The growing use of portable Internet devices (smart phones, iPads, laptops, etc.) has caused a huge shift toward digital distribution of content over traditional print processes. Poor economic conditions have contributed to increased customer price sensitivity and higher costs of goods involved in printing. These factors have changed demand for traditional printed products. Many printers have been unable to adapt to the new market environment, leading to dwindling profit margins and thousands of shop closures. Many strategies have been touted as the "best" way to stay profitable in the new market environment, including value-added services, new machinery, and software packages. However, according to the NAPL, productivity improvements, such as Lean, will now play the central role in differentiating the leaders in the industry. Printers, particularly small- and medium-sized printers, have been slow in their adoption of Lean or any of its variants. Lean organizations produce less waste (in its many forms), have improved product quality with shorter lead times, and have employees who are more engaged. Unfortunately small- and medium-sized printers are less likely to begin productivity improvement initiatives due to lack of knowledge, time commitment issues, fear of change, and lack of resources. The goal of this case study is to provide a theoretical framework and an in-depth example of how a small print shop's production line operates and how to generate a tailored action plan for implementing Lean Manufacturing Principles. Specifically, the study focuses on the creation and usefulness of value stream mapping (graphically identifying the many forms of waste within a given system) for a small print shop. The case study is written with an easy to follow language as a guide to aide other small printers in creating their own Lean implementation plans. Careful, direct observation and documentation of a small 6-employee print shop occurred over a short period to gather data about the shop's current value stream. Three product families were chosen for mapping: digital color printing, digital black and white printing, and offset press. Data collection focused on the workflow for jobs from creation to completion, how long each step takes, and how communication and materials move through production. Current value stream maps were generated using the collected data and were used to develop ideal and future maps. Detailed analysis of the current value stream revealed six key areas for the company to address that will provide the greatest benefit toward becoming Lean. The areas are: company culture, organization, bottlenecks, scheduling, communication and inventory. The following recommendations were made for the company to reduce waste and excess costs, improve value-added ratios, and reduce stress on employees. The current company culture has trust issues and does not encourage innovation. Management's constant commitment to building and maintaining a new culture will be essential to creating change. Daily meetings and Kaizen events can help establish trust and empower employees to find and implement solutions. The shop floor needs 5S organization and will also require the implementation of an inventory system and reduction initiative. New suppliers may need to be found to accomplish just-in-time delivery. To alleviate bottlenecks in premedia and finishing, the graphic design stage should be removed from production to give production control the responsibilities of job scheduling and load leveling. Finishing then becomes the pacemaker process and dictates the flow, preventing push within the system. Kanban signals and supermarkets are recommended for maintaining a pull system. Communication across the shop can be improved through daily production meetings, utilizing exiting software for job tracking, establishing visual management boards, and establishing a sales department for handling customers.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Printing industry--United States--Management; Small business--United States--Management; Lean manufacturing; Production management; Economic value added; Organizational effectiveness
Department, Program, or Center
School of Media Sciences (CIAS)
Austin, Alexis, "A Case study of value streams and lean implementation for a small print shop" (2013). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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