July 17, 2020
What’s the new reality for your print shop after COVID-19? Honestly, it may be difficult to determine, as businesses most likely are at different points in the reopening process due to regional differences determined on a state-by-state — or even a county-by-county — basis.
Adjustments also may occur if there’s a second wave (or more) of the coronavirus in particular regions, requiring intermittent changes due to industry business closures. This uncertainty will continue, many experts theorize, until a vaccine is developed; every indication suggests the “new normal” will remain unsettled and that workplaces will continue to evolve in the coming months.
Here, let’s consider the precautions you should take when reopening your apparel-decorating business; how to capitalize on the industry’s recovery; and how to expedite your business’ return by addressing new workforce and customer demands — no matter where things currently stand with regard to fully getting back up and running.
Return to the Workplace
Depending on the state in which your business is located, a return to work may look quite different. In addition to possible procedural changes, such as coronavirus testing, proof of immunity, temperature measurements, increased sanitation rules, continued telework or mandatory staggered shifts, there may be more adjustments once staff members return.
Precautions must be implemented to address employee interactions, in-house workflow procedures and the physical work environment, requiring modifications or adjustments to accommodate social distancing. Decisions regarding whether some staff can continue to work from home must be carefully considered; while your production team can’t, your marketing team has the potential to work effectively remotely. Since many printing businesses shut their doors abruptly or implemented skeleton crews after stay-at-home orders were initiated, extensive planning and policy changes will be required before employees can return to work and showrooms are open to the public.
Businesses using a shop-management system already have the advantage of using a solution with automated functionality, streamlined processes and an efficient workflow that, in many cases, facilitates the 6-foot social-distancing requirement. An enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution can reduce paper flow on the production floor and throughout your shop, eliminating the need for employee contact when sharing documents.
With a robust integrated warehouse-management system (WMS), barcodes and hand-held scanners efficiently track, locate and process inventory transactions in a contactless environment. Automated integrations and workflows unify tasks by managing movement and flow to break down print jobs and allocation of employee resources — all requiring little or no human interaction.
Expansion of Business Opportunities
One of the unfortunate consequences of temporarily closing non-essential businesses is that some of them will end up permanently shutting their doors. As shops sell or transition their businesses, there may be opportunities for you to capitalize by acquiring equipment, employees and customers. Adding second-hand machinery or equipment from companies looking to liquidate their assets helps expand your operational capacity, most likely at a more reasonable price.
There also is the potential to hire trained industry employees who have been laid off from former competitors, adding value to your organization with skilled labor. These closures also mean opportunities to expand your customer base, requiring marketing efforts to capture consumers looking for new retail outlets. Proactive shops will ensure their business-management solutions are compatible with the latest technology platforms and can capitalize on these growth opportunities.
It’s essential to explore marketing strategies to deal with order cancellations and lost revenue streams from sports teams, schools and canceled events due to COVID-19. Now, more than ever, it’s important to step up your marketing-communications game; be smart and review orders from last year’s first and third quarters, and reach out to those contacts to see how you can help them order again this year.
Be proactive in your social-media and email marketing efforts to reach new customers whose go-to shops are no longer in business. Taking advantage of these opportunities when the economy fully rebounds will set your company up for future success.
In addition, Instagram influencers and other social-media avenues that will drive followers to online sites should be explored now and in the future as part of your marketing strategy. Ensuring your website is user friendly and ready to accept online orders demonstrates an e-commerce focus that will be essential going forward.
Before considering investments, ensure you eliminate unnecessary expenditures. After doing so, you can explore leveraging financing opportunities, which may include attractive interest rates (currently at historic lows) for companies in good standing.
Taking advantage of financing or leasing options to upgrade hardware and software, invest in machinery or explore hosting services for your company lays the foundation to expedite recovery; prepare for future events that may disrupt daily business; and get ready for more prosperous times when demand increases for your company’s products. These investments in your company’s future allow more profitability with each job, while also lessening the impact should a crisis occur again.
As many shops closed their showrooms, front offices or production floors — or have only recently reopened — some now are considering implementing ERP or shop-management software. This may have been long considered, but implementation may have been put on the back burner because of the everyday demands of running a busy printing company.
Now, with reduced payroll expenses and free time to explore opportunities, the current crisis may present the opportunity businesses need to upgrade their software or implement new systems altogether. Specific apparel-industry software can simplify how you manage your business now and in the future.
Back-to-work plans for print shops depend largely on geography, as some regions of the country are farther ahead than others in the reopening process and there is no exact picture of what the new normal is supposed to look like. Regardless, developing a plan for the precautions that will be established in your workplace and the areas on which your business will focus during recovery —– acquisitions, e-commerce strategies, financing opportunities for investment and more — is essential. The healthier and more prepared your shop is for the return of business, the better positioned your company will be for success.
Adam Brister is the director of Impress and FlexPack, and oversees the division by focusing on ensuring technology solutions meet current and future market demands. For more information or to comment on this article, email Adam at Adam.Brister@osas.com.
An Online Oasis
While e-commerce played a significant role before the COVID-19 crisis, it still continues to excel while brick-and-mortar retail has ground to a halt. With consumers becoming more comfortable than ever shopping online, print shops employing e-commerce strategies and integrating shopping carts, online stores and electronic data interchange (EDI) capabilities into their shop-management systems will remain competitive. Accommodating multiple marketplaces with high-volume capacity provides more access to high-traffic companies, giving greater exposure to your company’s products and — as a result — more orders.
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