Case Study: Performance Excellence Improves Graphic Services Operations

Opportunity: The Graphic Services department of an $80MM service organization provided photocopy and offset printing services, with design, typeset, camera, bindery and related capabilities, to many departments within its parent organization. As a captive function, this department had somewhat lost its perspective in recognizing its department users as "customers." As a consequence, these departments regularly complained that Graphic Services too often failed to meet promised delivery deadlines, and produced unacceptable quality. As these departments elected to utilize outside printers and photocopiers, the Graphic Services department was forced to raise its charges to cover its operating expenses, which only made its services all the more undesirable. There was an immediate need to improve quality, meet customer deadlines, reduce operating costs and restore customer confidence.

Performance Excellence Audit: Review of department operations and interviews with customers, managers and operators identified several opportunities for improvement:

Operating and Management Process Improvements: Procedures and priorities to promote more proactive and constructive customer relationships were developed and individuals were trained. The scheduling process was enhanced and all operators were taught to monitor the job scheduling board, in order to better anticipate and coordinate work activities. Excessive on-floor storage of supplies was eliminated, and the production area was cleaned thoroughly. A quality check process was implemented in which the department manager randomly checked and recorded work quality throughout the day. Performance measures and graphs were developed for each operator, with self-recording to provide immediate feedback at the end of each day. The department manager was taught to recognize performance improvements and to provide positive recognition to operators.

Results: At the beginning of intervention, there were ninety jobs on the scheduling board, forty-one of which were already late. Members of the Graphics Services department didn't even consider this to be unacceptable, since they felt they were doing the best they could with the resources they had. Self-tracking and supervisor recognition for increased machine operating time resulted, within two weeks, in not one late job on the scheduling board, and many jobs were being delivered much sooner than promised. In fact, with no additional resources, the operation was running so efficiently that the presses were facing idle time for lack of work. Quality measures quickly jumped from slightly above sixty percent to over ninety percent.

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Revised: April 13, 2008.
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