Build Your Business:

Simplify Your Shop in 2017

By Bruce Ackerman, Contributing Writer

January 9, 2017

It’s no secret that to maximize your company’s productivity you must standardize and simplify the steps. Shops that are streamlined with well-trained employees guiding orders will always out-produce shops that just wing it.

Here are some tips to think about when working on your shop efficiency:

1. Communication

Get all of your work-order details right the first time by trying to think ahead. For instance, asking the customer to pick a particular PMS color of blue at order entry is a much faster method than letting art staff choose a color that the customer may want to change later in the process. The more detailed the information on your order, the easier it is for each department to make decisions on their own without asking anyone. If anyone has ever come up front and asked “Hey, what’s this mean?,” you should provide more information on your work orders.

2. Be Proactive

Want better production numbers? Plan tomorrow’s schedule today. Look ahead and make sure everything is set the shift before. Grab the ink, shirts, screens and anything else that is needed and pre-stage it all by the press. Line up jobs in the order that they should be completed. Make it easy for your production crews to get their work completed by eliminating all of their problems in advance.

3. Eliminate Clutter

Clean the shop and remove any unnecessary items from the working space. Get some shelving and relocate items that might be needed occasionally, but aren’t needed every day. If you have to walk around anything, or sort through a mess to find an important tool, these are wasted steps and lead to jobs taking longer than they should. Organize and make things more efficient by creating areas to keep important items. Inks should be lined up according to color with clean buckets and lids. Squeegees and floodbars should be kept clean and neat, and ready for use, not in a gigantic ink-laden pile in the shop sink.

4. Engagement

When everyone pitches in, jobs are completed faster. Get your catcher trained to help set up jobs, or work ahead by loading shirts on carts when there is a momentary bit of downtime on the press. Think teamwork. The more hands working to accomplish jobs, the faster they will be produced. Nobody should be leaning on tables or checking their cell phones just because other team members are occupied with other tasks.

5. Have Tools Ready

Nobody should ever walk around the shop looking for commonly used tools. Get multiple sets and keep them by each workstation. Have all of the items located in the same areas, so if different crew members are helping out on an unfamiliar press area, the same tools can be located quickly when needed. Tools such as tape guns, markers, box cutters, T-squares, tape, spray-tack or platen adhesive, pencils, labels or anything else should be set up in kits. Have more dollies or pallet-jacks too, so your staff doesn’t have to wander off to find anything they need.

6. Use Standardized Steps and Language

When everyone in your shop does things the same way, processes are completed faster. For example, box labels should always be placed on the short end of the box, in the upper left hand corner. This makes them easy to find, and allows you to stack the boxes up with all the labels in the same spot for easy scanning when trying to find something. Another trick is to use the same language when referring to terms in the shop. A “Full Front” location could mean a 12-inch wide image that is printed 3 inches down from the collar. “Use Shop Tee in Black” could mean to pull a black Gildan G-2000 from inventory. Get together with your crew and list commonly used terms and train on what they mean. The “Ship Date” means the day the job has to leave the building. The “In-Hands Date” means the day your customer needs it to arrive.

7. Work Backwards

Set up some simple rules for each department with due dates. How much time should each step in your process take? If the Ship Date is on Firday, production should have the job completed and ready to ship on Thursday. This means that the screens need to be burned one business day before the order has to start printing. To make this happen, the art has to be approved one business day before the screens need to be burned. This will give you the art due date that the creative work needs to be completed so the customer has a day or two to approve the art. Any inventory that has to be ordered should arrive one business day before the job is to start production, so this means that purchasing should know when to order, and work out the transit times for the goods. Any problems along the way? The order might be delayed. Can you push out the Ship Date? Having a good sense of timing in your shop and working backwards along the goals can help you keep to a tight schedule.

8. Continually Improve
If something in your shop takes five steps to complete, can you handle it in four? Three?  Always look at your processes and see if there’s something you can tweak, a gizmo or technology that can speed things up, or maybe a better performing consumable like emulsion or ink that will allow you to free up some time. The more you research and experiment with different ideas, the more efficient you’ll become. Don’t be afraid to fail. Set up small experiments and see what happens. Remember: shoot bullets not cannonballs.

Bruce Ackerman is the founder of Printavo a cloud-based management tool for print, embroidery and sign shops.