Digital Decorating:

Training for DTG Printing

By John LeDrew, Contributing Writer

When buying DTG equipment, don’t forget to ask about training and support after the sale.

October 2, 2017

It’s easy to go to a trade show and watch the professionals use their equipment to make spectacular products. As a buyer, you probably ask a few questions when considering whether to make a purchase: Is the equipment reliable? Is it cost effective? Will it accomplish the required applications? Does it have a good warranty? Is training and support included?

Let’s focus on the latter question, including why it’s important, what to look for when the offer is made and some red flags that may necessitate taking a more cautious approach.

Garment-decoration equipment, including direct-to-garment (DTG) printers, can be expensive, and manufacturers spend a lot of time developing products. Most suppliers sell through a dealer network — a group of authorized middlemen — and receive a percentage off wholesale. This is where they make their margins, which usually are tight.

Even so, dealers are expected to offer certain incentives to help foster a positive customer experience. Not all dealers are created equal, with many simply focusing on the sale and nothing else. As a consumer, you should weed out such dealers and find one who values customer relationships.

The types of equipment used in our industry often present an opportunity for a mutual relationship that involves future consumables sales, support and even more equipment. Plan on investigating your reseller as much as you research the equipment. Two elements to look into are service after the sale and equipment training.

Basic Training Details
Is free training offered? Does the dealer teach classes in person or online, or publish regular “how-to” articles? Is your relationship collaborative? A good dealer will offer all these features and more.

Training is the first step in understanding an equipment dealer and expectations for the development of your relationship after the sale. If training isn’t offered, you’re essentially being told that you’re on your own.

Because resellers’ margins are tight, not all can justify the added costs of training a customer base. You should recognize that training is expensive and if a dealer offers it for free, that is a positive sign he is working in your best interest by sacrificing meager margins to develop a relationship with you.

Any fees likely are necessary to cover the cost of trainer transportation. Some resellers simply can’t justify on-site training for free. It doesn’t mean they don’t care; rather, they probably wouldn’t be in business if they offered it.

It’s important to rely on a DTG printing trainer for equipment education, while also keeping realistic expectations. Here’s why:

1. Longer training leaves less time for everything else. The longer the trainer is at your location, the less time you can spend committing to trial and error, and the myriad other tasks that will accumulate. Efficiency is key, and if equipment requires a day for both setup and training, maximize that time and absorb as much as possible. Don’t drag out the process because you don’t understand everything.

Part of a good training experience is ensuring you can operate the equipment effectively. All the small details and special applications can come afterward. This is where webinars and educational articles become a factor.

2. Training doesn’t always need to occur on site. Maybe you can get the information you need via a webinar or phone call. Part of the problem with on-site training 
is the tendency to “pass the buck” to the trainer to teach everything. This is highly ineffective.

As a consumer, spend as much time as possible learning about your equipment. If possible, set up your DTG printer prior to training. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes while learning the basics so that when the trainer comes, you can ask questions and absorb more information due to your familiarity with the equipment. Help the trainer help you, and you’ll be much more effective in the end.

Setting Expectations
Get clear details regarding everything training entails, including the procedure. Remember to listen and ask questions in an attempt to “feel out” the experience. Not all distributors actually offer what they advertise, so it’s important to clarify what you will receive when you make a deal.

Is training done on site? If so, when will the trainer arrive, how long will he be there and what should you do beforehand? Will training be conducted via a webinar or phone call? What is the training duration? Does the distributor prefer that you visit its location? If so, find out why, who’s paying for the visit and what else it includes.

When discussing these issues, make eye contact with the rep and try to read his responses. It’s sometimes easy to tell if you’re being misled, and if you get that indication, ask for a referral from a previous customer. Ask that person about the training experience.

Remember, dealers that offer training are doing so for the benefit of both parties involved. They want to partner with you for future business, so it’s important to a good dealer that their customers have a good experience. To be honest, it’s impossible to please everyone and I’ve never met a dealer with 100% satisfaction rates. However, it’s still important to clarify what is offered during training so you can adjust your expectations accordingly.

Customer support is another element of training. It can come in many forms, as long as it has one goal: answering your questions in a timely and effective manner. This can be done over the phone or via online content. However, remember that both methods can be time consuming. For the latter, look for concise, relevant and to-the-point information.

Remember to ask your DTG dealer about support after the sale and check out the resources. This can go a long way toward continuing education and helping to troubleshoot on-the-fly issues.

Training is a valuable service for you, the consumer. Think of it as such and don’t take it for granted. Educate yourself and prepare for the training so you can absorb it and get the best benefit. However, remember that trainers are there to help, not hold your hand.

John LeDrew is the DTG director for Melco Intl. He has worked professionally in garment decoration since 2006, managing accounts and overseeing production for some of the world’s largest brands and retailers. For more information or to comment on this article, contact John via LinkedIn.

Training Questions

Be mindful of dealers who just want to make a sale and move on. Find a dealer who has your best interest in mind and will be available after the sale. To determine this, ask the following questions:

1. Is training available for the equipment you are buying? If not, why? Do other dealers offer training? If so, what does it entail?

2. What is the nature of the training and what is typical protocol? Don’t assume every dealer offers the same training.

3. What needs to be done prior to the trainer’s arrival? Knowing this is important to ensure your training is as effective as possible.

4. What does after-the-sale support look like? What happens if you need it in two years? Does your dealer offer continuing education or “how-to” articles?