The Big Picture - April 2013 - (Page 16)

inside output inside output Dealing with Your Shop’s Storms and Droughts By Craig Miller S ome lucky print providers have a smooth workflow. A manageable amount of work comes in the door and it’s predictable and profitable because the flow tends to be constant and consistent. For many of us, however, we see our business cycles varying from incredible highs to pathetic lows. My company, for instance, is in the middle of a two-month period where we have so much work we’re killing ourselves and working our people to exhaustion. Just six weeks ago, however, we had most of our production employees standing around without enough work to do. One reason for these near unmanageable ebbs and flows at our shop: exhibit work and signage for big tradeshows and the graphics for large events and architectural projects. In the late 1990s, my philosophy was to overstaff. Money was good. The big jobs paid for a little standing around in the slow times, so we maintained three staff shifts throughout the year. We had a pretty good run of baseline production with a sufficient staff to handle the big projects. Then, of course, came the recession and we began maintaining just two shifts. Today, we’re down to one shift – and having just eight hours of straight time a day to get everything done can be a challenge. It’s especially problematical when we land jobs requiring three shifts to complete. And one more variable has come into play this year: flu season. Our company was bit by the flu bug this year, which has exacerbated our staffing situation. As this column is written, I’m in the shop on a Saturday with a complete prepress, printing, and finishing crew on overtime, and we’ll all be here again tomorrow, with no end in sight. CRAIG MILLER is a principal shareholder in Las Vegas-based Pictographics, ( where he is also director of military and law-enforcement projects, the company’s defense-contracting division. 16 THE BIG PICTURE APRIL 2013 If you’re like us and you have the opportunity to take on more business than you can realistically handle, you have to come up with some options. Yes, you can certainly turn down the work, but turning down money when you need it is always painful. Plus, your rejection can have long-term consequences – some of those companies seeking your services might be reluctant to call you again. So what are your options? Marty McGhie’s “Business and Management” column this issue (see pg 18) also provides you with some solid solutions to this challenge, but here’s my take on how you can deal with an inconsistent job flow when you can’t simply increase your employee head count. Sub it out One solution is to take your work and have someone else produce it (aka “outsourcing”). Our company has subcontracted with other vendors to print, finish, install, and/or design for us. This past month, we employed this option very successfully and profitably. Subcontracting, however, must be done with all due diligence, because it’s your reputation that’s on the line. We only sub out to companies with whom we have developed a good cooperative relationship and know well. You need to know not only their quality and capabilities, but their character, too. When it comes to installation work, we have six in-house guys we can mobilize. Our challenge, however, is that they’re all cross-trained and multi-talented. So if they are all on the job site for a big install, this can leave gaps in our cutting, welding, and other fabrication capabilities. So we sometimes rely upon specialized, freelance decal applicators and wallpaper hangers when we’re buried in finishing work and can’t spare our in-house staff. Similarly, although we have maintained a full sewing department for more than a decade, the physical size, quantity, and complexity of some dye-sub fabric projects can tax that three-person department. When that happens, we don’t hesitate to turn to subcontractors for sewing overflow. >44

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Big Picture - April 2013

The Big Picture - April 2013
Wide Angle
Inside Output
Business + Management
Becoming a Pace Setter
RIP Tide
Success with Dynamic Signage

The Big Picture - April 2013