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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

Press setup is the next process on which to focus your standardization efforts. More time is lost due to a lack of true standardized processes than most screen printers. Some plants have setup crews that specialize in nothing more than getting the press set up and running in a short amount of time. Other facilities leave it up to the individual press operator, assistant operator, and dryer catcher to get the press torn down, set up in register, and running without delay. Although facilities can justify both approaches, I’m of the belief that the press crew can tear down and set up the press in the most efficient manner once the proper responsibilities have been assigned, standardized, documented, and posted to ensure consistency.

The need to minimize production downtime is greater than ever and required to remain competitive within the market. Keep in mind that if you must decrease your shop’s minimum run size, you will need standardized processes to shorten press downtime as much as possible. The process should immediately go to work as soon as you print and count the last garment—and confirm the count. Accurate count is yet another process that you must standardize to reduce downtime. The following is an example of how this process would work. As soon as the count is confirmed, job responsibilities are as follows:

Press operator Check the work order and confirm the design, garment style and color, and screens and inks for accuracy. The operator can then start fitting the screens into the press and registering them. Registration devices available to large shops today easily shrink the setup time for an automatic garment press to less than 45 minutes from the last shirt of the previous production run to the first garment of the next run.

Assistant press operator Remove the screens from the press and place any residual ink into containers while the press operator checks the production order. Return the inks to the ink department and the used screens to the screen-cleaning area. Return the dirty squeegees and floodbars to the to cleaning area and return to the press to assist with setup for the next job.

Dryer catcher Finish packaging the goods to be sent to either the packaging or shipping department, complete paperwork, and forward the paperwork to the next department. Finally, return to the press to assist in any remaining setup task that may be required.

I hope that you’ve come away with an idea of what you can do with standardization on your production floor. Keep in mind that no standardized process can be successful until its supporting functions also are standardized and running smoothly. Those support areas include inventory management, ink-room standardization, dryer-catching procedures, supply processes, and equipment maintenance.

A fat marketplace in years gone by made it easy for many garment screen printers to get away without using standardized procedures. Now that the market has changed and grown much more competitive, standardization may spell the difference between a shop surviving or shutting its doors.

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The opinions and recommendations expressed in this column are Mr. Davis’s and not necessarily those of Screen Printing magazine.

Rick Davis
Rick Davis is the president of Synergy Screen Printing in Orlando, FL. A 27- year veteran of the textile-printing industry, Davis is a member of the Academy of Screen Printing Technology and has a background that spans production management, artwork engineering, application testing, and industry consulting. He is a frequent contributor to trade publications and a speaker at industry trade events.


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