Colorman Printing Machine1

Lean Case Study : Colorman Ireland

Our next Lean Case Study relates to our client Colorman (Ireland).  In 2016, Colorman Ireland began working with us as part of their LeanPlus training program.  While working with them, their employees highlighted several process improvements that could be made in their own work areas.

Three of these projects dealt with Under/Overproduction, Lean Time Management, and Process Improvements. The following is a synopsis of these 3 Lean Case Studies.


Colorman is one of Europe’s top full-service print and packaging companies, having been founded in 1959. Customers come from all over the world, including Ireland, UK, Europe and America. They provide a print management solution to their customers that is tailored to their needs using modern technology and e-procurement.

Since they first started as a silk screen printing company, a lot has happened in the print industry. In its 200,000 square foot campus, they now boast a wide suite of lithographic presses, book binding, carton manufacturing, secure printing, and digital services.

Colorman Lean Case Study Logo

8-Step Problem-Solving Process

In each of these Lean Projects, we recommended using the 8-Step Problem-Solving Process.

Problem solving is a crucial component of the success of any business. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee, the better you get at problem solving, the more smoothly your day will go. The best way to improve at problem solving is to develop an efficient problem solving process that can be applied again and again to solve similar problems in the future.

8 Step Problem Solving Process


The first step in solving a problem is to clearly identify what it is you’re trying to solve. Here, we made a list of every issue that might fit into the problem category, no matter how small. From there, we chose a particular problem to focus on. 

Current State

We encouraged their employees to ask themselves the questions:

“Where am I right now? Am I where I want to be? What are my goals and objectives?”

To successfully execute a problem solving process, it’s crucial to know where you stand at all times. Are there cracks in your foundation or open wounds on your knees? Once you’ve identified your current state, then it’s time to move on to the next step.


Remember, not all problems are created equal. A good first step in any problem-solving process is figuring out exactly what you want to accomplish.

We took some time here as this part is crucial.  If you don’t have a good idea of what you want to achieve, then chances are, the solution won’t be effective.

Root Cause Analysis

The first step in problem solving is to figure out what you’re dealing with. Their team tried to get specific information about what was going on— they asked many questions about how, who, what, where, when and why.

Select Countermeasures

After understanding and documenting the problem, we sat down and brainstormed ideas for possible solutions. Brainstorming or Kaizen is a Japanese technique for developing problem-solving and improvement skills. Through “silent sharing” and the use of post it notes, we encouraged all team members present to think, reflect and share their ideas.

Then, we put all these ideas on an Impact/Ease Chart to assess the potential impact or benefits they will have on the company.

When we want to evaluate and prioritise alternative solutions, an Impact Ease Chart is a useful way to organise ideas. In this chart, we ranked the solutions for their relative benefits and their relative difficulties. The key was to make sure that we rated each alternative based on how much of an impact it would have versus how difficult it would be to implement.

Just Do It – these ideas have high impact and are easy to do now.

Why Not?– these issues have low impact and are easy to address.

Projects– ideas that have high impact but are difficult to address.

Not Now– issues that have low impact and are also difficult to address.

Selecting the countermeasures after brainstorming allowed us to take those options and analyse their consequences before deciding which one would best solve their issue.


The next step was to develop a plan of action and begin working on implementing that solution. In doing so, participants were able to test out new ways of thinking about complex issues.


After gathering the data and reviewing their options, we evaluated each potential solution.  Firstly, we started by weighing out each proposal’s pros and cons. Were there any risks? How likely was it that things will work as expected? What were the contingency plans in case of a failure? Once we had taken all these things into account, we were able to narrow down our options to those that showed promise while minimising risk.

Standardisation & Learnings

Finally, it was time to standardise the solution. Just because something sounds good doesn’t mean it will be effective.  Likewise, just because an idea seems silly or ineffective doesn’t mean that there isn’t some merit to it. As we standardised and tested their ideas, they kept track of what worked—and what didn’t—all with the aim of learning from them in the future.

Case Study 1 – Under/Overproduction

Overproduction was one of the major issues recognised by one of their team members. Overproduction consumes more raw materials (inks, varnish, and board). Furthermore, it extends the time spent on various process machinery and can result in excessive scrappage at the end of the line. Under-production, on the other hand, necessitates a reprint.  This means a complete production run to make up for any shortfall.

The company determined the percentage of waste levels in terms of units and sheets used using data from end-of-line procedures.

A review of production data estimated that only one in three jobs were run within 100 sheets of their target pint quantity. 40% of jobs were under-printed putting pressure on subsequent operations to avoid a re-print. 30% of jobs were printed in excess, significantly over the target quantity.

There was no standard process to support the printers in estimating the print quantity required.

Colorman Case Study1

Root Cause Analysis

During our Root Cause Analysis, we found that the real issue was a lack of data collection and analysis from all areas of the production process.  In reality, average waste figures were best “guesstimates” which in turn badly affected end of line quantities.  So, small volumes were massively overproduced and large volumes had a tendency to be short. 

Similarly, there was a lack of understanding between the various departments in terms of what happened the product at each stage on the way to completion. This became evident at a Kaizen event. One of the main difficulties was that each Department operated independently. They were, on the whole, unfamiliar with the numerous processes and procedures that applied to the several Departments.

Colorman Case Study 1a

Key Outcomes

As a direct result of this employee’s project, Colorman reported a number of results. 

The % of jobs printed to target quantities significantly improved.

It was feared that this project would lead to an increase in ‘under-printing’ and consequently require expensive re-print runs. The incidence of under-printing actually reduced over the project duration.

Case Study 2: Lean Time Management

Key Challenges

Another of their employees recognised the Muller saddle stitch line as one of the major problems. On the stitch line, they faced a problem with prolonged, unproductive downtime. In a nutshell, the most pressing concerns were finding jobs, pulling pallets, and employee training.

First and foremost, the goal was to reduce unnecessary lost production time. The cost savings would thus be achieved by replacing production time for wasteful lost time. Production time was lost on average by 13.3 percent (measured over 5 weeks). This employee spotted an opportunity to:

  • Reduce the amount of lost time to 4%.
  • Prevent excessive transportation of product.
  • Eliminate repeat communication.
  • Improve skill levels.
  • Reduce waiting times.

Key Actions

A Kaizen event was organised as part of the 8-Step Problem-Solving Process. Everyone took part in idea brainstorming and ‘silent sharing.’ The Impact/Ease Chart was then used to collect and assess all of the ideas. Among the issues that were highlighted as a result of the Kaizen event were:

  • Excessive and unnecessary lost time.
  • The work schedules were not always accurate.
  • Insufficient pallet trucks available.
  • The pallet trucks were not assigned.
  • Inefficient use of resources.
  • Inefficient workflow.

Subsequently, the following Lean Tools were applied:

  1. 5S
  2. Kanban
  3. SMED
  4. Standard Work

Workplace organisation systems help reduce waste and re-allocate underused resources; saving a lot of time. The 5S system is one such way of streamlining your workplace, with ‘5S’ standing for Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardise and Sustain. It works by helping you identify anything that is not being used to its full potential in your workspace and then systematically removing anything that does not fit within your processes or standards.

Before 5S Implementation

Colorman before 5S

After 5S Implementation

Next, the business implemented Kanban to prevent stock from running out, reduce inventory and decrease the time it took to change over spools.

Finally, the organisation used a 5 Step SMED Implementation:

  1. Observe the process.
  2. Identify internal and external elements.
  3. Identify internal elements that can be converted to external.
  4. Streamline internal.
  5. Streamline external.

Developed by Japan’s leading manufacturing company, Toyota, SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die) was created to address issues with excess inventory and is ideal for eliminating waste in any process.  The goal of SMED is to reduce setup times to one minute or less.

By using Total Productive Maintenance, the company implemented an asset care ledger and log to predict and prevent downtime.

Colorman case study

Key Outcomes

  • Prior to this project, 312 minutes was lost on average every week for the previous 5 weeks (13.3 percent ). This was lowered to 4.5 percent after the project was completed.
  • The training of employees has been a big success.
  • There is now a dedicated Muller assistant, trained in all aspects of the job (line clearance, printing labels and dockets, location of all consumables and pre and post processes, good housekeeping practices)

Case Study 3: Process Improvement

Key Challenges

In our final case study, an employee wanted to concentrate on the present production method and relationship to the warehouse.

When projects were finished and ready to be delivered, there was no contact from Production to the Warehouse. In addition, there were concerns with Production’s delivery schedule.

To give some context, the company has three manufacturing plants, one of which is located across the street from the Warehouse. When a task in Production was finished, it was left on the floor of the Factory where it was made. As a result, Warehouse employees had to continually checking the IT system to see if it was finished.  They had to then drive over in the forklift to get it and transport it back to Warehouse to be dispatched to their clients.

Colorman case study 3

As a result, there was no contact with the manufacturing plant about which jobs were going directly to consumers or to stock. This meant that stock jobs were being manufactured ahead of jobs that were to be delivered that day.

Key Actions

First and foremost, a Kaizen event was arranged to brainstorm ideas.  Firstly, the team analysed the problem statement and current process.  Then, the Countermeasures were assessed using the Impact/Ease Chart.  The following problems were outlined:

  • They recognised that they had problems with production.
  • The team acknowledged that they had IT concerns.
  • Access to the Production Factory was an issue.
  • In addition, they had problems with incorrect labels and scanners.
  • They simply did not have enough people to make this process work efficiently.
Colorman Dispatch case study 3

Key Outcomes

As a result of this employee’s Lean Project, the business started holding daily production meetings.  In addition, they designated a Production forklift driver to deliver the job directly to the Warehouse.  This project saved the company 500 minutes or 8.3 hours each day in unnecessary time.


We firmly believe that the expertise to develop business process improvements already exist in every organisation.  This has clearly been the case in Colorman Ireland.  Through their employees’ Lean projects, the company has made significant continuous improvements to their business.

We hope you enjoyed reading about Lean Case Study : Colorman.  You may also be interested in reading our insights on our other Case Studies : Barclay Chemicals and Alexion Pharmaceuticals

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