Over the past three weeks, you’ve come to know Wallace Carlson Printing, and you’ve learned how the Minnesota-based company developed into a printing powerhouse after Ann and Brian Turbeville and Charlie Cox arrived. Let’s wrap up this series by looking at what defines Wallace Carlson today.
In a word … passion.
“To be successful in this business, you have to live it, breathe it, love it,” said Charlie Cox. “You have to be passionate about delivering your best work and continually raising the bar. You have to establish a culture of complete transparency, mentor your people, give them a sense of pride, and hold them accountable.”
It’s passion that fuels the RMS methodology, which has been the cornerstone of Charlie’s approach to operations for decades. It’s that fierce commitment to being faster and better than the competition, and inspiring an entire team of people to share in the vision. It’s Repeatability. It’s Measurability. It’s Speed.
“Repeatability is critical in this business,” said Charlie. “After all, speed is a byproduct of repeatability. In order to be fast, our technology must be efficient and our workflows repeatable.”
Take G7 for example. Wallace Carlson is a G7 Master Printer, and while many printers wave the G7 banner, customers of those printers who actually live the G7 standards are those who benefit the greatest.
Charlie says G7 standards are integrated into the company’s processes and technologies. “We maintain color consistency from Fuji prepress and proofing to the Komori press, so twice a year, Fuji comes in and recalibrates our technology. Repeatability starts with those calibrations,” he explained. Wallace Carlson also establishes color values once for each customer, and pushes that data to the cloud for future jobs.
“The technology helps us ensure color consistency from the first sheet to the last, and removes many of the variables that can result in human error,” said Charlie. “Our scientific and technological approach to color consistency makes it highly repeatable. We trust our technology and know the numbers don’t lie.”
Repeatability is also found in the finishing technology. “We store jobs in onboard software in our folders, stitchers and the new Brausse folder-gluer, so we can rerun those jobs again and again,” said Charlie.
Sometimes repeatability isn’t derived from technology, but rather from manual workflows. For instance, Wallace Carlson has a 101-point quality control checklist that follows each job from its origins in project management to preflight, prepress, press, finishing and shipping. Every department signs off on their tasks along the way. Charlie says this repeatable process also promotes ownership and accountability.
“Measurability is a great motivator, and like repeatability, it also drives speed,” said Charlie, who believes in complete transparency, from the front office to the production floor. “I’m not shy about sharing results with the entire team. We can’t improve if we don’t know where areas for improvement exist.”
Charlie reports on everything – from average make-ready times and run speeds to employees’ percentage of chargeable time. “I run reports and post them monthly, and we discuss them,” he said. “We hold town hall gatherings around bulletin boards in the plant to review reports and talk about ways to improve.”
He also talks about spoilage. “At a lot of printers, it’s the elephant in the room, but not here. We discuss it; we have to. Spoilage is our worst enemy,” he said. “All printers have spoilage. What’s important is how well you manage it, how quickly you recover from it and how successful you are at preventing it from repeating. In 2016, we had a 0.8 percent spoilage rate. We’re on track to see a lower number this year.”
Thanks to measurability and leadership’s willingness to run a transparent operation, everyone at Wallace Carlson is always in the loop. “These are not just bodies working on projects. These are people who are truly passionate about what they’re doing and demonstrate a lot of pride in their work,” said Charlie.
Charlie is excited about the future of measurability, too. Wallace Carlson recently installed a new system within their IT infrastructure that will provide many new metrics that further fuel efficiency.
While it’s clear to see how repeatability and measurability can drive speed, there are many other factors.
“Education is a big one,” said Charlie. “Our people are educated on high-speed production. They’re trained on the technology and equipment. They know how to squeeze efficiency out of all available tools. And they’re aware of the important role they play in achieving our productivity and quality goals.”
Wallace Carlson has also invested in high-speed equipment. This includes a stitcher than can finish 15,000 books an hour and a Komori perfecting press where make-readies on most jobs are down to six to eight minutes. “The Brausse Tornado diecutter is capable of 8,500 sheets an hour and it easily handles every kind of substrate we throw at it,” said Charlie. “Plus, with the new diecutter and folder-gluer, we no longer need to outsource finishing tasks, which has certainly made our overall turnaround times faster.”
Processes are also accelerated because departments and technologies work together seamlessly.
With the Fuji and Komori technology link, the prepress team is able to talk directly to the press from their workstations. Prepress takes a job ticket, enters the pertinent data into the Fuji software, and sends the job electronically to the Komori press. As a result of this streamlined workflow, the press operators don’t need to fumble with job tickets. Instead, they focus on queuing up their jobs and determining the best way to run those jobs during their shift. This is often based on common job criteria like colors and paper sizes.
In the years to come, technology will undoubtedly continue to improve, equipment will likely come and go, some faces may change … but because RMS methodology is so tightly woven into the fabric that has become Wallace Carlson, you can be sure that the passion that exists in the company today is here to stay.
Thank you for joining us on this journey! If you missed a post in this series, you’ll find it in our blog.