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The Marshall Plan: Sustainability Starts with Action

(April/May 2018) posted on Thu May 03, 2018

Is 2018 the year your shop finally goes green?


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By Marshall Atkinson

Some of the recommendations you may see on your report, to cite just a few examples:

  • Switch out your lighting to LEDs.
  • Fix an air compressor leak or replace the unit.
  • Improve the sealer systems on your loading dock.
  • Install solar panels on the roof.

Action Step Two: Efficiency
Nothing lowers your cost of production better than efficiency, and the same mindset describes sustainability. When you eliminate waste, whether it’s unneeded motion or materials, you’re making yourself more sustainable, too.

Being efficient means that you complete more work with the same amount of labor, expense, and time as yesterday. Some of you may recognize this line of thinking as “continuous improvement;” if so, you are already familiar with one of the key questions you should ask as you consider making changes: Again, it’s “Why?”

Why do we use that ink? Why haven’t we changed the air filters in two years? Why are we still using film to image screens? Why haven’t we purchased a Newton meter? That one word can take you in a lot of interesting directions. The most common answer, and the one hated by any decent production thinker, is “Because we’ve always done it this way.”



Do yourself a favor and open up your mind to the possibility that, no matter how many years you’ve been in business, there may be a better way. I’ve been in this industry a long time and I learn something new practically every day. Challenge your norms.

Efficiency and performance usually live upstream from where you are standing. For example, if you find your press operators double stroking your white ink to get better opacity on a dark shirt, the problem may not be the ink. Look into the process step before that.

Why are you using that particular squeegee durometer? When was the last time the blade was sharpened? Do the press operators know how things like squeegee and floodbar pressure affect opacity? Go back another step: What is the tension of the screen? How are the screens being coated with emulsion?


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