“We deliver premium quality print, we need 1000 sheets for makeready” – What is your reference?

When evaluating your business, you need a reference point. And that should be reference points from outside your own company. Otherwise it doesn’t make any sense. A decade ago one printer told me that they really needed 1000 and more sheets during makeready, because the delivered the highest quality print jobs. The company went out of business a few years later.

A decade ago, in my previous job, we were trying to set up a benchmarking system for sheetfed offset printers. A benchmarking for job related parameters like makeready sheets, makeready time, waste. We started with a dozen printing companies with a similar profile. All data would be anonymous, each participant would see his figure compared to the minimum, maximum and median values, without knowing who those best, worst, average competitor was.

The information was in a secured database, where only the participants had access to their own data. But during the first quarter (reporting was on a quarterly basis) we had to work with xls-sheets since the database was not yet ready. Just out of curiosity I looked into the detailed figures of the participating companies. And there was one company that stood out of the crowd, but in a negative sense… Their number of makeready sheets, the time needed for setup was much higher than the rest. Number of makeready sheets was 1000 and higher, while the best had around 250 sheets (we are talking 2006, the last few years presses have evolved significantly and the number of setup sheets should be much lower at this moment).

“We offer premium quality!”
Since the figures were so high, I decided to contact the manager of the company. When I told him about the figures and how they compared to the others in the group, his reaction was that this was to be expected: after all, they offered the highest quality printing and to achieve that premium quality, they really needed 1000 to even 1500 sheets to get up to color… And he was convinced that this was the only way to get his premium quality. Probably because his press operators, his technical manager told him so… But was that really the case? No, the best in class, with only 250 sheets, was a direct competitor…

The company eventually went out of business a few years later. The company with 250 sheets still exists.

Why is this important?
You always need to question yourself, to benchmark yourself to know if you are on the right track. And you can not (only) use internal benchmarks, references. You need to benchmark with external figures. Your customers are also doing that…
Press manufacturers can help you, Heidelberg e.g. has their ‘Prinect Performance Benchmarking’.  With this tool you can compare yourself with other companies with similar equipment. If you want to compare financial figures, PIA has an interesting resource. Check your press manufacturer, your industry association if they have similar tools!


PS: the graph on this page shows the number of makeready sheets from different companies and is (c) PIA. It comes from their 2007 benchmarking study, which can be downloaded from the PIA website.

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About Eddy Hagen 133 Articles
The printing industry has changed significantly over the last few decades. And that change isn't over yet. Eddy Hagen has been observing all these changes from a front row seat, since 1988. He has seen and debunked hypes that still don't deliver. He has seen and promoted small evolutions that had a big impact. He has connected the dots to get a better view. He is an independent mind who might be able to give you unique insights in the world of print and innovation.

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