August '21

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9 4 G R A P H I C S P R O A U G U S T 2 0 2 1 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M Fast forward to now where we still have a 14' X 14' room for sublimation. What is different about it? We upgraded to a laptop and faster printer that prints up to 13" X 19" images with low ink consumption, have a semi-automated heat press with three other heat presses as backup, a commercial oven for sub- limating mugs, and our racks and four shelves to store orders and stock. The printer and computer take up less space and are cheaper to operate. The heat press has a setting we created so no one guesses at the temp, pressure, and time to lower error rates, and when it is done pressing, it lifts itself up and swings away without ruining product. Our three other heat presses at any time can be turned on and we can ramp up production if needed. Our commercial convection oven al- lows us to produce up to 24 coffee mugs every 11 minutes. Being able to have the four racks in our space helps keep our orders and stock near us and organized at all times to keep our production space efficient. Now let's figure some basic numbers out. All of the upgrades over time cost around $12,000, and in the same size space but at minimum with one person in production, we can produce 12 shirts and 24 mugs per hour if we needed both to run at the same time. Now apply that same net cost from 2003 of $4 per item times 36 pieces completed in an hour — it equals $144 net per hour. Being in the same size space means you can afford to pay your staff well to do a great job for you and your customers. TRAINING PURPOSES Training your staff to be as good as you or better is important. Your customers depend on it as well as you. It is single- handedly one of the hardest things to accomplish. As business owners, it's easy to forget how long it took us to learn something, continued from page 83 MAKING SUBLIMATION MOVES so we need to teach step by step, yet not forget to explain why we want them do something a certain way. This is where software, equipment, space, and training all become one. Take your time walk- ing your employee through your process; step and repeat for weeks, not days. My suggestion from experience when trying to train new hires when we do not have the extra time is have them start out simple. Less is more. Have them oper- ate the printer and prep the prints for production. Just that little bit of help the first two or three days is huge and easy to teach. Then teach them how to operate the presses along with printing positions, etc., and why. Teach them the easiest parts first to build their con- fidence. If you or your space is not organized and does not flow for production pur- poses, you will lose the employee as fast as you get him or her. Over the years, we have learned it takes a minimum of three months for new staff to break in on a job, and that is the most important time period to work closely with them and be fair. If the employee did not get the one-on-one you would normally give to train, extend that time to be fair to the employee and yourself. Be on top of your game at all times. Maximize your space and your time. They both have a value to you that de- termines your profit and how well your company continues to grow! GP HOWARD POTTER has been working in the pro- motional industry for 17 years, from designing to building brands and a family-owned business. He is the co-owner and CEO of A&P Master Images LLC with his wife Amanda. Their company offers graphic design, screen printing, embroidery, sub- limation, vinyl graphics, and promotional items. Howard, his family, and the business reside in Utica, New York. For more information, please visit maintain his signature quality, and run the business itself. Then suddenly, the pandemic put concerts into quarantine. Baker's studio weathered a precipitous decline in activity, and although there is currently some recovery, with album pro- motions, drive-in shows, and live stream- ing events, it may still be months or even years before that aspect of his business resembles its pre-COVID health. The uncertain situation has prodded Baker Prints to devote greater attention to a different market sector, ultra-high- quality limited-edition fine art prints. The standards can be intimidatingly rigorous, but the revenues per job are significantly greater as well. He is confident about the capabilities of his equipment and team. "We're very much pushing the envelope in terms of what can be achieved in high-end, high-resolution screen printing for shops of comparable size. For example, the four-color process work we do is head and shoulders above any work I've seen from competitors. It's actually become essential to our survival in the virus-shutdown era, since 90% of our work was concert posters." The fine art prints are ambitious in dif- ferent ways than poster art, often featuring what Baker calls "a far less common com- plexity" involving naturalistic shapes and layered designs. Does he view it as a new direction? "Ideally, both sides of the busi- ness would be thriving simultaneously," although he acknowledges realizing that the ideal would require some logistical upheaval, and a new focus. Even in the face of unprecedented adver- sity, Baker is optimistic about the future and his ability to adapt and succeed. May- be it's just intuition, but he's got a good feeling. Call it an inkling. GP MICHAEL HURLEY is a staff writer for the AWT World Trade Group in Chicago. For more information or to com- ment on this article, email continued from page 15 STROKES OF GENIUS

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