Even with their competent, well- trained personnel, they were experiencing departures from optimum viscosity by as much as ten Zahn cup seconds. Uneven quality and excess scrap were the inevitable result. 

    Unable to consistently meet customer requirements, the company created a process improvement team to determine a cost effective way to reliably meet not only the demands of the current customer but the future demands of new customers. The team quickly identified viscosity as the variable that was generating most of their difficulties. After contacting three other providers of similar solutions, they settled on a Norcross Viscosity Control solution.

    This customer did everything right when it came to implementing their new Norcross Viscosity Controllers. The improvement team deferred much of the setup and decision making to their press operators, and to the Norcross implementation team. Using our Rapid Results Process™, involving the press operators from the outset, and listening carefully to the expectations of the process improvement team, installation was quick and uncomplicated. Once the controls were installed, the press operators were energized, not only by the ease of the installation, but by their participation in the process right from the start. It was clear that this improvement project was going to be embraced by the team required to make it work.

    Leveraging the enthusiasm of the press operators, the Norcross implementation team
    conducted a set of straightforward training sessions. As the controllers themselves are relatively simple, the Norcross implementation team was able to focus more on optimization than on the operation of the sensors and controllers themselves. It was the convergence of these factors that made the installation and training so successful:
    • The improvement team deferred much of the setup and decision making to their press operators and to the Norcross implementation team. Without the independence to make decisions and direct the installation, the implementation may not have had the enthusiasm required to get optimal results so quickly.
    • Using our Rapid Results Process™, involving the press operators and listening carefully to the expectations of the process improvement team, installation was quick and uncomplicated. Our Technical & Service Teams prepare a detailed training plan. The plan, combined with our experience, takes much of the pressure off the customer’s implementation team.
    • As the controllers themselves are relatively simple, the Norcross implementation team was able to focus more on optimization than on the operation of the sensors and controllers themselves. The key to any successful viscosity control implementation is the optimization. You will get benefits by hooking it up and running, but with the guidance of a viscosity control professional, you can be assured of getting the results you require. With a quick and simple implementation, there is more time for optimization.

    The results, while not a surprise to us, were better than our customer had expected. As they were able to control viscosity much more tightly and much more frequently, they were able to maintain their optimum viscosity.

    Manual-Viscosity-vs-Norcross.jpg


    The chart above shows a typical two hour run with manual viscosity checks occurring every ten minutes. The chart was overlaid with a two hour run of the same product and the same white ink with readings and corrections every 15 seconds. The frequency of correction and the precision of the Norcross Viscosity Controller led to the following results:

    • Ink savings of greater than 17%. During a run with manual viscosity control, the company was forced to target above the optimum viscosity range to help meet the opacity specifications. As a result, they were required to use more ink than was required. The company was able to eliminate the wasted ink, and improve quality, by keeping the viscosity much closer to the optimum.
    • Reject rate for opacity defects reduced by over 90%. While there were still some rejections for opacity defects, the team was confident that those defects were not a result of ink viscosity.
    • Operator time spent monitoring viscosity reduced by 72%. As the tool was new, the press operators still provided manual spot checks to ensure that they were getting accurate results from the viscosity control system. They felt that, over time, they would be able reduce viscosity monitoring even further.

    The company process improvement team, the press operators, and the Norcross implementation team were satisfied with the results. The superintendent of the printing department was grateful and expected that they would be able handle additional complex printing requirements as their customers became more demanding. He remarked, “I wish we’d have done this sooner.” 

    Download our free Process Excellence Diagnostic to more closely evaluate the operation costs, maintenance, overall performance, and product quality of your printing process.

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    Topics: Viscosity

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