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Best Practices in the Challenging World of 3D P-O-P

This case study examines the standard operating procedures that help KDM produce complex P-O-P projects successfully.

The execution of a successful 3D P-O-P display campaign takes careful consideration. If any part of the production workflow breaks down, or if any element of the display is slightly off, the result could be quite costly.  At KDM, the majority of a project’s time typically is spent up front, working with the customer on the design, white samples, art creation, and prototyping. The following case study illustrates a typical 3D project. This particular job was recently completed for a national beverage manufacturer. It went something like this:

Concept and design
The customer wanted to create a quantity of 250 three-dimensional P-O-P displays (Figure 1) for a localized, in-store, product-display promotion for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to launch the football season. The display was to hold approximately 100 20-oz bottles. The display needed to be flexible in its application by either sitting on an end cap or on top of a pallet full of product at Publix supermarkets in Florida.

Three-dimensional renderings were designed of a treasure box that would hold 100 bottles and not exceed an end cap shelf at 36 in. wide. KDM produced a white sample—a prototype with no artwork—made on E-Flute (corrugated material with 95 flutes/ft) and submitted it to Publix for review. Some minor tweaks were made to height and size. The die line was created and sent to the creative agency to create the art to fit our die line.

After receiving the art, a new printed mock-up was generated to show the client and the creative agency. It was then decided that the display would not hold product after all—the client’s prerogative. Instead, the art would make it appear like the treasure box was full of bottles, so new art was created. Another internal mock-up was made to double and triple check that the display would function properly before it went into production. The display would be constructed of a combination of 32 and 44 ECT E-Flute for structural stability and ease of assembly at the store level. By this point, the process had taken almost six weeks.

Workflow practices
We use a management system called Enterprise. It tracks project status with modules that include estimating, order entry, inventory, scheduling, prepress, proofing, printing, finishing, packing, and shipping. It also provides production-data collection and job costing. Some of our standard operating procedures (SOP) include:

Production planners
As with any print job, efficiencies in production are critical. Our production planners work with our estimating team to produce the job the most efficient way, considering the quantity, print method, materials, sheet size, press size, die size, and special considerations to color and finishing. They reference our inventoried stock materials and gang the different components of the job to get as many on the press sheet as possible to reduce press time. They may order custom size material to accommodate more components on the sheet.

Production schedules
Production meetings are held twice a day and include printing and shipping schedules. The production scheduler updates purchasing on arrival of material and department managers on the job status and shipping carriers. Each department manager enters a completion code into Enterprise as the product leaves that particular department. All support departments react to the schedule and any last minute changes. The production department and project managers meet twice a day for updates that need to be communicated to the customer.

Project managers
Project managers are the communication channel between the customer and production. They generate the production job ticket through the Enterprise system. They assemble the job ticket, artwork, 3D prototypes, and any other instructions in a job folder that follows the job throughout the entire production process. They also provide twice-daily updates to our customers on job status as needed.

Prepress
The jobs are distributed to the proper prepress operator depending on the print method—offset, digital, screen, or flexo. A downsized digital color proof is output for approval of color and content. If required by the customer, we will send a copy of the color proof and/or a PDF for approval prior to production. The department manager must sign off on the proofs. Once the proofs and PDFs are approved, the file can be output to the specified medium; in this case, film and screens are made. The manager must also inspect and validate the output prior to its release.

Printing
The ink and other materials are prepared for the job, labeled, and staged for press after the department manager inspects and validates them. The press operators compare the raw materials to the specifications on the job ticket prior to setting up the job. They will follow the SOP when they set up the press and inspect their first prints. The manager will pull, inspect, and sign off on the first prints and additional random parts throughout the run. The frequency of these checks may be either for time or quantity. All prints that do not conform to the approved standard are segregated. When the job is complete, the manager validates the quantities. With the more complex 3D displays, we would typically produce more overs than usual to allow for finishing.

Finishing
The inspection and validation process is consistent in each and every operation throughout the project’s production. For example, when the display is die cut and scored, the manager checks the first piece against the specifications and the prototype and then signs off. The manager then inspects random samples and validates the final count. In this case, when the rope handles located on the sides of the bottom piece are assembled, the inspection and validation process starts over for that operation. An example of the first piece/part must always be located at the workstation, along with the job ticket. This way, any manager, project manager, or salesperson can also validate. Any substandard parts are segregated.

Packing
Many of the 3D P-O-P displays we produce must be assembled before they are packed into kits. Once again, an example must be made and signed off by a manager. Careful consideration is made to get the display to its destinations safely—especially so in this case with the delicate, die-cut bottles extending from the bottom of the treasure box. The manager must also sign off on the quantity, packing method, and labels on the example.

Other best practices
We have a formal auditing program that measures 5S principles—practices related to lean or just-in-time manufacturing—as they apply to organization, housekeeping, and equipment maintenance in each department.  We also have a quality incentive program in which any employees who identify errors that may have resulted in lost time and/or materials may be awarded a cash bonus if they went above and beyond their normal job responsibilities that include reading and understanding the job ticket and customer artwork, validating raw materials during the first part inspection, and checking the work done from other departments. We call these Eagle Awards, and the employees are given plaques.

And last but not least, KDM recognizes that employees are the experts in their areas and may have a better way of doing something. Employees are rewarded with a cash bonus for innovative and creative ideas, for finding efficiencies and improving workflows, decreasing material or labor costs, and improving quality or safety.

Maureen Gumbert is marketing manager for Cincinnati, OH-based KDM P-O-P Solutions Group.

 

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