Screen Printing - April/May 2017 - 18
THE MARSHALL PLAN
KNOWING WHEN TO PUSH
OR PULL YOUR WORKFLOW
Marshall Atkinson is the
professional services director for
InkSoft, coaching shop owners on
operational efficiency, continuous
improvement, workflow strategy,
business planning, employee
motivation and management,
and sustainability. Formerly an
independent consultant and
operations manager for a number
of large apparel decorating
businesses, Atkinson is a frequent
author and speaker at industry
events. He can be reached at
very shop manager dreams of having a frictionless workflow. Staff members know what to do. Jobs are completed easily.
Team members help one another along the way, and things hum
along like a well-oiled machine. Think that sounds like an
impossible dream? You can do this in your shop if you eliminate
your workflow bottlenecks. If you understand a few key
concepts in workflow design, you can unclog the beaver dam
that's holding you back. We're going to look at two strategies
that you can use to make positive changes in your production.
the empty space, which triggers the press scheduler to find
another job for the crew to produce.
PUSH: GETTING AHEAD OF THE GAME
'BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND'
In manufacturing lingo, to push means to make the inventory
in advance. The product is ready, so it can be ordered and
shipped to the customer at any time. Push manufacturing
takes an initial investment and a willingness to stockpile.
Think of a warehouse full of inventory ready to ship.
In your shop, the push principle means that your employees complete tasks as early as possible. They set up other
departments for success by doing their work ahead of time.
No one down the line has to wait in order to do their job.
Let's say your crew just ran a job with prints on long-sleeve
T-shirts. Rather than tear the job down and do the next one in
the queue, they decide to run a similar order even though it isn't
scheduled for another day or two because the sleeve platens
are already in position. Or, consider what a print crew does
when their press is down with a maintenance issue. Maybe
while their press is idle, a few catchers hang tag a printed job
by their table. This alleviates the need to send it to the postproduction crew; instead, the order can go straight to shipping.
Or imagine that a customer service rep just received new
shipping information for an order. Instead of just updating the
record in the MIS system, she prints the new work order and
physically replaces the old one to make sure the job ships
correctly. The more you can use push in your workflow, the
better your chances of getting ahead of your schedule.
This is one of Stephen Covey's tenets from his classic book, The
7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It's a great concept to apply
when thinking about the workflow in your shop. The best place
to start will always be to outline exactly what needs to happen.
Are you set up so that you get 100 percent of the jobs shipped as
specified in the work order? If not, something has to change.
When something goes wrong, what happened? Are you
missing shipping dates? Are you ordering the wrong inventory? Does your art team have to revise the design a few times
before it's approved? Is your misprint or defect rate too high?
Keep track of these challenges that occur. Focus your
efforts on creating solutions to recurrent problems so they
don't happen again.
Call these challenges "discrepancies." Keep a Discrepancy
Log to chart your issues. This is critical for your growth
because it will allow you to see the connections between your
processes, people, and problems. Just simply write down the
details and discuss them with your team to work out a solution.
For instance, let's say that you are having trouble sticking to your production schedule. The problem appears to be
that the screenroom can't keep up with the demand for the
screens. The frustrated production crew can't adhere to the
production dates because the screens aren't getting to the
press early enough. The pull correction here is to establish
which orders need screens first. Triage them according to
what has to go on the presses next. Make sure those screens
are exposed and dried first. Then, work on the next group.
This isn't a long-term solution, but it will get you caught up.
The push solution is to put some additional thought into
when the screens need to be ready and create a production
rule. A common standard is to have the screens ready in
the rack at least one business day before the order needs to
start printing. You'll need to create the timing standards for
the screenroom, which entails working backward from the
shipping date and knowing how long the print production will
take. This will determine not only when the screens should
PULL: FILLING THE HOLE
In a pull workflow, the idea is that one department requests a
task or service from another only when they are ready. There
is a visual signal that something needs to occur.
In retail stores, they use a simple card on the rack to denote
that the product is out of stock. Even just having an empty hole
on the shelf is itself a signal; the pull task is to fill the hole.
An example for your shop could be the way you organize
your inventory at the press. Jobs are staged in the exact order
that they need to be produced. As the work is completed,
new jobs are placed at the end of the line. The pull signal is