31 March 2018 Analogue Printing Technologies

BPIF colour initiative gets a brush up

Operating the BPIF’s colour quality standard is tough, but delivers a measurable ROI and with changes to ISO 9001, may become necessary for printers.

The BPIF has revamped its quality colour standards qualification to take into account the wider options for standardising and controlling colour beyond ISO 12647-2. It is being able to print consistently to an agreed and recognised standard that is important rather than adherence to the four-colour litho standard per se, though ISO 12647-2 will remain the dominant choice.

At the same time, the BPIF is planning diagnostic days for later this year where consultants help businesses identify colour issues and to implement the first stage of a process controlled system rather than imposing a full third-party audit. It has found that the ‘in at the deep end’ approach has been too daunting for many companies.

The introductory session can be followed by more detailed workshops and a gap analysis before a company feels prepared to seek formal assessment. How this will work will be explained in seminars across the country as they are rolled out later this year.

“We know that the need for a colour standard is greater than ever,” says BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold. “We are using more processes, litho, gravure, digital, flexo than ever before and getting colour consistency across products and substrates is more important than ever.”

ISO 12647-2 is a standard for litho printing on defined substrates. The industry has expanded beyond this, digital printing in both cut sheet and large format inkjet work in different ways and use different substrates, but the customer expectation is that products will look the same.

The BPIF qualification retains its link to Ukas, representing independent third-party auditing of the system and, through its close link to ISO 9001, remains the only system where monitoring is continuous. The changes to ISO 9001, requiring companies to assess risk as part of their management system, may also provide an impetus to colour control standards. A colour control structure will mitigate the risk of a job being returned.

The link with ISO 9001 ensures that every job is monitored, not just a test file submitted at regular intervals which says nothing about the jobs printed in between.

However, the challenge lies in making Version 3.0 more appealing than the previous iterations where fewer than a dozen companies have the full BPIF colour quality system and fewer still have the Technical Compliance certificate which was meant as a part way to a full certificate. The two-step qualification is retained in the new version with Professional and Elite levels.

Now the emphasis is very much on the ROI that comes through reductions in time, waste and rework that inconsistent quality is associated with. While unable to put a figure on this both Dax Britton, colour champion for DG3, and Nigel Lyon, managing director of Pinstripe, both endorsed this aspect at the BPIF’s launch.

“It delivers big savings, there’s no doubt about that,” says Lyon. “It was also the hardest standard we have to implement and there were many challenges.” It also took the business 16 months from a standing start.

“Now our printers understand about colour and when they see it is not quite right will run the test forms that are run on a regular basis to monitor the consistency.”

For Britton, key is that DG3 now has a process to control colour not just across digital technologies, but also across print sites in Dagenham and Gillingham, Kent. It is part of an automated workflow approach.

More importantly, with the change in ISO 9001 to stress removal of risk, the BPIF’s colour quality standard has a natural home. “If a company claims to print to ISO 12647-2, an ISO 9001 auditor will be entitled to ask the company to prove this. At best this means machine time to run test jobs, at worst a printer cannot prove the claim, while the BPIF certificate will be proof that the company prints to the ISO standard,” says Paul Sherfield, managing director of the Missing Horse Consultancy, and involved in creating the standard.

And the risk is real. The most frequent reason for failing an audit, says Sherfield, comes down to the print test, not any failure in the paperwork. “We have made the colour management system standard agnostic. There are so many print standards to choose from and more will come. We want to stay ahead of the game.”

Chris Selby, BPIF director of special projects, says that nevertheless interest in certification is increasing, not diminishing. This is driven by customers who make compliance to a colour standard part of a tender form or an SLA with a major customer.

The gap analysis programme that the BPIF uses will identify what a company needs to do to bring itself in line. “In most cases people than ask for help rather than try to do it themselves,” he says.