Managing Growing Volumes at Mary Kay Inc.
The in-plant for Mary Kay Inc. experienced a sudden, drastic increase in work volumes after the company decided to bring the printing and folding of inserts in-house.September 2010 By Noel Ward
"IT HIT us like a ton of bricks" recalls Keith Hopson. "We didn't know it was coming until we were flooded with work."
The sudden increase in workload came when cosmetics company Mary Kay Inc. shifted the printing and folding of "pharmaceuticals"—the inserts that accompany its skin care and cosmetics products—from outside printing suppliers to the company's in-plant facility in Carrollton, Texas. Similar to those included with many over-the-counter medications, the inserts provide specific, –detailed product usage instructions. These are included in virtually all Mary Kay products sold in Europe, where multiple languages add complexity to the mix of jobs.
Printing these is a straightforward process on the shop's two 29˝ Heidelberg presses. But folding them quickly became a bottleneck.
"It doubled or tripled our volume and we couldn't handle it with our existing folding equipment," explains Hopson, supervisor of Printing Services, which is located a short drive from Mary Kay's global headquarters in Addison, Texas. "We were sending about 100,000 pieces a month to an outside shop just to keep up."
Hopson moved some staff to different jobs and added some overtime to keep pace while waiting for a new Vijuk SAF 36 folder to arrive. Once installed, the new machine dramatically increased in-house capabilities. By eliminating the outside supplier, Hopson saw payback in just two months, while significantly improving efficiency and turnaround in the shop.
That was more than two years ago and today the 14-person shop is constantly busy. Some 50 million pharmaceuticals will be produced in 2010, exceeding the 48 million in 2008. Inserts are printed, folded to a specific size, and shipped to the manufacturing warehouse where they are packaged with the products.
All pharmaceutical printing is done on the two Heidelberg presses, capable of straight and perfecting printing. Plates for each job come from a Fuji Luxel T-6000 computer-to-plate (CTP) system running Screen Trueflow 6.0 in a PDF workflow. In addition, a small A.B.Dick press handles quick printing needs such as labels and business cards, while a Halm Jet Press prints envelopes from baronial sizes up to 10x13˝.
All folding is done on the in-plant's three Vijuk folding machines. The newest, the Vijuk SAF 36, is a six-plate folder that can handle the lighter weight paper used for the pharmaceuticals—a 35-lb. offset sheet. And the folding can be complicated. For instance, one job that was in process when Hopson was interviewed for this story required folding an 8x20˝ sheet to 8x1˝ so it would fit in a tall, skinny box. Printed two-up on one of the Heidelbergs, the job ran at 5,000 perfected sheets per hour on press. Then came folding.
To help manage the flow of work, Keith Hopson, supervisor of Mary Kay Printing Services, and his team rely on a job-tracking spreadsheet, updated daily, which he uses to track and adjust production schedules. While many shops rely on printing-specific job tracking and workflow software tools that emulate the once-ubiquitous scheduling white boards, Hopson’s in-plant relies on one created in Microsoft Excel.
The sheet shows all the jobs scheduled for the next 30 days. Potential bottlenecks or deadline conflicts show up in advance so production can be adjusted as needed. The spreadsheet is printed and distributed twice a week, but can be produced more often during peak periods.
“Right now, the spreadsheet tells me we have 11 different part numbers [jobs] for next week—about 1.1 million pages or so. So, a fairly typical week,” says Hopson. “But I can also see that three weeks out we’ll have to work especially hard to meet the deadlines. It’s a very useful tool. We can all see it, plan from it, and can make changes more easily if a date is changed in manufacturing or shipping.”