Mark Gundlach is a Solutions Architect with X-Rite Pantone. He visits facilities to assess their current workflow and help them come up with solutions – whether it be training, software or hardware – to improve their productivity and lower their costs. He is also an expert in the Pantone Certified Printer Program.
Recently we sat down with him to learn more about the program, and what it takes to become Pantone Certified.
Mark, can you tell us about the Pantone Certified Printer Program and why it is different from other certifications available to the industry?
There are a number of perfectly good programs out there for qualifying or certifying production. What we’ve done with Pantone Certified is built a system that’s more comprehensive. We’re not just looking at process colors, which some systems are, but we’re also looking at spot color reproduction, both on the press as well as in the inkroom in how they’re formulating those inks.
What is the role of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in the certification process?
It’s very critical that printers have standardized their processes on production. You want to make sure that your first, second and third shifts are all doing things the same way. So if they encounter a certain situation, they all have the same rules to follow so you get the same production quality out of all your shifts. This also reduces the questions that may come up so people don’t find their own answers to those situations.
We also help evaluate those SOPs to make sure they actually get the printer to the right end. In a number of cases we’ve found people have SOPs in place, but they’re not clear or they actually have the wrong instructions that measure the wrong criteria, end up with the wrong color conversions, and so on.
How does a printer or packaging converter go about becoming Pantone Certified and maintaining that status?
You can contact Pantone or X-Rite directly, and we’ll consult with you and your team on what’s required to become a Pantone Certified Printer. In early consultations we’ll talk with you about the training and equipment that may be required. After you’ve finished all of those requirements, we’ll do an audit to confirm. There’s a press run required that we’re going to measure and make sure that you hit the target numbers. There are a number of other programs that look at a press run as well. One of the differences here though is that we actually participate and observe that press run to make sure the proper practices are done to get to the right colors. And we look at everything along the workflow, from your prepress when you get the job, to pressroom when you’re running it, and so on. We observe the whole process.
Maintenance of the certification is first on a quarterly basis – you’ll submit press sheets and measurements to confirm that you’re still hitting the numbers. On an annual basis we come back for a one-day visit to walk through the audit once again to make sure everything is still in place and see where we can help, if needed.
What kinds of changes have customers implemented as a result of the certification process and how has that positively affected their businesses?
There have been a few printers who already had very good processes in place and very good SOPs documented, and only had to make very small changes to get up to the requirements. But honestly, more of them required a lot more work on the training side. They had all the right equipment – all the right tools, software, and hardware – but in a lot of cases their operators needed some help in how to use those tools. And what’s more, in many cases they didn’t have good documentation, so different shifts were doing things in different ways. By working with them, observing their processes, helping them adjust their processes, and then going back and training all of their shifts on the same practices, they saw improvements. The makeready times, for example, were often improved greatly… as well as repeatability, reduced waste, and rejected jobs.
Where can people get more information about the Pantone Certified Printer Program?
The easiest place to find a good description of the program as well as contact information is on our website.