Screen Printing - June/July 2016 - (Page 12)
P PA R E L
PRODUCTION: TORTOISE OR HARE?
any of you know the old fable, "The Tortoise and the
Hare." It's a very old story that has been retold countless
times with many different interpretations. The most common
version tells the story of a race between a confident, speedy
hare and a slow, methodical tortoise. The hare, while very
fast, takes his speed for granted and takes a nap during the
race, figuring the tortoise is no match and he has all the time
in the world. The tortoise, on the other hand, proceeds
diligently and in his slow but sure manner, wins the race.
For whatever reason, this story has stuck with me. As a
textile/apparel screen printer, I side with the tortoise. I know
this probably sounds ridiculous in this highly competitive
market where speed is pivotal, but hear me out.
Yes, the ability to deliver a respectable volume of goods
is critical. Unless you're blessed with customers who love to
pay double the going rate, then you cannot make money with
an automatic press that only produces 150 shirts per hour.
A shop with more of a hare's mentality might consistently
yield 500 or more quality shirts per hour from an automatic
press, and that's easy to like.
But the race is not merely about press speed - it
includes everything that precedes and follows the actual
printing. Nailing down these pre- and post-printing systems
is where profits are made. If you're one of those rare printers
who is continually booked with large jobs that tie up a press
day in and day out, then output is understandably your focus
and what happens in the rest of your shop might not matter
as much. Good for you. However, most printers are faced
with a mixed bag of large and small jobs, and their ability
to get them through the shop efficiently is critical.
The reason I like the tortoise is because he is methodical and never stops. He also keeps on the shortest route.
This is the mindset I've taken with my own employees over
the years as well as with the companies with which I've
consulted. But I've come to understand that in successful
printing businesses, you'll find a mix of tortoises and hares.
The hares in your organization are usually the press
operators, but they're only as good as the systems that feed
them. Yielding 750 shirts per hour when the press is humming is meaningless if he or she stands around for a half hour
between orders checking their Facebook messages, waiting
for screens and shirts for the next job to arrive. (If they're
checking Facebook at all, of course that's a problem in itself.)
Tom Vann has been in the imprinted sportswear and promotional products
business since 1987, when he founded the company now known as Target
Decorated Apparel in his parents' basement. In 2009,
Vann formed Tommy's T-Shirt Factory with his wife,
Ellen, providing contract screen printing, digital printing,
and embroidery from three production facilities across
the country. He also consults for printers on subjects
such as efficiency and process-color printing.
Ideally, your press operators should be setting up the next
job immediately without missing a beat.
Who's the tortoise? You, the owner or production
manager. Relying solely on fast press operators is fool's gold.
If your entire system is not running like clockwork, you are
losing precious time. Your job is to make sure the rest of your
operation runs as efficiently.
I recommend starting by spending a day or two in production, hands off, evaluating your team. How long does
it take to set up a job? What about different types of jobs,
like a one-color versus a six-color run? How much time is
spent reviewing the work order? How often does the press
stop to clean a screen, fix registration, or add ink? How often
does a job stop because a screen needs to be remade, and
how long is the press down when this happens? When the job
is done printing, how long before the staff completes packing
and teardown? How long before shirts, inks, and screens
arrive for the next job? Document all of this.
What I often see in shops is a lot of misguided talent
losing precious time. Add up 15 minutes waiting for materials, 45 minutes to set up a four-color job, 15 minutes of
downtime waiting for a print to be approved, and 15 minutes
to complete packing and tear down the job. That's an hour
and a half that your press wasn't making money.
Now let's assume the operator is swift and yields 500
shirts per hour (stops included) and the order is for 500
shirts. With 90 minutes of press downtime, the order took
Antonio Jorge Nunes / Shutterstock.com
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Screen Printing - June/July 2016
Screen Printing - June/July 2016
Industrial Printer Expands with Inkjet
Production: Tortoise or Hare?
What’s Next for Single-Pass Inkjets?
DTG: Life in the Fast Lane
Print, Flash, and Rock ‘n’ Roll
Screen Printing - June/July 2016