Letterpress printing is beautiful, timeless, elegant–but Lean? We took a step towards making our letterpress shop run like a Toyota assembly plant today (Toyota pioneered “lean manufacturing”) when we invited Syracuse University Professor Pat Penfield to give us 5S training. The 5S means that we’ll Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain the equipment and materials in our shop in an effort to reduce waste. This entails things like removing unused equipment from the shop floor, ensuring tools needed are close at hand, spending time every day putting things back in order, etc.
Professor Penfield teaches green supply chain management in SU’s Whitman School of Management, and we met him last year when we invited him to perform a sustainability audit of our company. Our intention was to make sure our environmental claims had “teeth” so that we weren’t simply greenwashing our company. During the audit he applauded our company as one of the “greenest in Central New York,” which made us proud, but he also mentioned that really ought to focus on cost savings and efficiencies–things that will reduce our downtime and our operating costs (not to mention our “sustainability”). Boy did I agree. I know downtime. Sometimes it takes twenty minutes just to locate a 1/2″ open ended wrench, or a couple things that when wedged together will loosen a 1/2″ bolt. That kind of wasted time, multiplied by twenty employees, adds up and makes operating a successful business more difficult–especially in today’s economy. It also can make one very grumpy. I’ve seen a lot of letterpress shops so I know that we’re not the only ones who could use a little S5 training! So Pat volunteered to train us on procedures to make our shop more efficient and less costly to operate. Later this year, he’ll be bringing his management students down to our shop to help us too, so that they can learn from our experiences. I was amazed at how everyone in our company welcomed Pat to our shop and took to heart his message of efficiency. Not only will this help our company, but it will also make working here more pleasant.
So today we got started with Sorting and Setting in Place, the first two S’s in 5S. After three hours with seven brave people, we had acheived a zenlike organization around our large paper cutter and our print shop manager’s desk. Offcuts were organized, random press parts were labeled then shelved, and lots of boxes of junk are on their way to recycling. I know that I was able to part with scraps of paper and obsolete Polar 107EL wiring harnesses that have been hangin’ around since we moved in this cutter four years ago. Although it’s only about 1/8 of our shop, it was a great start. Here’s before:
Thanks to the brave “5S Seven” who tackled this first cleanup project!
I hope to keep everyone posted here on our progress. Maybe it will serve as an inspiration for you to clear out some of the clutter in your shop? Or has anyone else implemented lean manufacturing/six sigma methods in their shop? I know that many of us are notorious pack-rats–letterpress equipment probably wouldn’t be around if it were six sigma-ed twenty years ago!–but for those of us who make a living with letterpress, this is a terrific time to try to minimize costs and make letterpress printing as efficient as possible.
Thanks to Carol, our operations manager, for hosting! It was the perfect fall day for family & friends….
We were thrilled to see letterpress printing on the COVER of this month’s Real Simple, as well more letterpress inside the issue in a multi-spread page story about giving thanks. We got even more excited when we learned that our friends at Sesame Letterpress did the printing (with the help of Boxcar plates & the Boxcar Press). What great letterpress love! We asked Breck Hostetter to give us the scoop about printing for Real Simple, and this is what she told us:
“We used Boxcar’s K95 plates mounted on our Boxcar base (we’ve had this for so long that I don’t remember which one it is). We had a couple weeks to plan for the project and select the papers and ink color but the artwork came at the last minute. Real Simple provided us with the text and we used our own borders to design the cards. The magazine wanted a mix of cards with and without borders to consider when doing the photo shoot. So we printed each card with the border and text on a couple different papers and then we removed the plate from the base, cut the border off the plate and printed the plate with just the text on the papers. Thanks to the adhesive backed polymer plates, this was doable. We had to rely on Boxcar’s dependable 1 day turn around processing and UPS’s overnight shipping. We printed everything on our Golding Jobber. We have a Vandercook and Heidelberg but we do 95% of our jobs on the Golding and have just increased our fleet to include a couple Golding Pearls….”
Great work, Sesame Letterpress! The printing looks awesome – crisp, clear, deep, and gorgeous.
Something letterpress sweet (with a really nice solid, I have to say!) from our print shop.
One of Boxcar’s platemaking customers, Plum Blossom Press, had this sweet article in South Shore Weekly featuring their new letterpress business. We always love when letterpress gets into the mainstream media. Go letterpress!
This postcard is honestly one of the prettiest things we’ve ever found in our mailbox….It's such a great example of why letterpress is the best printing method ever. Designed and letterpress printed by Chandler O'Leary of Anagram Press . For these postcards, Chandler used the Boxcar Base and our 94FL plates. She writes, "I've been using Boxcar plates for 5 years now, and I love themâ€”and the Base is a life-saver for crazy registration!" Thanks, Chandler! Please keep us on your mailing list!
We fell in love with edge painting a year or two ago — it’s such a cool way to add a second or third color to a printed piece, and you can still pantone match the edge color (we mix edge-painting inks by hand, and then apply by hand too). We flat printed these invitations for Talbots announcing their Spring 2009 collection, and then we did the edge painting too — we love the BRIGHT PINK edge painting they chose. They added the embossed pattern on their end. Printed on our cotton paper.
This is one of our favorite days of the year…..
A few times a year, public school art teachers come to Boxcar Press to pick up our overstocked paper, offcuts, excess envelopes, cool boxes, and other odds and ends that can be transformed by students into art. The supplies we donate are met with such enthusiasm from the art teachers….though art budgets vary from school to school, we’re told by some teachers that they only have about $.70 to spend per student on art supplies for the year(!). We love our little community of Syracuse, and we love doing things like this that help us feel connected to where we work and live. Also, though recycling is good, reusing materials is even better…..we hope this will spark some good donation ideas for other letterpress shops. If you have other cool ideas about how to re-use your extra letterpress Stuff, we’d love to hear about it! (Our great neighbors Partners for Arts Education help organize all of this….thanks, Partners!) (photos by Carol, our operations manager. Thanks, Carol!)