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PQM - It’s a team game that everyone can win

We are hearing more and more about PQM (Print Quality Management) these days, but I’m not sure everyone has the same understanding of exactly what Print Quality Management is.

There appears to be two different uses of the terminology in circulation, depending on the party using it.

Printers use ‘PQM’ to describe the internal systems they use to control the quality of their work, and clients use ‘PQM’ to describe the systems they use to monitor the quality of the work that they buy.

At Mellow Colour, we have been using the acronym for many years to describe the software, training and auditing systems we develop to deliver both of the above to printers and print buyers alike.

PQM does mean slightly different things to different people but basically PQM means ‘Achieving accurate standardised print at an economic cost’ and it’s a derivative of ’TQM’ which means Total Quality Management.

Quality Management Origins

The principles of TQM can be traced back to the rebuilding of post WW2 Japanese manufacturing industry. At the end of WW2 Japanese manufacturing was in ruins and the quality of goods being produced at that time were of low quality and poor reliability.

W. Edwards Deming, born in 1900 in Iowa, USA, a notable physicist and mathematician, had developed some innovative ideas about how to improve manufacturing quality through measurement, teamwork and a focus on client satisfaction. His ideas fell on ‘deaf ears’ in America, but Japan on the other hand was in a good position to adopt fresh, radical ideas, and enthusiastically embraced the ideas of Deming. The rest is history, as Japan used his principles to propel themselves to the forefront of manufacturing excellence.

Quality Management Systems in one shape or another are now used by every successful manufacturing country on the planet. Examples of modern quality management systems include ISO 9001, Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing.

PQM in Print

The printing industry has always been quick to adopt new technology, but it has been somewhat slow to adopt quality management systems and the benefits that they bring.

Until recently, traditional printing was thought to be much too subjective, variable and craft based to benefit from the modern quality management tools and procedures used elsewhere in mainstream manufacturing.

However, the implementation of modern, print focused quality management systems have moved at a faster pace amongst contemporary printers, and have proven to be hugely successful at delivering, high customer satisfaction, and improved internal efficiencies.

The move to Print Quality Management is usually driven by client pressure. The key to success is no secret, and something Mellow Colour are accomplished in delivering. It often looks something like this:

  1. A specialised and empowered quality team

  2. Specialised Tools – Instruments and Software

  3. Quality Management Training

  4. Auditing of procedures, records, meetings, actions.

  5. Management Support for the quality team

Producing a beautiful piece of print or packaging, requires the skills and attention of a long chain of interested parties (the stakeholders).

There are the Marketing people, the Designers, the Pre-press Company or department, and the Printing Company itself. Getting the job right at an economic cost is the aim of all stakeholders, nobody wants the job to come out wrong, or for it to be too costly to produce.

Printing is not easy, it goes wrong from time to time.

The secret is to tune the system, to analyse the data, figure out why the job went wrong, make an amendment to the quality management procedures and move on. Learn, refine and progress. It’s a continuous improvement of the process based on scientific measurement and fact-based decisions.

In my experience the only sensible way to proceed, is for everyone in the supply chain to communicate as transparently as possible and work as one team. Some new tools and a little expertise is all that is required, for the printer, print buyer and all involved to walk away with a winning result.

Printing a fine piece of print or packaging consistently and at a good price is a team game, and it’s worth remembering that we are all on the same team.



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