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Managing Workflow

(April 2013) posted on Tue Apr 09, 2013

Capturing actual vs. quoted time/material on a work order allows a shop to maintain or increase profitability and identify production bottlenecks.

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By Andy MacDougall

It really doesn’t matter what you do in life. A commonality, from kid to cook, screen printer to scientist, is the necessity to organize and accomplish the tasks that you face each day, week, month, and year. Some do it better than others. Some get obsessive to the point of letting their system of management overcome their production process. Some have no system at all.

Most of us in the print world, from a one-person shop to a large operation with hundreds of employees, manage their workflow with at least one clear objective in mind: Get the job out the door. The smart ones run a system with three other important aspects: maintaining high quality at each step, eliminating mistakes and interruptions from the process, and—above all—staying profitable. When all four of these goals are met by the system in place, only then can a shop claim to have effective workflow management.

I worked in a few different screen shops when I was a young guy just starting out. It didn’t take me long to realize there were problems. Knowing what I know now, I can easily identify them. Their workflow system lacked the four pillars outlined above. Like a chair with a short or missing leg or two, they were wobbly businesses because of this. I was pretty stupid back then—not that I’m much smarter now, but I have picked up a few tricks along the way that allow me to at least keep up with the conversation.

Back then, I was just happy to have a job and an opportunity to gain skills in screen printing and graphics. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the most important parts of the game were the business side and the organization of the work going though the shop. While I was busy learning about the technical part of screen making and printing, my bosses were demonstrating the consequences of running their operations without respecting and implementing those four pillars in work management.


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