Mention "waste" in printing, and what most people probably will think of first is a percentage of sheets discarded as the press comes up to color. That kind of "waste" is inherent in the process, and when held to a practical minimum, it's an acknowledged element of production. But "waste" has other, more disturbing aspects that can hobble productivity in any printing plant.

These issues of waste - eight of them, to be precise - are compellingly described in an essay by Ken Rizzo, director of the consulting resource group at PIA/GATF. Defining waste as any activity that fails to add value or yields a product that's unacceptable to the customer, Rizzo warns that a "hidden factory" of anti-production exists wherever steps aren't taken to eliminate waste in all of its insidious forms. Some of them, like excess time spent on inefficient makereadies, are obvious. Others are bottlenecks hiding in plain sight, such as skids of work in progress clogging large amounts of floor space because jobs are being over-produced.

Rizzo's critique is a needed reminder that despite all of the current emphasis on digital workflows and CIM (computer integrated manufacturing) for print, many of the greatest barriers to productivity continue to be simple physical constraints. A pallet of sheets in the wrong place can't be digitized, made JDF-compatible, and pushed through a digital pipe - somebody has to get on the forklift and take the stack someplace where it won't block traffic. And while digital workflows can and do reduce the waste that stems from faulty machine setups, they're of little use against "waste from unnecessary transport" and the other factory-floor inefficiencies that Rizzo brings to light. And there's no digital defense against something else that he correctly identifies as a species of waste: "not utilizing people's mental, creative, and teamwork abilities."

We'd like to see more expert commentary of this kind on the non-digital dimensions of improving print "workflow." Compliments to Rizzo for a persuasive exploration of the subject, and thanks to Printing Impressions for making it available at