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How smart planning reduces change-over times in the label printing industry

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There is an increasing demand for short lead times in the label printing industry, which poses a real challenge for everyone on the print shop floor, including production leaders, planners, and operators. Change-over times are often a significant bottleneck in meeting the demanded lead times. Smart planning helps you to reduce change-over times. In this blog, I will tell you all about the best practices regarding optimizing the planning.

Lead times determine the planning

A lot of companies in the label printing industry are forced to do planning based on lead times. However, it is often more efficient to schedule jobs based on specific characteristics. Inks, substrate, aniloxes, printing plates, etc. are all aspects that influence change-over times. The challenge lies in finding out what the bottleneck in change-over time is — for each press separately. Which actions takes the most time?

In general, you can say that for conventional presses changing colors was taking most of the time and for modern presses changing die cut cylinders is now a bottleneck in change-over times. To achieve optimum planning, it is important to analyze which operations are performed per machine and how much time each activity takes. If changing die cut cylinders takes the most time, it isn’t smart to schedule orders based on color.


Once you have determined which operation is most time-consuming, you detect what comes second — for example changing colors. So within the group of orders that needs the same size of die cut cylinder, you schedule jobs with the same PMS color after another.

Planning based on printing job characteristics is often more efficient than one based on lead times. It doesn’t just save time, but it also reduces waste and saves substrate.

Smart planning also involves production preparation

However, smart planning contains more than just efficiently scheduling printing jobs. It is also about excellent production preparation. Because when you are ready to print the next job but printing plates or inks still need to be changed, you won’t meet the required lead times.

You need a professional Management Information System (MIS) to achieve this. An MIS includes all sub-processes, such as plate management, ink management, stock management, etc. As a result, you can directly see which substrates, inks, aniloxes are available and if plates need to be changed or replaced.

With this information, you can determine the entire planning, from preparation to printing.

In short, to achieve optimum planning you need:

  • To know which operations take most change-over time to determine the ideal print schedule
  • An MIS system to map the entire printing process, including preparation, to determine the best moment to run a job.

You can optimize your planning even more if printing presses can provide feedback to the MIS. How much time and material have you used per order? If you know this, you can make improvements to optimize the printing process and its planning or you can change specific calculation parameters.

Smart planning becomes more and more critical as the demand for specialized labels — cold foil, screen printing — increases. Printing these types of labels takes the most time, and because of the need for short lead times, you don’t want to waste any of it due to long change-over times.

If you have any questions about smart planning or reducing change-over times, feel free to reach out to one of our specialists. They are happy to help.
Hans Poortinga

Hans Poortinga

Hans Poortinga is Printing Technology Expert at MPS since 2015. He knows all about printing technology, the total printing process and is a specialist in connectivity within the printing industry.

Tags: Operators, Printing Technology