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Knowing When to Push or Pull Your Workflow

(April/May 2017) posted on Tue May 16, 2017

How to eliminate bottlenecks through workflow design.


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By Marshall Atkinson

The push solution is to put some additional thought into when the screens need to be ready and create a production rule. A common standard is to have the screens ready in the rack at least one business day before the order needs to start printing. You’ll need to create the timing standards for the screenroom, which entails working backward from the shipping date and knowing how long the print production will take. This will determine not only when the screens should be burned, but also when the art needs to be approved.

Create push standards for all of your production processes. This helps move your orders along automatically. Communicate these standards to your staff and train them on what they mean. Hold them accountable. 

Simplify with Push

You have to make it easy for your staff to do the right thing, and a push approach is a great place to begin. The goal should be for each crew to make the jobs of the teams downstream from them easier. Eliminate challenges. Provide specific and detailed information. Answer as many questions in advance as possible.

Organize the work so that there is only one correct answer or outcome. For example, your order-entry staff compiles all information about a job and enters it into the system. If something is missing – say, the Pantone color of the logo – their job is to get the answer and solve the problem, not pass that question on to the art team. 

As your workflow moves, each department hands off the order, gift-wrapped and as complete as possible. If their chunk is due Wednesday, pushing to hand it off to the next staff by Tuesday is even better. Monday is fantastic. The push mentality is all about helping.

Do you have an order where the shirts are contained in individual polybags? Don’t leave it to the press crew to unwrap those. Find a few team members to unwrap the inventory and place the shirts on carts, well in advance of when they need to run the job. Your goal is to avoid press downtime – always. 

Expedite with Pull



Push strategies will always help to get things handled in advance. Yet, there will be occasions where something doesn’t go as planned or you need some help. That’s where the pull mindset will save the day. 

For example, your shipping manager has a list of critical jobs that have to go out today. As the production day moves forward, her staff can be following up on them. After lunch, if two or three of the jobs haven’t arrived for them to process, that’s where the pull reaction kicks in. Questioning where the jobs are early in the day can help get everything out on time. If you wait until 4:30 to react, it might be too late.

Think of a pull action as speaking up. It’s not an attack on another department or saying, “You are doing something wrong.” Instead, it’s being proactive. Identify the challenge that may be looming and solve it.
When you are out of 110 mesh for underbase screens; when the art deadline is tomorrow and you still haven’t received the vector logo file; when your inkroom tech notices that you have about a half-gallon of black ink left: These are examples of problems that were allowed to go too far. Instead, standardize your processes to avoid these issues.

Your screenroom manager should be inventorying the availability of screens per mesh count. When a count drops to an established minimum number, he should have more screens stretched or reclaimed. This gets them into circulation in time to prevent any jobs from having to wait because the screens aren’t ready. The same pull theory applies to your art department and inkroom. Set up triggers for corrective steps to be taken at the right times. 

Working in Concert

Push and pull strategies aren’t an either/or decision. They work together, not in competition. The more you create processes and establish procedures, the easier your workflow will become. Make sure you talk to your crew about any changes and get their input. Start small and test. Shoot bullets, at first, not cannonballs. Tweak changes you make for effectiveness. Then, train your team and make them accountable for adhering to the standards.

Read more from Marshall Atkinson or check out the rest of Screen Printing's April/May 2017 edition. 


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