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Spectrum Printing Finds Lean Manufacturing Has Merit

Press release from the issuing company

TUCSON, Ariz., March 12 -- George Stewart is a practical man. As owner of Spectrum Printing of Tucson for the past 16 years, he finds that's the best way to be. As such, Stewart is always looking for new opportunities to make his business more competitive and for ways to distinguish Spectrum from his competitors. Lately, he has turned to the Arizona Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Arizona MEP) and the concepts of Lean Manufacturing to assist him in both avenues of endeavor. "Companies that don't embrace Lean concepts are going to be left behind in cost or in the pricing scheme of things and are not keeping up with what's happening," Stewart said. "The only real way to drop costs is to reduce your margin or become more efficient. "The MEP's Lean processes have allowed us to grow, develop and expand on the efficiency side," he added, "while we have also upgraded our equipment. In short, we can now do more in less time." Spectrum printing is a small, 19-employee, state-of-the-art six-color print shop serving high-end manufacturers. It provides integrated mailing services to its customers and recently upgraded its production capabilities with an automated six-color offset press and full digital pre-press department. "Spectrum needed a way to distinguish its products and services from any number of other printers in a largely commodity industry," said William Bolin, director of operations for the Arizona MEP, which has offices in Scottsdale and Tucson. "While initially somewhat skeptical about the benefits of Lean Manufacturing, George and his staff have come to recognize the process as a way to increase quality while serving his high-end clientele, such as the aerospace industry, more effectively," Bolin added. That is not unusual, Bolin said. "All of us at the Arizona MEP realize it takes awhile for people to understand how Lean Manufacturing works," he said, "but our workshops and hands-on training go a long way towards answering any questions or doubts some manufacturers have." Stewart certainly agrees. "Lean Manufacturing is a wonderful tool that really works," he said. "In some cases we have already gone a long way into Lean, and in other areas we are just scratching the surface. "Fortunately," he added, "I have great employees who are always anxious to try new things that improve their work life and the products they create. In fact, the biggest surprise about all this is how well my people have taken to the concept. I give a lot of credit to the people at Arizona MEP because they were able to explain and demonstrate the Lean principles well and help my staff understand why Lean is important for them in their daily work lives." Stewart said employees have to realize the company is not trying to get rid of people by becoming more efficient. "We told them that if we were to continue to compete and be able to pay them well for what they did, we had to become more efficient, manage our resources well and adopt and practice Lean principles." Spectrum's employees took to the concept right away and understood internal factors such as waste and spoilage had to be reduced. "Our customers expect us to reduce prices overall each year," Stewart said. "Efficiency and reducing waste are ways for us to lower our costs and be able to pass that saving along to our clients." Stewart knows the process has just begun. "We are only about 20 percent into the Lean Manufacturing process," he said, "but with the help of the Arizona MEP and a dedicated group of employees, I am sure we will continue to realize the benefits of Lean techniques." The Arizona MEP is an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The national MEP is a network of manufacturing extension centers that provide business and technical assistance to smaller manufacturers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Through MEP, manufacturers have access to more than 2000 manufacturing and business "coaches" whose job is to help firms make changes that lead to greater productivity, increased profits, and enhanced global competitiveness. For more information on the Arizona MEP program call 480-874- 9100.