Screen Printing - August/September 2017 - 10
THE MARSHALL PLAN
You can do things better; you know it. Every shop can.
hen you take a step back and analyze the workflow
and processes in your shop, what stands out?
n Do you have trouble checking in blank inventory in a
timely manner after it hits your loading dock?
n Does your screenroom struggle to keep up with the
demands of production?
n Is your job queue lacking? Perhaps production isn't busy
enough because you suffered a flat sales quarter and
things aren't as rosy as they used to be.
n What about your job downtime? Do you struggle with
getting ink mixed, staging the screens and blanks, or
getting a job registered on press, instead of quickly
setting up and printing?
These four challenges and thousands of others lurk in
shops every day. Think about which monsters are lurking in
your company. I'll bet you can name 10 right off the bat.
In this month's column, I'm going to outline an easy-toimplement process that can eliminate these challenges in
your shop once and for all. Read on...
THE IDS PROCESS
The first idea I want you to learn is to Identify, Discuss, and
then Solve your challenges. This is simply shortened to IDS,
a concept made famous in Gino Wickman's fantastic book
Traction. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend
it. Wickman outlines a process for running any business that
he calls the "Entrepreneurial Operating System," or EOS. It
helps owners and leadership teams create a healthier, stronger business by establishing alignment throughout the company and focusing on the most important issues. EOS will
help you think differently about how to run your business.
But, let's get back to solving your problems. Here's what
I want you to do: Instead of you determining the action and
shooting Zeus-like thunderbolts down from Mt. Olympus,
start by gathering your managers and team leaders in one
room. Make sure it has a whiteboard, and that your team is
ready to have a candid discussion about solving problems.
If that's not your usual culture, then take the time to explain
what you'll be doing in this meeting and why.
Spend a good hour or so brainstorming about all of the
top challenges affecting your shop that need to be resolved. I
can't list them here because these are your issues, not mine,
but trust me: your group will have a bunch. Let the conversation flow; nothing is sacred and guts should be spilled.
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
This is the Identify stage in the process. Write the issues
down on the whiteboard so everyone can see them. Then,
simply prioritize them.
Are any of them similar? Combine them. It's possible that
a few ideas can be merged as one problem solves another.
Maybe a couple are a little goofy, or things you just can't
do at the moment. Strike those off or postpone them to address at a later date.
What's left will be the true speed bumps that are slowing
you down and stopping you from becoming the "rock star"
shop you've been dreaming about. Does the list resonate with
your leadership group? Talk through the issues and choose
the ones that seem the most important or impactful.
Once you've ranked everything, the real fun begins: the
Discussion time. Start with the item that your team identified
as the top priority. Spend some time brainstorming ideas that
could Solve the issue. List what needs to be changed, who
could help, and all of the other "what ifs."
From there, I want you to delegate the problem solving
task for this issue to members of the team (ideally a few
people, but not more than four). Break this out so that a
manager will be in charge, but everyday workers are part of
the team helping to resolve this problem, too.
You want your front-line people involved in making the
change, as they usually not only have the best ideas, but will
be the ones that will have to live with the outcome. It's vital
that they get a say in what happens.
Ultimately, the team's job is going to be to take this challenge on and conquer the problem. Their deadline? Two weeks.
In the software designing world, they call these initiatives
"sprints," based on the agile principle of working. Yes, I know
your shop isn't developing software; however, this problemsolving cycle has merit for production and manufacturing
operations, too. It might seem daunting at first, but what's great
about having small teams of people solving problems in twoweek sprints is that you are constantly churning out solutions.
This is a good pace for most shops. I know there are
nagging issues in your company that you've wanted to solve
for years. More often than not, the challenge isn't under-