I worked on an assignment recently that reinforced some thoughts about the differences and similarities in philosophy and skills needed in offset and digital workflows. I often find that an offset staff workflow is better with scheduling and consistent ticket writing while the digital staff are better at file correction and faster turnaround. Often this conversation leads to a bigger picture conversation about the pros and cons of a process vs. non process approach to both Digital and Offset Workflows. Here is my experience.
Briefly a process approach is:
- a proactive approach created before or right after a problem occurs;
- includes training and monitoring of performance;
- is consistent across equipment, staff and procedures; and
- requires ongoing cross training and scheduled procedures such as maintenance.
A process approach is proactive. It is designed to avoid problems before they occur or the procedure is corrected after a problem is discovered. When a problem occurs, it is more important to change the process than fix the job.
A process approach is often slower to implement due to the initial steps that include creating SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), training staff in those SOPs, monitoring compliance and correcting those who do not comply. A non process approach is often faster to deal with a specific problem on the fly, but may not communicate the resolution or monitor compliance and can result in more of those same problems.
When process is encouraged it is filled with relentless training and close monitoring until a confidence is created in the procedure and staff. In many cases, the training component requires the creation of training materials and a scheduling of training times. A non process approach is typically filled with inspections at the end of the line before shipping and a higher percentage of rework. A proactive approach is filled with cross training and scheduled maintenance. A process approach often has job descriptions and SOPs. A process approach often requires intense scrutiny for a period of time. Often consultants talk about the advantages of the process approach and how companies must follow this approach to succeed.
However, I have seen companies using either approach succeed or fail. Anyone that says that either approach will ensure success is exaggerating. The major difference in these two approaches is that each has what some would consider a pain point.
A lack of process often makes staff feel like they are firefighters. Each day is filled with putting out one fire after another. On the other hand, the complaints I hear from companies migrating to a process approach is how slow and painful the process of creating, monitoring and enforcing procedures are when they would rather just get the job out the door.
Which is less painful for you, a process or non process workflow?