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Carol Houghton: The forgotten people

Baker Self Adhesive Labels’ HP Indigo-sponsored open house event towards the end of last year (see L&L issue 1, 2012 p68) opened my eyes to another ‘layer’ within our industry. In addition to the obvious message that ‘digital is everywhere’, there was a strong emphasis on the value of the operator and the skill, knowledge and training involved in the job. Yet, after a year in the industry – including visits to printers, suppliers and trade shows – I had never really thought about the people behind the machines. Indeed, one lady at HP Indigo suggested they are ‘the forgotten people’.

A discussion on LinkedIn further highlighted the mystery surrounding operators. A post from Amy Munice, president of Global B2B Communications, a resource for engineering and technology-based companies that sell products and services worldwide, got us at Tarsus thinking. What do operators read?

Munice discussed a recent conversation with a client in the automotive industry; revealing that print magazines are nowhere to be found in engineers' offices, and several companies are known to have banned reading trade publications in the office – including online media.

Jack Kenny, president of Jack Kenny Media, commented, ‘The management of a printing trade magazine I worked for tried to encourage subscriptions by press operators, pre-press people and all others who contributed to purchasing decisions. These folks might not be managers, but they use the equipment and materials and in most cases (I'd like to think) have opinions about their performance. Advertisers in the magazine wanted to know if the publication was penetrating to the operator level because they understood the role that these folks play in purchasing decisions.’

Andy Thomas, editor of L&L, noted, ‘Worker education is a wider problem than just discouraging workfloor access to trade magazines.’ Finat sponsored an ‘operator dedicated’ day at Labelexpo Europe last year in an effort to promote the importance of their role in the industry. However, only a few companies participated. These companies benefited hugely and as Thomas said, ‘Their workers spotted things which the managers missed which helped them do their jobs more efficiently – often “insignificant” things from an owner's point of view. The same benefits to the wider company would accrue from encouraging shop floor workers to read their trade industry magazines!’

Without the expertise of the operators there would essentially be no label production. So, if not from trade magazines or attending industry shows, where do they pick up their knowledge? If you are an operator, please enlighten us!

Carol Houghton
Labels & Labeling