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Surviving in a Lean Economy

(March 2009) posted on Tue Apr 21, 2009

Major shifts in the garment race have blocked many printers from the finish line. Find out what you can do to stay in the running during an economic downturn.

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By Rick Davis

The garment-screen-printing industry has seen some rather radical changes in the past 10 years. The market as we knew it is now gone. We’re working under a new set of rules, and some have already fallen victim to this rapidly changing marketplace. As we head into 2009, garment screen printers who can’t minimize their overhead and streamline their production workflow will most likely not survive in these lean economic times. Some printers have diversified by entering into different markets of garment embellishment or converted over to digital imaging. Some who tried to wait it out have since closed their doors due to their inability to remain competitive.

One consideration that many large printers have had to face is the need to decrease their minimum run size. This can come as a hard pill to swallow for established companies with years of experience that are quite comfortable with minimum run sizes of 100, 200, or 250 dozen. Now only a select few command most of the licensing market and business from large corporations, which is not as plentiful as it has been in the past. That means you as a printer not only have to get used to smaller run sizes, but you also need to ensure that you have the procedures and standards in place that will allow you to remain competitive.

Remember that larger shops can easily pick up bad habits that hinder productivity. Bad habits creep into a facility when the minimum run size is huge, production is constant, and having Saturdays off is a rarity. If you do have to decrease your minimum production run size to remain competitive, you still have two advantages in your favor. First, you still have the chance to identify the weak links in the production-flow system and correct them. Second, since production has most likely slowed to one degree or another, you have a prime opportunity to standardize those procedures and processes that may either need tweaking or require complete overhauls.


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