July '19

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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5 0 P R I N T W E A R J U L Y 2 0 1 9 INFORMATION Have you ever had to walk a work order up to the front office to ask, "Hey, what's this mean?" Has an order sat in shipping for a few days or more because you were waiting on a shipping address? How often do you audit how information is used and conveyed in your shop? Besides missing information, you could also examine standardiz- ing language to instruct your staff to make decisions. For example, 'Full Front' could mean that the art is sized to 12" wide and will be printed 3" down from the bottom of the collar. 'Rush' means that in every department this order skips to the head of the line and is worked on first. Think about all the ways information challenges can cause disrup- tion or speed bumps in your shop. Ask yourself, "What do we need to eliminate to keep this from happening again?" Test that theory and then implement it. SCREENS ARE EQUIPMENT Many shops try to skimp their way through. That might work early on, but sooner or later, you need to use professional tools for the job. Understanding how to use these tools and getting your crew to use them consistently will elevate your performance. For example, let's talk screens. "Screens are equipment." A lot of shops emphasize their presses, but very little thought or effort goes into how they build their screens for production. Mesh count, emul- sion thickness, tension, and other factors can play havoc on a press if not built properly. Yet, some shops put their worst employees in the screen room. Despite advances in materials and equipment technol- ogy, the screen room is often the last to get upgraded. CROSS-TRAINING How trained is your staff? You would be surprised the impact that a good cross-training program can have on a shop. For starters, when your crew learns different facets of the work around the shop, they can understand what quality should look like with other processes. For instance, the press operator will understand why screen tension plays an important part in screen registration. When your art staff gets training in how to set up a job, they can grasp how the print order makes a difference in how they build a file. With more knowl- edge, your employees can make better decisions. Quality goes up, and misprints, do-overs, and errors drop. Start with identifying the top core things you have to know in each critical step in your shop. Write these down, then sched- ule slots for your staff to start learning them in short 30-minute chunks of time. Keep track with a spreadsheet. Make sure your crew has time in the driver's seat doing the real work so they can practice. I like to use what I call the Rule of Three, which for every key step in your shop, there are at least three trained people that know WORKFLOW TIPS CLEAN AND ORGANIZED I've been to plenty of shops over the years. There is one thing that I can tell you about the ones that pump out a lot of work, and that is that they are immaculately clean and superbly organized. That's not by accident. The ink is kept inside the bucket. All floors are kept free of clutter and debris. Things are lined up with military precision and labeled. There is a method to that madness, and that is one of working faster. When you don't have to stop to clean your hands because you just grabbed an ink bucket handle, that means you can be onto the next step in the process. All of the screens needed for tomorrow's work for each press are stacked on movable carts for each press so that they can be wheeled over in one step. To achieve this level of awesomeness, the shop culture has been built that dictates this is the shop way of working. Slobs and unorga- nized people are trained to do things the "shop way."

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