Quality Control Badly Needed in Composing Rooms

  • Composing room quality actually begins with improved customer relations
  • Even a small printing plant and have the service desk to aid production
  • Composing room procedures are adaptable to production scheduling

The American Society for Quality Control has not yet glanced in the direction of the nations composing rooms. It will probably be a long time before it does, particularly if the committee of the organization ever visits some existing plants in this ultraconservative industry of ours. It is not necessary, however, to think about quality strictly in terms of shiny new machines and streamlined production methods—the vision that many printers apparently see whenever they contemplate “quality.”

In actuality, quality begins with customer relations. Because printing primarily provides service rather than a product, it is important to begin our search for quality at this point. How do we handle our customer contacts? Is the busy composing room foreman on the phone all day long battling with the demands of customers? If the foreman isn’t on the hot seat, then the production manager probably is. In any case, although work in a plant suffers if supervisory people are required to deal directly with the customer.

Even the small printing plant can have a “service desk,” manned by a person who has nothing to think about but rendering assistance to the client. The qualifications for such positions are fairly exacting, but not impossible to meet. The job can be filled by young person training for further responsibilities, but ideally this should be a position of real importance, with the commensurate salary. The servicemen should be the sole representative within the plant to deal with the client, thereby allowing the supervisory personnel to concentrate on their own areas of responsibility.

The servicemen must have a comprehensive knowledge of the steps in the production picture, of the styles and size range of types in the plant, and of the capabilities of the various casting machines used in the shop. In his relationships with customers, he must be patient, courteous, and consider it. You must be fully aware of the danger of promising something which the firm cannot deliver. Aside from the customer relationship, quality is dependent upon a number of factors, the most important of which is attention to details. Here is the realm of the foreman’s responsibility. When the copy enters the composing room, it must be under constant surveillance until it is transformed into clean okayed page proofs ready for the press. Standardize procedures must be set up to ensure that all copy is handled in precisely the same manner, with some consideration being made for prompt attention on the inevitable rush job. Performance should know, within a few moments, the location of copy or proofs and how far along in production any job has proceeded. Logical planning can accomplish this without resorting to the slide rule. A real drawback in our industry is the prevalence of traditional thinking which shies away from the “blueprint” and constantly refers to the old time-worn methods that are now sorely in need of revision.

Composing room operating procedures are adaptable to modern production scheduling, however such personnel dislike to make the effort. At a recent meeting of printing production men, the majority amid that there plans to not have production systems in operation, but all firmly agreed that some method is absolutely necessary if the industry is to hold down operating costs. Many printers who have plants containing only the well-established typesetting equipment face the future with some temerity. They wonder vaguely about the so-called revolutionary new machinery and one assess new technologies will have on their businesses. Frequently, they need look no farther than their own plants to ascertain just where the trouble really lies. So long as obsolete procedures are kept in practice, there will exist the opportunity and the need for new ways to take over. Quality, therefore, is not merely a means by which a plant can be cleaned up and whipped into shape, but a harsh economic fact that can make or break the industry.

This article first appeared in “The Composing Room” column of the February 1955 issue of The Inland Printer.

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