Screen Printing - April/May 2018 - 9
Some of the recommendations you may see on your
report, to cite just a few examples:
n Switch out your lighting to LEDs.
n Fix an air compressor leak or replace the unit.
n Improve the sealer systems on your loading dock.
n Install solar panels on the roof.
Action Step two: efficiency
Nothing lowers your cost of production better than efficiency,
and the same mindset describes sustainability. When you
eliminate waste, whether it's unneeded motion or materials,
you're making yourself more sustainable, too.
Being efficient means that you complete more work with
the same amount of labor, expense, and time as yesterday.
Some of you may recognize this line of thinking as "continuous
improvement;" if so, you are already familiar with one of the
key questions you should ask as you consider making changes:
Again, it's "Why?"
Why do we use that ink? Why haven't we changed the
air filters in two years? Why are we still using film to image
screens? Why haven't we purchased a Newton meter? That one
word can take you in a lot of interesting directions. The most
common answer, and the one hated by any decent production
thinker, is "Because we've always done it this way."
Do yourself a favor and open up your mind to the possibility
that, no matter how many years you've been in business, there
may be a better way. I've been in this industry a long time
and I learn something new practically every day. Challenge
Efficiency and performance usually live upstream from
where you are standing. For example, if you find your press
operators double stroking your white ink to get better opacity
on a dark shirt, the problem may not be the ink. Look into the
process step before that.
Why are you using that particular squeegee durometer? When
was the last time the blade was sharpened? Do the press operators know how things like squeegee and floodbar pressure affect
opacity? Go back another step: What is the tension of the screen?
How are the screens being coated with emulsion?
You may be asking yourself what this stuff has to do with
sustainability. They're just printing techniques, right? Yes.
Efficiency and performance all center on technique. When
you do things the right way, you use less product. The same
work takes less time. Using less product while getting faster
throughput means you print more shirts in the same timeframe, at lower costs. Cha-ching!
Action Step three: trAining
Sustainability doesn't impose itself in your shop: It's a decision.
It gets easier, though, when you are transparent about
what you are doing and involve your team. This means that
dreaded "T" word: training. Your crew needs to understand
what's going on and, more importantly, how they can help.
Ask each department what could be done to take a step
out of the work process in their area. I'll bet that if you
ask every person on your staff, you'll get a bunch of great
answers, many that you hadn't even considered. Try it.
Training your staff about sustainability isn't lecturing
about the need to turn off the lights or put soda cans in the
right bin. It's about getting people to think. Once your crew
is empowered to help, the ideas will start flowing like a river.
Training is simply sharing. You're probably used to the boss
telling everyone what to do, not asking the employees what
they think. That might mean you need to be brave enough to
lead your team differently.
So, in essence, you'll be training too. Sustainability opens
up a lot of great doors.
Action Step four: certificAtion
Let's talk about the money-making part of sustainability. That's
when your marketing department gets in on the program.
The first step along that path can be much easier if you
have a guide. For that, I highly recommend getting involved
with SGIA's Peer-to-Peer Network, a group of like-minded
shops that are all working to improve their sustainability.
The Network has webinars every other week that will
teach you the finer points of building your sustainability
program. One week, you'll learn to measure your carbon
footprint; the next, they may help you write your mission
statement or set some goals. Other members of the group are
learning, too, so you can compare notes.
When you do the work and get through the program, then
you'll have a foundation in place to consider going for a
third-party sustainability certification. The best-known one
in the printing industry is the Sustainable Green Printing
Partnership (SGP) Certification. Your state or region may
have sustainability certification programs as well that are
The reason certifications can be valuable for your company is that they are tough to get. An auditor will come out
to your shop to review your program. In the case of SGP, if
you have gone through the Peer-to-Peer Network program,
you should be ready, as it basically teaches the answers to
Most of what auditors want to see is your documentation.
Do you have written rules and procedures for how your
shop should operate? If so, are you using them? Working on
this can be a challenge. But remember, no growth comes
Getting the certification is a big deal. Your shop will be
one of the best in the industry in terms of sustainability. This
is a highly marketable point. Remember, anyone can decorate
a shirt. A sustainability certification puts you in a different
Go back to your "why" statement. If buying eco-friendly
products matters to your customers, then this is the direction
that you should take.
april / may 2018