Interview with Rick Ruffino
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Ruffino is a veteran newspaper and publishing executive working as consultant for ARCwest Architects and Consultants in Denver, Colorado, USA. He talks about Lean Production and US newspaper trends in general.
WAN-IFRA: When you think of "lean production," what comes to your mind, and how much further can this concept be taken into daily practice?
RUFFINO: Lean production starts with the “mapping” of the process to identify each tiny step in the means of production. This “lean map” should span content creation through manufacturing and on to the delivery to the customer. Opportunities for improvement reveal themselves, after the effort to graphically document the existing process is complete.
We are a mature industry that tends to have a “general” production model in mind. Therefore, we believe we understand our challenges. Unfortunalually this limits our ability to visualise soultions.
We are only at the very beginning of implementing lean in our organisations and most would benefit from a structured lean programme.
WAN-IFRA: Do you see the separation of publishing and printing (that a newspaper companies concentrate on publishing and leave printing to printing companies) becoming a trend in the U.S.? If so, to what degree?
WAN-IFRA: How do you imagine a structured lean programme that could be applied as a model within the industry? Would it be a list of instructions?
RUFFINO: An experienced guide or facilitator leads a lean programme. Every company is organised and implements its daily work differently. It is exactly this condition that allows every company the opportunity to benefit from a lean approach. It’s the process that flushes out the opportunities. It’s the experienced lean practitioner that recommends the approach to the solution. Together they both implement the solution.
WAN-IFRA: Isn't it difficult to have a one-fits-all programme - as the production situations (manning, level of automation, new/old technology and plants) are so different?
RUFFINO: That is correct every situation is different. However, it’s the approach to the problem solving that remains generallly the same. See above.
WAN-IFRA: What role does production planning & control software and workflow integration play in the "lean" context?
RUFFINO: Planning and control software as well as workflow integration are potential solutions. But in fact real lean process mapping must be done before these implementation are done to amplify the potential benefits.
WAN-IFRA: Would you say that a fully automated process (lights-out production) is the ultimate goal of lean production and will newspaper production ever get there?
RUFFINO: Full automation is not the goal. Efficiency and profitability are. At Arcwest we guide clients to look at appropriate systems and technology. Lean systems drive organisations to implement the appropriate solutions. Those sollutions encompas the full life cycle cost of equipent, people and resources needed to keep all the pieces of an organisation running optimally.
RUFFINO: Not in that strict sense. In any regional market the concentration of printing will gravitate to the one organisation that is willing to devote the talent and capital. We see both printing and newspaper companies making the move to manufacture all the publications in a given region.
WAN-IFRA: How will cooperations or outsourcing activities develop, especially in the printing area?
RUFFINO: Publishers are increasingly outsourcing the printing of their products. Additionally more colour will be available to the publishers. Publishers are opening the print windows for their products to get better pricing for the printing.
WAN-IFRA: Transcontinental opened a plant last year in Fremont to print the San Francisco Chronicle (hoping for additional newspaper clients) where they run glossy pages on a daily basis. Do you think this could be a model for U.S. papers to push the advertising and stop the downward spiral?
RUFFINO: The capability to produce higher quality is starting to attract additional, non-traditional, advertisers to the newspaper medium. However, the continued recession here in the US makes real trending impossible to project.
WAN-IFRA: What can/should newspaper companies do to improve their financial situation again when they reached a point where more cutbacks would compromise daily operation?
RUFFINO: The distribution business of newspapers needs to continue to evolve. In many cases, as you consolidate printing into one location, you also created business opportunities to develop revenue in distribution. This allows that printer to also use the same distribution or trucking to further reduce cost and increase revenue. The consolidation printer then can have more fully load trucks and gain efficiencies by planning additional drop points along the same general route.The more independent the distribution becomes (more of a profit center) the greater the opportunities are for cost savings and revenue.