Author Archives: Richard Losch

About Richard Losch

Richard Losch is a founding Partner at R3D2 Consulting and advises commercial printers, in-plants, outsource print and mail providers, and fulfillment companies. Using a proven hands-on process optimization methodology, R3D2 client companies develop a culture of repeatable and sustainable process improvements, through assessments, training, and implementation. Richard has over 30 years of experience in the production of direct marketing and critical customer communications. He has also been involved in the design and application of ink jet printing equipment. His corporate experience ranges from venture start up operations to large multisite operations with public companies. He has been involved in leverage buyouts, sale and acquisition transactions, as well as, the consolidation and alignment of resources post transaction. Many of those years were spent running operations in companies that produced multi-channel direct marketing communications, critical mail, and transpromo communications. Richard is on the advisory board for Document Strategy Forum and is a member of Turn Around Management Association Midwest Entrepreneurs and Chicago Booth Entrepreneurial Round Table. Learn more at

Industry Changing Event


The March 1st issue of In-Plant Graphics had an article titled “Inkjet Summit’s Unique Format is a Win-Win.  The article talks about the upcoming invitation-only three day event for  ” for senior managers and business executives who want to understand how current and future inkjet technology trends, software, consumables and finishing solutions are and will impact their businesses and help them shape their visions and strategies for the future.”

Each of the past two Drupa events, in 2012 and 2008, was dubbed the “Inkjet Drupa” by many experts. Inkjet installations are increasing and projected to increase rapidly through 2016, driven by the conversion to digital print, growth in color applications, and system flexibility.  In November 12, 2012, David Zwang stated, “It is estimated that there were 46.1 billion color digital pages printed in 2010, and that number will jump to nearly 130 billion by 2015. While this estimate is comprised of all digital print pages, more importantly than the market share growth is the fact that the value of that digital print has jumped sharply, bringing better returns to the global print market.”  With all this hype, print business leaders have been considering the options and need for Inkjet Color printing, and considering migrating from their offset print or black and white digital.  They have been seeking answers.

What is of great interest at the Inkjet Summit is the potential for these senior operations and business leaders to get up close and personal with a number of the leading suppliers at one time.  Unlike Graph Expo and Drupa, the seriously interested leaders will have full access to leading suppliers in a small group environment.  In addition, unlike a one-on-one interaction with a single supplier in a typical sales meeting, the representatives from the user side and the service and equipment providers will be able to meet and compare all at one time.

The attendees will also have access to and hear reports from key independent industry leaders and experts who will be facilitating the event.  Finally, if they dare, the attendees will be able to meet and collaborate with their peers.  Yes, collaborate with their peers!  I hope this happens, because after all our real competition is those who would move everyone away from print to other communication media.

I would appreciate hearing from anyone who is attending this event when it is over, as I truly believe the organizers have a formula which should help print not just survive but thrive in this highly competitive time.


The Inkjet Summit 2013 event will be held April 9-11 at the exclusive Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL and is organized by Printing Impressions, the leading trade publication serving commercial printers, and nGage Events, the leading producer of specialized hosted model events.  The Inkjet Summit is an invitation-only, hosted event designed for senior managers and business executives who want to understand how current and future inkjet technology trends, software, consumables and finishing solutions are and will impact their businesses and help them shape their visions and strategies for the future.

“Our goal is to bring together suppliers of inkjet solutions with qualified attendees who are serious about investing in these solutions, into an environment facilitated by experts,” commented David Pesko, senior vice president at nGage Events. “Attendees will learn from experts, suppliers, and most importantly their peers on how to approach inkjet and how to be successful. Our event format accomplishes this and it shows in the attendees confirmed thus far and the overwhelming requests we receive daily.  This event is truly a win-win for sponsors and attendees.”

As the interest in inkjet printing continues to grow, print providers and corporate enterprises are seeking guidance from industry experts, peers and market leaders to help them develop sound business strategies, understand their technology options, and make major investment decisions concerning inkjet printing capabilities.  Vendors are also looking for ways to better identify and develop more intimate relationships with those buyers specifically interested in inkjet solutions.  Inkjet Summit’s unique format provides sponsors with Boardroom and 1:1 meetings with executives intimately involved with strategy, purchasing authority and buying intentions.

“Canon Solutions America is pleased to sponsor the Inkjet Summit. The format enables us to meet 1:1 with qualified decision makers who are serious about inkjet solutions,” stated Francis McMahon, vice president marketing, Canon Solutions America, and Production Printing Solutions. “With Océ inkjet production printing solutions making up approximately 32 percent of the worldwide inkjet market, our customers know they can count on us to partner with them for success.  This event gives us the opportunity to discuss and understand specific customer issues and work with them to ensure they have the right capital investment strategy and solutions needed to profitably produce books, magazines, direct mail, transaction, and transpromo.”

“Inkjet technology is a disruptive technology that will touch everyone’s life in the future,” relays George Promis, vice president, Continuous Forms Production Solutions and Technology Alliances, Ricoh. “Bringing industry integrators, developers and businesses face to face is important to exploit and help direct its future. Ricoh is proud to participate in the inaugural summit.  It’s a unique opportunity to build and strengthen relationships with a diverse group of output solution businesses and share our view on what the future holds for inkjet and its ecosystem.”

Empowering Change through Collaboration – Or not?


Change happens whether we take action or not, as evidenced by our country’s political gridlock. Even when people choose to stay on their own sides for whatever the reason, and do not even attempt to collaborate, change is still going to happen.  The consequence of not working together to find a compromise is usually that the outcome really does not benefit anyone. 

 In an article titled Collaborating for Change – Monkey Say, Monkey Do,  Graham Brown-Martin, the founder of Learning Without Frontiers shares the opinion that society operates within a series of mechanisms or under superstructures that maintain the status quo. His focus is on Education Systems but I believe the same applies or even originates in the broader industrial base.  In fact Brown-Martin says, “Our assessment system is broken. We routinely deploy fact-based curricula and examinations that positively discriminate against collaboration. How do we assess collaboration? The fact is that we don’t, because collaboration isn’t valued in our industrial education systems.”  The suggestion is that to effect change and collaboration, the assessment system where people work together to solve a challenge using the digital tools of this century that will form part of their future lives.”   

In another article, Don Trapscott, Curator, Social Media Week, says “Let’s face it. The world is broken and the industrial economy and many of its industries and organizations have finally run out of gas, from newspapers and old models of financial services to our energy grid, transportation systems and institutions for global cooperation and problem solving.” This seems very disturbing yet undeniable; we face changing how banks, healthcare institutions and media itself interacts and communicates with its customers and employees.  Trapscott goes on to say, “Fortunately, for the first time in history, people everywhere can participate fully in creating a sustainable future. We are now building the collective intelligence to rethink many industries and sectors of society around the principles of collaboration.”

In our work improving business performance, we have found over and over that it takes a process to manage the change process, be it implementing new technologies and capabilities, or changing the markets served.  A tool set is needed to break down silos and get beyond self-interest.  Utilizing a process accounting for and embracing functional needs is required – structured collaboration!  Establish common goals, work together on the task definition and responsibilities, hold each other accountable, and measure the team’s results.  Stop the blame game!

Document creation and delivery is an environment where we were slow to change and yet change is happening. The outcome is not always good because of resistance to the inevitable.  When are we going to learn we cannot stop change, but we can collaborate to adapt and optimize the outcomes of change?  What are you doing in your business to promote collaborating to solve problems, and competing less with each other internally and externally? 

What about the people?


In my previous blog, I focused on technology and inkjet.  After thinking more about this I realized that in our rush to new capabilities and new technology, we often seem to forget the people who have to work with the new technologies.  From my personal experience, if you have a great technology but do not have the right people behind it you never reach the full potential.  In looking for some insight into this I found as usual it gets back to the basics.

  1. Involve the people who need to execute in the planning and specification process.  Those who do the work are in the best position to know the detailed steps in each process, the common roadblocks and bottlenecks, and the key contacts in the organization to get things done. Our workers are our greatest resource, however many organizations do not tap in to the enormous wealth of experience that walks through their doors each morning, and walks out again each night.
  2. Identify process owners who will take responsibility for a process end to end. This passes the ownership to the people, and uses their experience and knowledge to bridge the gap from the present to the future.  It will also help to break down the silos in an organization.
  3. Empower the line managers to drive business performance on an ongoing basis.  Action plans, communication resources, and employee development tools are all critical in affecting positive change.
  4. Work on developing requirements for each of the suppliers and customers within the organization the same way you do for external customers. Seeing how their own local processes and procedures fit into those of the wider organization and its goals allow employees to see the “big picture”. For many, this is incredibly empowering and motivating. Don’t assume you know what another function needs, especially when implementing new technologies.
  5. Commit to and deliver on investing in the people as well as the technology they utilize.  Provide training and resources for them to become as comfortable and effective with new technologies as they are with the current way of doing things.  Remember that change can be a frightening thing and forcing it upon the people will lead to inefficiencies and possibly “revolution”.
  6. Make change the norm and part of the company culture.  Through a  continuous improvement culture, employees will remain emotionally engaged with the organization and motivated to continue working toward common organizational goals

In looking for parallels to our industry, I was struck by some research in Health Care and Performance Improvement1.  Our industry is a labor intensive one, and relies on people with a variety of skills and knowledge to deliver superior offerings.  We all hear about the move from Print providers to Service providers, so looking at a high tech service industry I think offers some clues and reinforcement to the role of people in performance improvement.  Not everything was transferable to our industry however some ideas from this article which should be considered are:

  1. “Sound and effective leadership is critical to a healthy clinical operation. Without it, optimal financial performance is rarely achieved”
  2. “Making business decisions without reliable data is, especially in today’s environment, a costly and unforgivable mistake.”
  3. “Using available technology and a few simple management practices, virtually any clinical operation can improve decision making and deliver optimal outcome performance.”
  4. “In many healthcare organizations, managers are inundated with unreliable or outdated data, making it next to impossible to monitor operations and, more important, respond quickly to effect change to meet budget and productivity goals.”
  5. “A major area of weakness in many clinical operations is ineffective management of direct care hours. Too often, human resources are not aligned with other resources, or restructuring personnel for maximum advantage is seen as a low priority in times of organizational change.”
  6. “A network of support fosters better service and optimal performance.”

I see some opportunities for us to continue to learn from areas outside our normal scope, and help our people continue to be one of the major elements of change and improvement.  The old saying about People, Process and Technology being the three legs of a stable and successful operation may have never been more applicable than today with more and more change required for us to thrive, not just survive.

1.  Ten Components of Successful Clinical Health Care performance – A Phase 2 Consulting White Paper. 

Ready, Fire, Aim – Color Inkjet Technology Implementation


Color Inkjet print technology has great promise for the document industry.  It is all the rage in many circles direct marketing, transactional communication etc. but is it fulfilling its promise.  Companies are buying the capabilities at an increasing rate but are they a solution to a problem/need or are they a solution in search of a problem.  Will the implementations succeed or fail?

In a Deloitte report in 2011 they state “A sound business case will provide the tool against which the degree of success or failure of the project can be measured. In essence – if expected benefits are not achieved, the project has failed and / or – if projected costs (and here we include project duration – as this has its own costs attached) are exceeded to an extent where the benefits are no longer viable – the project has failed.” This may seem obvious but for it to be useful the expected benefits and implementation time must be clearly defined.

Research on technology implementation failures show the most common causes of failure include:

  • Failure to completely identify the needs/benefits
  • Failure to distinguish between needs and wants
  • Failure to evaluate technical requirements of the support staff and evaluate staff competencies.
  • Failure to accurately predict implementation time requirements
  • Underfunding/ poor or incomplete implementation budgets
  • Failure to select the best product options.
  • Deloitte concludes: “However, in our experience, lack of user adoption is the most prevalent issue currently facing the implementation of technology projects.”

The key to improving success rate is to do the work to clearly identify the target in significant detail and place a value on each element of the technology project.  Inkjet technology is no different as it has many significant variables upstream and downstream from the actual technology itself.  Do not rush into the program without a significant analysis phase and participation of the organization as a whole.  In our experience using the tools of Business Process Improvement (BPI) provide a disciplined approach to assuring the current state  process is identified as well as the future state process  and the gaps between.

Deloitte concluded “the success or failure of a technology implementation project is determined in the initial phases of the project – like anything you build: the design and the foundations must be sound.

  • Before the project is approved, a comprehensive business case that includes all costs and realistic benefits must be developed.
  • Once approved, all employees who will be touched by the solution must be included or represented – preferably even before a solution is selected.
  • A system integration partner who has both industry and implementation experience should be appointed.
  • The analysis phase should be conducted by a team of experts including key business representatives and experienced consultants.
  • Only after a meaningful analysis phase, can a realistic plan be developed – and maybe even a revised business case. By trying to fit an implementation into an unrealistic plan the expected benefits will not be achieved and the project will go over time and over budget – in other words the project will fail.

The best way to do this is get ready, aim carefully and then fire.  Independent experts with experience and knowledge of printing and in particular inkjet printing technology can provide beneficial assistance in defining the requirements, developing test process and developing a detail end to end plan gaining staff buy in delivering a successful project on time and with ROI as planned.

In-Plants Need Business Process Improvement Too!, Part II


In my blog on April 26th I reflected on the WTT article In-Plants: “The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Barb Pellow.  In that blog I reflected primarily on the first part of the article on how the market is changing for In-Plants and how BPI can help adjust.  Now I want to discuss the second part of the article “What’s an In-Plant to Do?”   Barb lists six core values that have remained constant for In-Plants, and I look to how Business Process Improvement supports or enhances these values.

The first point is “Responsiveness to Customer Needs.” BPI supports this by focusing on reducing cycle times for business operations, thereby improving the turnaround for customer requests.

The second Value is “Automating Document Process.” Using process mapping tools, In-Plants can show their knowledge in a clear and easily understood graphic approach.  Process mapping will help in identifying key functional responsibilities as well as areas needing automation the most.

The next two Values In-Plants possess are the “Ability to Evolve Effectively Over Time” and “Developing New Areas of Expertise.” BPI is a tool which helps to clearly identify the current state of In-Plant operations and to build a picture of the future state in terms of new process and new capabilities.  BPI can then drive preparation of a roadmap of effort required to evolve to the future state.  By using BPI metrics, In-Plants can track and measure their progress in the evolution, and ROI on new capabilities.

The fifth Value In-Plants also do a superb job at is “Assessing New Technologies”, both in the impact a new technology will have on the business process and the costs and challenges to implement by using BPI.  Combining the knowledge of the technologies and the cross functional stakeholders’ roles, BPI helps the organization to smoothly introduce new technologies in the shortest time and with minimal cost.

In-Plants Value in “Educating Constituents on What You Can Do and What Can Be Done” is improved through the focus on process and cross functional co-operation.  This focus improves the relationships and openness of the constituents by showing the interdependencies of the various constituents.  BPI helps to establish a business culture more open to discussing capabilities and limitations in the operations.

In-Plants position within the organization gives them a full understanding of the corporate cultures and BPI provides a methodology to use that knowledge and unique position to optimize the value In-Plants have for document delivery.

In-Plants Need Business Process Improvement Too!


How does a company’s internal business communication organization, often referred to as “In-Plants”, go about adjusting to “today’s new reality?”  Reading In-Plants: “The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Barb Pellow in the April 12th “What They Think?” caused me to reflect.  The article did a great job defining the market dynamics that internal business communication organizations must adjust to.  The breadth and detail of the changes seem overwhelming. Furthermore, the details and statistics shown seem to indicate that the in-plants are either resisting, or unable to embrace the changes required.

Business Process Improvement, (BPI), utilized by many outsource and commercial business communication resources to improve their performance and competitiveness, can also help In-Plants by using a structured approach to embracing the changes needed to meet market demands. Taking inventory of the current business process, work flows, and organization’s skills, BPI defines the internal company current state.  Part of this methodology involves engaging the participation of a cross-functional team of internal business customers, from marketing, to IT, and through other critical functions, providing a vehicle to collect valuable inputs to define the requirements and priorities which the in-plant uses to build a future state definition.  Once the future state is drafted, the same cross- functional team provides feedback and suggests changes.  By focusing on the end-to-end process, and not an isolated area or individuals, the methodology is non-threatening and encourages open and candid collaboration.

With the future state clearly defined, the organization can identify gaps and overlaps between current and future state in the process, workflow, and staff skills.  This data can be formatted into a step-by-step plan of action, with priorities and interconnectivities defined for the transition.  BPI can also assist in defining the key metrics to measure ongoing performance progress in making the In-Plants more competitive in capabilities, cycle time, and quality.

Thanks to Barb for the thought provoking article and sobering statistics to help us see the big picture. I hope you all see BPI as I do, as a tool to help respond to the “changin’ times”.

What is the “right” tool for improving business performance?


When to use which one, and the need for flexibility!

Every day we hear about tools and programs for improving operating performance. There are many of them, with more versions coming out all the time. They include TOC, Lean, Six Sigma, ISO, CMM and BPI/BPM. Some, such as Six Sigma and ISO, have rigorous training and certification programs which are major projects to undertake in themselves. What is a company to do to understand which to choose, and possibly even when?

The answer to this question requires an organization to clearly define goals, timing, and the rationale for beginning at all. Is there a specific issue, or is there a client/industry mandate, or is the business looking to establish a base for optimizing performance overall? A comprehensive overview is impossible in a short piece such as this, so I anticipate this distillation may provoke some lively feedback and discussion.

TOC – Theory of Constraints

  • Focus: identify constraints or limitations for a task or process
  • Action: eliminate the constraint
  • Results: maximize the throughput
  • Limitation: usually targeted to a single task/function

“Build it and they will come.”


  • Focus: eliminate waste, operate just in time
  • Action: make to order, optimize single piece flow
  • Results: rework eliminated , reduced inventory, reduced floor space, reduced cycle time
  • Limitation: difficult in a project oriented business more effective with ongoing production

“Don’t build it until it is needed.”


  • Focus: variation in a process, tracking error/incident statistics and cause
  • Action: DMAIC – Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control
  • Results: find and eliminate sources of variation, can help with complex problems due to structure
  • Limitations: rigorous, statistical intensive approach, can lead to analysis paralysis; cost for six sigma training and certification can be high.

“Build it exactly to customer specification.”


  • Focus: documenting the process
  • Action: document the existing process in detail in a structured way, and audit compliance to the documented process
  • Results: consistent and repeatable process drives highly repeatable outcomes, improved supplier quality
  • Limitations: focus is on documentary evidence, so a poor process can be documented and followed and certification still achieved. Corrective action focuses on the documentation. ISO is a costly system if certification is pursued.

“Document what you do and do what you document.”


  • Focus: define, analyze, and improve cross-functional business process
  • Action: map the existing process, define tasks and inputs and outputs for each, identify and remove gaps and overlaps, manage with metrics and link actions to results
  • Results: refined and reengineered process with reduced cycle time and cost, and increased first pass yield.
  • Limitations: requires top down support to be truly effective, scope of process needs to be clearly defined, must apply the appropriate problem solving tools and project management skills

“Manage as an enterprise around meeting overall corporate goals; use the right tools as applicable.”

Companies need to have a clear understanding of their goals and needs, and a measure of their tolerance for change. The urgency for improvement is another critical factor. Finally, consider what skills you need to add, and/or assistance you may require to most efficiently and effectively address your needs and the tool you choose. This can reduce the time to achieve results and improve the probability of success.

Increasing Corporate Value


What is your organization doing to improve its value for the shareholders and stakeholders? Companies in general, and specifically those in the print and communication industry, have been working hard to improve profits and increase EBITDA as the economy continues to be depressed. Our industry not only has the economy to deal with, we are also contending with increased communication options and new technologies. Companies have downsized, right-sized, consolidated, and merged. This has helped maintain profits and EBITDA in the short run, but at what cost to the stakeholders – our customers and staff?

It seems to me it is time for a change from the old method of headcount reduction, restructuring, and lowering prices, to an approach that establishes long term stability, acceleratesidentifying and making the right changes for your business, and results in improved profitability. The tools for this new direction exist in Business Process Improvement (BPI) methodologies. By stepping back to look at the whole business,not just one function or production area, and applying the disciplines of BPI, companies can learn how to do more with existing resources in several ways. By eliminating overlappingor redundant efforts that have crept in silently over time,resources are released from non-value-add tasks to be re-allocated to projects like new technology, or products andservices to meet new client requirements. End to end process evaluation also bridges company silos to assure issues are not just pushed from one area to another, and identifies where there are communication and information gaps or delays which canresult in extra efforts and cost to meet client deliveries.

When is the last time you did a detailed review of your process and workflow across the organization?

Hard numbers and real-life cases exist to show that even after significant labor and cost reductions have been made, a structured BPI approach can increase EBITDA, cash flows, and shareholder/stakeholder value.

Food for Thought:


Two years later – have you gotten up to speed?

Almost two years ago American Printer published an article titled “Get up to Speed”, written by Kenneth Rizzo at PIA.  This article contained some information that really challenged the status quo within our industry.  What have we learned over the last two years, and where are we today?  I’d like to share some thoughts upon re-reading the article.

Technology and productive innovation have continued to accelerate and are often still perceived or presented as the solution. Operations are still too often treated as process siloes, with metrics based on faulty assumptions or poor data collection and analysis.   In some cases, there are no actionable metrics at all.   The most knowledgeable staff members have dwindled with attempts at cost reduction through downsizing or attrition, and the ones remaining are fighting more fires than ever.  The staff is still often the focus for problem resolution “we’ve gotten more aggressive on writing people up”, is a phrase we heard recently from a manager at the end of his rope.

Mr. Rizzo puts forth several valuable recommendations on skills that printing management must learn to employ to optimize their business performance, which can be found in the article.  My take away from these is that as members of the print industry, we need to optimize the whole process and all the steps involved, from content creation to format to production through delivery in order to have the most efficient and effective offering, versus optimizing the around and for the most expensive technology or an individual function or activity.  The key principles of Business Process Improvement provide a way for each enterprise to analyze, prioritize, and implement process and organizational change, to “Get up to Speed” and be competitive within the industry delivering customer-focused solutions.  When you read this article, what are your thoughts about what has happened in the last two years, your own company’s progress, and where do you need help?  The following link will take you to the original article.

Richard J Losch
Partner, R3D2 Consulting LLC

“If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Try to Fix It”


For the last several weeks, the Business Improvement Group on LinkedIn has had an ongoing discussion on whether the old adage, “If it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it” is still relevant in the contemporary business environment. The full range of viewpoints have been put forth, from “don’t mess with what’s working”, to “don’t settle for the status quo”. The majority seems to weigh in on the side of continuing to improve as a requirement to stay competitive and survive in today’s economy.

Several important points can be extracted from the discussion. The first point is on the definition of “broke”. Do you look at it from the perspective of internal operations, or based on customer requirements and feedback? It would seem that many people who are satisfied status quo do not look outside their organization’s business operations at what is happening in the broader business environment with customer requirements and new technologies. As it relates to our industry, even the best run commercial print operations are struggling due to changes in customer demand and competitive technologies both which are driving down volume and price. The second point that I found in this discussion is that even in companies that understand the importance of change, many of the failures, (and new Coke was used as an example), have to do with not clarifying and documenting the driving forces behind the improvements being sought. Entering into a business improvement project without a clear understanding of the business environment, including business goals, customer needs and technology, is almost certain to fall short of expectations.

A Business Process Improvement methodology can be a helpful tool in deciding whether something is “broke”, and what to do to fix it. BPI provides a framework and structure for answering these questions, and is definitely still relevant to contemporary business and especially our industry, where both customer demands and technology changes are happening at a very rapid pace. Where is your business on the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” continuum?