Label Printing Company

Case Study: Label Printing Company

Project Name:

Label Printing Company


Printing Technology


  • Applied lean and 5S to a dated, error prone process
  • Improved accuracy and output on all 8 presses
  • Added revenue without need for layoffs or new purchases

The Problems

A Brussels-based flexographic label printing company was experiencing reduced revenues and increased customer complaints under the administration of second-generation management. The company had been built up by a single founding partner, who then passed ownership and executive management of the company to his son.

(Flexography is a printing process that uses a flexible relief plate to print on a variety of surfaces including plastic, metallic films, cellophane, and paper.)

The new management team sought out newer, more modern clients, but had neglected to take into consideration the limitations of their equipment and processes, in light of these clients’ expectations. Consequently, the company experienced long changeover and setup times between product runs, which resulted in significant downtime, delay and complaints.

Although new equipment purchases were being considered by the executive, there had been no actual movement to either purchase or lease. Re-runs of incorrect orders and significant amounts of waste of materials, energy (electricity) and person hours. These issues turned into tangible costs but were dismissed by senior management as “the cost of doing business.” This was a view not shared by many others in the company. As a result, a number of highly experienced employees, including press operators, colour-correctors and graphic designers left the company for greener pastures.

Mid-level management saw this as the beginning of a slippery slope: further decreases in revenues would lead to layoffs to a point at which the company would become inoperable. Staging a coup d’état of sorts, middle management called the Zerwaste in for an intervention.

The Solution

After taking a full review of the company’s procedures, from marketing through to production to delivery and final accounting, we decided to introduce an industry-specific version of Lean called Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED). This allowed the team to reinvent the entire design and printing process, specifically ensuring that setups and changeovers were well-practiced and optimally orchestrated.

We deployed the 5S procedure – an offshoot of lean Six Sigma that uses Japanese words to outline a workplace organization process. English words, also starting with the letter “S” have since been added. They are:

  • Seiri (Sort)
  • Seiton (Straighten, Set)
  • Seiso (Shine, Sweep)
  • Seiketsu (Standardize)
  • Shitsuke (Sustain)

We used physical training (muscle memory) techniques and deployed augmented reality headsets. Quality defects were addressed by scheduling component maintenance and machine calibration.


After training was complete, setup and changeover time was reduced from a 4-to-7-hour window to 30 minutes. This improvement alone removed the need for purchasing newer equipment. Each of the eight presses saw an increase of around five hours per shift in additional uptime, resulting in an additional 80 hours of production per day and a defect rate of less than one percent. Revenues increased by more than 2.5 million annually.

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