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Managing for excellence

May 1, 1995 12:00 AM


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In charting a winning course through the extraordinary changes impacting the graphic arts industry in recent decades, few in-plant operations match the accomplishments of Du Pont Printing & Publishing Operations, the 1994-95 Management Plus Hall of Fame winner. For six consecutive years, this organization has garnered awards in the competition, co-sponsored by the National Assn. Printers and Lithographers (NAPL), Didde Web Press and AMERICAN PRINTER.

"Over the past four years," explains Roger Attanasio, Du Pont plant manager, "our focus has been to evolve from a traditional in-plant staff-support organization into a vibrant, competitive, commercial-type business. Although we do not solicit work outside the corporation because we don't want to compete with DuPont's printing customers in the area, our management team develops a competitive focus within the company and closely monitors the value delivered to customers in terms of savings."

The division performs multiple roles in corporate operations. Nearly 250 employees in four Wilmington, DE locations and the headquarters in Boothwyn, PA provide complete preparation, printing, binding, mailing reprographics and graphic design services, as well as electronic on-demand printing for the firm's many business units.

Account managers handle product marketing and services to targeted accounts, supported by literature and sales presentations demonstrating the advantages of using the facilities. Managers also service accounts to maintain close communication and understand customer needs.

In addition, Printing & Publishing Operations assists in development and application testing of products and systems technology the firm offers to the printing and publishing industry. It also serves as a "center of excellence" for VIP customer demonstrations.

"It is extremely important to maintain our electronic prepress abilities at the leading edge of technology and expand our on-demand printing aptitude through networking the latest technologies," declares Attanasio. "Our objectives include higher productivity achieved with maximum efficiency, combined with increased responsiveness to meet changing customer needs."

Aiming for a high-performance work system, the organization created operational work teams in 1992 to foster individual development, allowing employees to play a larger role in their working environment and possess wider latitude in decision making. Each team has responsibilities in five decision-making areas: operations, safety, personnel, planning and managing.

Teams set objectives at the beginning of each year and manage their performances against those goals. Monthly meetings examine variances and determine corrective action, and performance is posted in each operating area. Beginning this year, compensation is tied largely to performance against these objectives.

By increasing organizational flexibility, the plant moved from a pure seniority-based system to a qualification-based system during 1993 and 1994. The switch resulted in better response to workload fluctuations by permitting greater latitude in shifting people from role to role.

A flexible work practice program provides various opportunities for employees, including part-time work while remaining on the company's full-service roll, and two or more employees sharing one or more assignments with each working 20 or more hours per week.

Despite the flexibility enjoyed by employees, maintaining quality continuity receives full attention at all times. In-process quality control places the responsibility with each employee to sign off on jobs before proceeding to the next step. No individuals are assigned specifically to the quality control function. All operational areas follow standard procedures and quality assurance practices.

To assure quality, service and competitiveness, other steps include monitoring spoilage and delivery times; comparing operating costs and commercial printing; benchmarking; collecting customer comments for analysis and complaint correction if needed; and designing customer surveys using the collected comments.

Personnel from each area participate in monthly cost and budget reviews. Overall business results are reviewed monthly and shared throughout the organization.

Since the organization performs many functions, it emphasizes the importance of its personnel. "We strongly believe our business and our people are inseparable," states Attanasio. A program of ongoing education, training and development helps employees adapt to workplace changes and enjoy greater work satisfaction.

The current curriculum includes technical training by the in-house staff and outside sources such as the Rochester Institute of Technology and Graphic Arts Technical Foundation. Topics include leadership training for managers and self-managed work teams, statistical process control and process measurement, basic math skills using NAPL's Carl Didde WorkPLACE program, substance abuse awareness, sexual harassment sensitivity and rape prevention. The firm also offers tuition reimbursement for courses employees take on their own time.

At the plant, safety receives top priority. Employees attend weekly "tool box" safety sessions, monthly site-wide meetings geared toward workers' duties and special quarterly programs dealing with all work sites. An on- and off-the-job safety program employee committee plans safety programs and activities, and regular audits verify the effectiveness of the efforts. This safety commitment has earned eight awards in the NAPL safety program, plus awards from the State of Pennsylvania and the National Safety Council.

Environmental stewardship rates high in management activities. "Our primary objectives are to reduce the amount of material resources we use and eliminate waste streams adversely affecting our environment, personnel or community," notes Attanasio. Current endeavors include reducing vehicular trips to lessen ozone depletion, converting ozone-depleting refrigerants to environmentally friendly ones, increasing recycling efforts and incineration of industrial and municipal wastes.

Additional steps include developing 100 percent recyclable packaging methods and materials, replacing a substantial amount of petroleum-based inks with soy-based printing inks, attaining zero emissions of carcinogens and air toxins and generating zero hazardous materials waste.

The company-provided teacher training and teaching aids for a waste management curriculum in local elementary schools, and 25 acres of site property have been set aside for a wildlife habitat.

With its demonstrated commitment to excellence in every management area over many years, DuPont Printing & Publishing Operations truly merits the unique distinction of election to the Management Plus Hall of Fame, an honor shared by only 11 other organizations since the program's inception in 1984.