Screen Printing - April/May 2013 - (Page 32)
sh o p ta l k
really doesn’t matter what you do in life. A commonality,
from kid to cook, screen printer to scientist, is the necessity to
organize and accomplish the tasks that you face each day, week,
month, and year. Some do it better than others. Some get obsessive to the point of letting their system of management overcome
their production process. Some have no system at all.
Most of us in the print world, from a one-person shop to
a large operation with hundreds of employees, manage their
workflow with at least one clear objective in mind: Get the job
out the door. The smart ones run a system with three other important aspects: maintaining high quality at each step, eliminating mistakes and interruptions from the process, and—above
all—staying profitable. When all four of these goals are met by
the system in place, only then can a shop claim to have effective
I worked in a few different screen shops when I was a
young guy just starting out. It didn’t take me long to realize
there were problems. Knowing what I know now, I can easily
identify them. Their workflow system lacked the four pillars
outlined above. Like a chair with a short or missing leg or two,
they were wobbly businesses because of this. I was pretty
stupid back then—not that I’m much smarter now, but I have
picked up a few tricks along the way that allow me to at least
keep up with the conversation.
Back then, I was just happy to have a job and an opportunity to gain skills in screen printing and graphics. I didn’t realize
it at the time, but the most important parts of the game were
the business side and the organization of the work going though
the shop. While I was busy learning about the technical part of
screen making and printing, my bosses were demonstrating the
consequences of running their operations without respecting
and implementing those four pillars in work management.
The chair didn’t just wobble at my first job in a screen
and sign shop, it fell over and broke. About the only thing we
had going for us there was the ability to produce good work.
That’s no secret. Just maintain high standards and aesthetic values, and instill this in all your workers. Don’t let a job progress
through a production step unless it is done correctly.
Unfortunately, eliminating production delays, maintaining profitability, and getting the job out the door on time were
either secondary values or non-existent ones. We seemed to
have lots of work—it’s what happened to the job after it entered
the shop where the problems started. We had no written work
orders. Everything was done verbally. My boss might have had a
job board or some other system of keeping track of progress in
his office, but we workers were in the dark, except for carrying
out the tasks assigned to us.
I was an apprentice, so it didn’t affect me too much. Unfortunately for the business, it was fatal. At least once a week
an irate customer would show up looking for their job, which
was invariably half done, the deadline blown, with the boss out
of the shop running around picking up supplies or chasing work.
Meanwhile, the workers would complete their assigned tasks,
and then have to wait until El Jefe returned. Too often, if we
tried to start something new, without proper instructions, we
would end up having to do it over.
The lesson from that place was simple, and the basis of
any proper system: Write it down. The benefits from a proper
work order and a visual job board available to the entire workforce cannot be overstated. After the company went broke,
they sold the equipment, and I went with it to my next employer,
an ad agency. They were big on writing things down—not only
the facts regarding the customer’s job for the benefit of we
schmoes dragging squeegees in the back, but also recording the
actual print times and quantities of materials used in completing
Capturing actual vs. quoted time/material on a work order
allows a shop to maintain or increase profitability and identify
production bottlenecks. This gives the shop two more solid legs
to stand on.
The shop that doesn’t analyze its real production values
and compare them to its quotes—and make the necessary
changes to align one with the other—will not last long. Too
many shops base their costing on a competitor’s price list. This
might work to get jobs, but it will not guarantee a profit. And
let’s be honest. A quote is just a bet with your customer that you
can do the job, pay the costs, and still end up with some money
in your pocket. A proper system that allows you to capture
production data and compare it to quoted prices and estimated
times on a constantly updated basis is the only way to hedge
that bet and make sure you always win.
Things have changed and continue to change in this crazy
industry, but a few things stay constant. A solid workflow-management system, regardless of whether it is analog (paper and
job board) or computerized, will always give a business a better
chance of survival.
Accurate and complete information going out onto the
production floor allows the workforce to do their jobs properly
and efficiently, with minimal time wasted on unproductive activities or searching for missing info. Harvesting the real data from
the job by the workers performing the tasks allows management
to identify bottlenecks and correct production times used in
quoting jobs. This cycle of information going out and coming in
from the shop floor is the lifeblood of any successful graphics
shop and the basis of successful workflow management.
Andy MacDougall is a screen-printing trainer and consultant based on
Vancouver Island in Canada and a member of the Academy of Screen
Printing Technology. If you have production problems you’d like to see
him address in “Shop Talk,” e-mail your comments and questions to
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Screen Printing - April/May 2013
Screen Printing - April/may 2013
Keeping Pace With Digital
Creating Artwork for DTG
Perspectives on UV LED Curing
Form and Function: Digitally Decorated Textiles
Diving Into Digital Workflows
Screen Printing - April/May 2013