There are many management activities beyond those directly related to print production workflow that enhance a company’s profitability. These activities can be categorized as regulatory or loss–prevention functions and include:
- environmental regulation compliance
- health & safety regulation compliance
- process management, lean manufacturing, quality management
- employee management (HR is not just about payroll!)
- IT management and support
Companies can incorporate these functions into their operations in various ways. Depending on the size of the company, they can either represent stand–alone positions or else can form part of aggregate job descriptions or outsourced tasks. But no matter how they get done or by whom, their implementation yields enormous paybacks.
Environment, Health & Safety
Print and related activities represent a large sector of the manufacturing economy in both the US and Canada. As such, they are subject to a variety of environmental and health and safety regulations under both federal and state/provincial laws. It is the responsibility of all manufacturing companies to be aware of these requirements and comply with them. It is wishful thinking to believe that small companies fall outside governmental radar screens. Businesses of all sizes can be inspected at any time—and fined or even shut down for non–compliance.
This means every company needs a designated gatekeeper to oversee environmental and health and safety compliance. After all, it is less costly to fund proactive compliance with environmental regulations than it is to pay fines—or worse, run the risk of even a short–term shutdown. The price tag for lost labor hours from workplace accidents is equally steep when compared to the cost of accident–prevention programs. Additionally, companies that demonstrate a responsible attitude toward employee health and safety enjoy a higher level of employee retention and dedication. Banks and other financial institutions also look more favourably on companies with a consistent record of environmental and health and safety compliance, regarding them as less of a lending risk.
Historically, the automotive industry has led the way in recognizing the value of documenting, implementing, and managing comprehensive procedures for process control. At their most effective, these procedures ensure that quality is the responsibility of all employees, and allow all staff members to offer and implement suggestions for corporate improvement. Of the variety of formalized programs that facilitate cost–effective and profitable production, ISO continues to be an international standard tied to customer satisfaction.
Other process control programs implement lean manufacturing—a business performance improvement tool that also recognizes the importance of customer satisfaction in the context of a profitable workflow. Its payback is significant: waste is exposed and minimized, equipment use is maximized, employees are appropriately trained. Errors are tracked back to their root cause, addressed, and ultimately reduced. All shifts become productive.
All quality management is not inspection–based (although inspection is necessary to manufacturing–based work). Rather, it is procedural—creating a protocol for doing the right things correctly. The gatekeeper of process control endeavors should be independent of manufacturing (i.e., reporting directly to senior management, not production management), because anything else has the potential to pose a conflict of interest.
Human Resource Management
HR management is a valuable adjunct to a company’s strategic management process. Its fundamentals include employee management, labor relations, and compliance with employment legislation. Also at its core are the development and implementation of human resource programs, policies, and procedures. Other typical activities include payroll, benefits, and resources management.
When performed expertly and interactively, the HR management role goes far beyond the basics to include assisting with recruitment and staff selection, salary assessment, compensation plan improvement and management, and performance and dismissal management. Additionally, HR managers work with department managers to identify staff training and developmental needs, and assist with sourcing appropriate programs that improve overall performance. Human resources can also function as the arm’s length gatekeeper for environmental, health and safety, and process control initiatives. Thus the human resource function is vital in loss prevention. Its results link directly to the success of the business and the measurable, visible payback of happy, healthy, and qualified employees.
One industry guru noted that in the very near future, print and related businesses will be paying their senior IT staff the same as or more than the industry historically paid to top press operators. Such a future may have already arrived. Our industry is data driven, from start to finish, in both management and production. The seamless capture, transmission, and management of data and digital assets are its lifeblood. IT professionals must have both a strong command of technology and the ability to manage such technology in a business–communications context, where the end product is either printed or electronically delivered.
For Companies of All Sizes
Demographic statistics show that the printing industry encompasses businesses of all sizes, although most are small operations. It is thus important that even the smallest ones be able to implement the crucial business management initiatives outlined above. Of course, the easiest answer is to hire an HR manager, environment, health, and safety manager, quality manager, or IT manager outright. But a dedicated person holding each position is very often not practical, since every initiative must demonstrate bottom–line payback or ROI.
So what is the answer for smaller business? As mentioned above, an HR department can perform a variety of functions. Or your IT department can be managed by someone from a prepress/premedia background who also understands the requirements of business management. Alternatively, you can hire a project manager who performs a variety of tasks—several of which can add up to a full–time job. In addition, there are professional consultants and outsource services that understand our industry and can be contracted to establish, monitor, and improve your regulatory and loss–prevention functions.
Whatever method you use to implement these initiatives, if you want to continue receiving a healthy return on your investment, it is imperative to treat none of them like a piece of furniture that you buy, set in place, and then forget about. At PrintLink we talk to employers and employees who are real–life examples of what works and what doesn’t. And their experiences confirm that the maintenance, management, and improvement of regulatory and loss control programs are as important as if not more important than their initial development.
Victoria Gaitskell is a placement specialist with PrintLink, a professional placement firm for the graphic communications industry.
T: 1 877 413-2600