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MANAGING TO WIN

Jun 1, 1997 12:00 AM


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"Win-win-win" is the definition of success at Neenah Printing (Neenah, WI) and has earned this division of Menasha Corp. the highest honor in NAPL's Management Plus Program: election to the William K. Marrinan Hall of Fame. The three "wins" are for the customer, the employee and for the company as an organization.

Through a comprehensive program dubbed the "Excellence Process," Neenah promotes a total customer-focused culture aimed at "making every customer contact a meaningful service experience, firmly rooted in uncompromising standards of accountability and quality," as vice president and general manager Terry Conklin describes it. The process calls for every employee to not only understand the customer's needs, but to have the power to meet them.

Since 1986, Neenah's Excellence Process has been centered around four goals: 1) People fully understand the business. 2) People know what is expected and how they are doing. 3) People have the skills to perform at their highest level. 4) People are involved in business progress and change. The process is managed by the quality and training manager who reports directly to the general manager.

A broad range of equipment for general commercial, packaging and business forms product lines is augmented by extensive capabilities in electronic technologies. The company's pages on the World Wide Web not only explain the many services available from Neenah, but feature a "Guide for Print Ready Electronic Files" on-line, providing detailed information about job preparation and transmission.

Customers can send files up to 5MB via e-mail with data compression by any of the many files suitable for Macintosh processing, as explained in the web pages. All such files are handled through a sophisticated "preflight and collect-for-output" program.

Specialties in other production areas include in-line UV coating; diecutting, embossing and foil stamping; inventory management and fulfillment; business forms; in-line printing, slitting and coating of nonwoven materials; and roll-to-roll printing on paper, Tyvek and film products. Duplex imaging of bar codes and other variable information also can be produced.

Last year, a quality policy and procedure manual complying with ISO 9000 standards was produced, documenting the quality system and complying with customer standards and requirements. Two fully staffed quality laboratories are maintained at the commercial and wide web flexo plants for problem solving, quality auditing and as technical resources. Run charts, pareto charts, control charts and histograms are used to monitor processes and identify trends where applicable. Results are recorded in a database that can generate Certificates of Analysis for customers who request documentation.

Training is an ongoing process at Neenah, from an extensive orientation for new employees to "soft" or general training in human relations and job- or process-specific technical training conducted outside in over 25 different subjects. All employees are empowered to manage their particular operations and monitor the quality of work they pass on to their internal or external customer.

The training programs lead to a continuing emphasis on teamwork. Problems often are solved by teams formed specifically to find ways to improve plant processes. This approach has resulted in numerous benefits, including cutting the number of plate remakes by half and reducing makeready times by 35 percent. Similar improvements resulting from team efforts have produced worthwhile changes in many other areas.

Environmental and safety concerns receive priority attention and efforts at Neenah Printing. "We are partners with the environment," states Conklin. Over 16 million pounds of paper and corrugated have been recycled since 1992. Hazardous waste generation has been reduced to zero from over 25,000 pounds in 1992. Since 1988, more than 120 pounds of silver have been reclaimed from the firm's wastewater.

Soy inks and water-based inks and coatings are used extensively, as are alcohol-free fountain solutions. Within the plants, plastic pallets have replaced wooden ones for most transfers of material. These efforts have resulted in Neenah's earning the Business Recycling Award in 1996 and the Business Friends of the Environment Award in 1994.

Since 1992 the company has actively supported the Graphic Arts Youth Apprenticeship Program of the Fox Valley, which gives high school students interested in the industry, the opportunity to spend two days in classes at the local technical college, then three days learning and working in the printing plant. Employees are actively encouraged and supported in a wide range of community volunteer programs.

In targeting a broad marketing area, Neenah has made use of in-house seminars for prospects and customers, covering current and developing technologies. Periodic roundtable discussions, attended by customers and representatives from Neenah's management, sales, customer service and production departments, have provided insight into customers' needs and provided a forum for solving any problems that might have arisen.

In every facet of business operations, Neenah Printing has proven worthy of its new Hall of Fame designation. "When reflecting on our efforts toward continuous improvement that have allowed for the success that this award recognizes," says Conklin, "it is our relentless pursuit of a customer-oriented culture that has been at the foundation. At a strategic level, our emphasis on customer-focus requires that we remain disciplined in the target markets and services that we provide, to ensure that they are what the customer wants. At an operational level, it requires an understanding of customer needs and measurement of our ability to meet these needs throughout the organization."

He concludes fittingly with: "While the Hall of Fame award acknowledges a high level of achievement, for us it symbolizes that we are now ready-ready to begin to learn and grow in ways that will support our constant striving to be a great business and a valued partner for our customers."