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Expert Apparel: Integrating Your Production Systems

(October/November 2016) posted on Tue Nov 15, 2016

Going back to the basics can do wonders for your shop’s efficiency.

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By Tom Vann

Let’s stop for a minute and think about all the moments our presses have come to a halt in production. I’ve been in the T-shirt business some 30 years, and the list of reasons hasn’t changed much. You’ve got pinholes, ghost images, ink buildup, ink hangup, mis-registration, uneven ink coverage, poor color balance, and dot gain – to name a few. Now take it a step further and estimate the amount of downtime these disruptions cost you. Better yet, ask your staff to start recording this information, because real data is far more revealing than a casual estimate. What you’re going to find is that you have downtime that can be avoided and it’s costing you money.

Calculating how much downtime you have will enable you to quantify the ROI for making corrective measures that will refine your production process and reduce or eliminate these gaps. Your investment will primarily be time – most likely your time, as a small business owner, or perhaps that of your production manager. You may also have labor costs if you involve your staff, which I encourage you to do because the more your team feels they are part of developing the process, the more they will believe in it and adhere to it in the end. Finally, you will likely have some material costs (such as better emulsion, mesh, and inks), but this cost will be negligible compared to your long-term savings.

To get an idea of where I am going with this, think of a chef and his or her recipe. A good recipe results in a predictable outcome (preferably a tasty dish) but also provides an efficient blueprint that can be repeated time and time again. Within this recipe there are multiple parts, such as preparing the meat, preparing the sauce, blending, baking, etc. And within each part are ingredients such as milk or eggs. Among the ingredients is further differentiation if the chef prefers goat’s milk over cow’s milk, for example. The final recipe is a composite of all of these sub-parts and the elements within them.

Your screen-printing process is nothing more than a recipe where the entire process is an integrated system comprised of subsystems and ingredients. In production, system integration is defined as the process of bringing together the component subsystems into one and ensuring that the subsystems function together as a whole.


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