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The Halftime Show

(December 2005) posted on Tue Jan 03, 2006

To efficiently tackle each job that comes through your doors, your production crew has to work as a team. Roberts takes an unconventional look at how the production game might play out in your shop.


By Gordon Roberts

The days are short and frigid, the nights are dark and long, and the midwinter chill has settled in to these northern climes. As we all hunker down for the long haul through the holiday season and on into the new year beyond, our thoughts turn to the things we hold most dear in this world. For many of us it's a time for preparations. The wood is split and stacked, fires are laid, gifts are picked out, parties are planned, and soon the delights of the season are upon us.

The season I am talking about of course is the most important one of the year—the one that brings families and friends together to share both the delights of companionship and the communal joys that come from a shared faith. Yes, my fellow graphics professionals, it's football season again!

But what does football have to do with screen printing, you may ask? In all honesty, I would have to say practically nothing. Nevertheless, by the time December rolls around, in every printshop that I have ever managed, the main topic of conversation has always steered itself away from the practicalities of the four-color process towards discussions about the logic behind blitzing on every play. For a few months, until the clock runs out for us at the end of the Super Bowl, the fortunes of our teams are cheered and cursed, our heroes praised, and our enemies despised.

I was sitting through a production meeting a couple of weeks ago, listening to one of the company executives giving the usual pep talk about productivity, and amusing myself by counting the number of football analogies that he employed. After a while, I began to speculate about what it would be like to have a team of football commentators do play-by-play and color commentary during a regular production day. I know I should have been paying more attention to the executives, but it's hard to stay focused at this time of the year. In the spirit of the season, let's have a little fun and see just how that play by play might sound and see how we can perhaps learn a couple of things along the way. So let's take you down to the shop floor where the Printers are suited up and ready to take on their old conference rivals: the Workload. Take it away, John!

Game day

"Well it's a lovely day for screen printing. The dryers are all fired up and ready to receive, and I can see the teams making their way to the line of scrimmage. This is one of the oldest rivalries in the league, and today's game holds the promise of another knock-down, drawn-out battle. What are your feelings on the matchup, Al?"

"Oh, it's going to be a good one, John! These two teams have battled each other more times than we care to remember, and it always comes down to the wire at the end. Don't be surprised to see this one settled in overtime. It looks as though the Printers have won the toss and opted to receive. The ink has been applied to the screen, and the game is underway. And right off the bat we have flags all over the place, delay of game by the looks of it, right, John?"

"Right Al, seems that the lead printer was late getting to the line of scrimmage. This is a constant problem that the Printers have been battling with for years. Several of their best players have been put on waivers due to chronic tardiness, and I believe that Jones, their new quarterback, has already been warned on a couple of occasions by the coach about this. It seems that they are destined to shoot themselves in the foot over this one again and again. The clock is still running, and the Printers are already losing ground. I am sure management will be looking closely at that last play, and I would really be surprised if some heads don't roll before the day is over."

"Back to the line of scrimmage, the press is in motion, the substrate is snapped into position, printed beautifully, and handed off to the wide receiver. It looks like this team is going to be able to put together a nice little drive here, putting a big 'ol dent in the Workload. Oh dear, I think I spoke too soon, John. We have a time out on the field. The lead printer is gesturing towards the sidelines and yelling for the equipment manager."

"They ran the screen, Al, and it turned into a busted play. So it looks like we will be held up for a few minutes while the offending article is replaced. I saw that one coming a mile away. The squeegee put on a lot of pressure coming up the middle, and the Printers failed to pick it up. Simple mistakes like that always eventually come back to haunt them. They should have spent much more time on that in training camp. The basics, Al. That's what makes the difference here in the pros. You have to know this stuff inside and out."

"So how would you go about handling things, John, if you were out there coaching this team? Is it time to start throwing chairs and busting eardrums?"

"I don't think so, Al. It's times like these when you need to stay calm, stick to your game plan, and get back to pounding out that yardage. Every great coach will tell you that games are won and lost in the preparation, and it's training and knowledge that will help make it all happen. When things go wrong, it's time for the team to get in the huddle and figure out a strategy for a quick recovery. I'd be looking for someone to step up now and set the pace for the rest of the game."

"And it looks like we have our hero, John. Here comes the screenmaker out of the backfield with a new screen exposed and taped in record time. He's handed it off to the press operator, and it looks like we are off to the races. What an amazing recovery by the rookie screenmaker! He's turning out to be quite an addition to this team!"

"He sure is, that kid's got a lot of heart! Good thing management finally pulled him off of the bench. Well it's almost half time, Al. Wouldn't you give anything to be a fly on that break-room wall?

"Sure would, John. I see we have just enough time to get your summing up of the first half."

"Well, it's been a frustrating match up to this point today, but I'd have to give the advantage to the home team. Teamwork and preparation are what brought the Printers through to this moment, and teamwork and preparation are going to be key to their winning this one. Sure, they made a few dumb mistakes—that's always going to happen—but they were able to stay calm and work through their difficulties and emerge ready to handle the challenges thrown at them. The Workload is no joke, so it's going to be important for the Printers to stay focused and stick to the game plan. Hopefully, all that time put in at training camp will finally pay off."

"John, I know you've spent years of watching these two go at it. What sort of advice can you give the Printers to overcome this tough Workload defense in the second half?"

"Al, the Printers will have to come together as a team. They'll have to figure out each player's strengths and use those abilities to develop the best plays. The Workload is looking strong—and as we know, surprises are always in store for the Printers. They'll also have to stop picking up those dumb penalties for delay of game. Improper off-contact is another crime on the field that the Printers just can't afford to commit. And I'm afraid that if the Printers drop the ball again, the fans will make sure they hear about it! But if they can smooth out their plays, I see no reason why they won't be able to bring a strong offense to the line, tackle the Workload, and get some points up on the board in the second half. I think they can do it. There's nothing left for us to do now except to get down to the break room and get some of that performance-enhancing coffee."

Season's greetings to you all. Go Redskins!


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