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6 Insider Tips to Help Organize Your Print Shop Now

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6 Insider Tips to Help Organize Your Print Shop Now

f your entire print shop looks like a storage room because you can’t bear to part with damaged machines, squeegees and screens, listen up. “Clutter’s probably the biggest time suck in a shop,” says Tom Rauen, CEO of Envision. “If something in our shop isn’t making revenue or better serving our staff or customers, we get rid of it.”

There are lots of benefits to setting aside time to organize your shop floor, including:

- Less wasted time and money: If everything your team needs is in place, they’ll spend less time searching for order details, squeegees or inventory.

- Fewer work-related injuries: A clutter-free shop allows employees to get their jobs done quickly and safely.

- Higher production levels: When you’ve streamlined and synced up your shop software and physical workflow, you’ll get more done, faster.

- Better reputation: When your organized shop puts out consistently high-quality products, people will notice and come back for more.

“Imagine a boulder landing in a fast-flowing river, as everything diverts and slows down. That’s what happens in your shop every time you can’t find a tool or have to walk around something in the way. You need to work clean, be highly organized and have a process on how to do everything in your shop.”
Marshall Atkinson, business consultant at Atkinson Consulting and Shirt Lab Tribe

6 Tips for a More Organized Print Shop

Check out six tips from expert shop owners on getting (and staying) organized, so you can work smarter, and more profitably.

1. Declutter your shop.

Successful print shops aren’t spotless, but they’re organized. “If there’s something in your shop that isn't making you money, get rid of it, sell it, donate it or throw it in the dumpster,” Rauen says. 

“Do you have equipment or unnecessary junk sitting around collecting dust? Do you have piles of misprints or garments with holes? Does your showroom have samples of discontinued items? Do you have random paperwork and magazines on your desk? All of this stuff is a distraction from making money and getting things done.”
Tom Rauen, CEO of Envision

The first step to getting organized is, literally, to get organized. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Remove or move anything that’s in pathways or impedes movement.
  • Create designated spots for everything, from blanks to inks to screens to tools.
    Your ink mixing and storage space should be clean and organized so a customer doesn’t get the wrong shade of ink on their reprint order. You should also clean, label and store your screens with a system so you can quickly find a customer’s screens.
  • Create stations dedicated to each part of your order process.
    For example, an ink station shouldn’t also have emulsion and squeegees.
  • Create work areas that require minimal movement by the staffer.
    They shouldn’t need to walk 10 steps for every order, because that adds up to hours lost.
  • Use signage or “lanes” to show staffers the most efficient flow of movement, while they’re processing orders.
    Some shops also have a “clean” side and a “dirty” side, so you’ll never store garments in the same room as ink.

2. Create functional workstations.

When Atkinson helps shops get organized, he creates a spaghetti diagram to map out the physical steps operators take when doing different tasks in the shop. 

“If they need to walk far to get a tool or a preprint sample approval, that’s where we need to make changes. The tool should be within reach or they should use a walkie-talkie to have a manager meet them at their station. If your press makes $300 an hour, every minute an operator wastes costs you $5.”
Marshall Atkinson, business consultant at Atkinson Consulting and Shirt Lab Tribe

At Zome Design, owner Brayden Jessen agrees that he’s only making money if the press is printing. “We monitor any activities preventing our operators from printing,” he says. “Every minute they spend trying to find something takes away from profit-producing activities. Speed is essential in a print shop.”

Here are some of the ways Jessen has implemented to organize workstations:

  • Ensure each press station has all of the tools or equipment (including blast-guns to remove print imperfections) each operator needs, including gallons of standard black and white ink at each press.
  • Ensure each quality control staffer at the end of the dryers has the tools and garment-loss forms so they can quickly get new orders in the same day before shipping cut-off times.

  • Kit-pack each job with everything an operator needs, including shirts already checked in, on carts, ready to print; paperwork with exact order details; screens; inks already mixed; and notes if the customer requires a prepress approval.

  • Prep extra jobs beyond that day’s work so they’re ready to go.

  • Numbering the receiving area with numbers on the floor, so that once orders are checked in any team member can find them based on their order number.

Here’s one more compelling example from Atkinson: If you have a catcher at the end of a dryer belt working at a table that’s an inverted “T,” they’re “dancing a mamba all day,” he says. “Instead, if you run a table parallel to the press, they can stand at the corner of the belt and just move their torso. They’re less tired at the end of the day and have more time to get things done well.”

3. Use online production or shop software to track jobs.

Jessica Miller, CEO of Prestige Apparel, recently invested in Printavo shop software and wishes she had done it years ago. “It’s worth the price you pay, since it helps your staff and customers to be on the same page, so you save time,” she says. 

Jessen also agrees giving more employees access to production software helps them solve their own problems. 

“We’re trying to focus our managers on managing, rather than on daily busy tasks. We’ve also given our team access to Microsoft Teams chat so everyone can message each other, without wandering around to find someone.”
Brayden Jessen, owner at Zome Design

Atkinson points out that when you use production software to keep everyone in the know, you can avoid daily meetings. “These 30-minute huddles can be expensive,” he says. “If you have 10 team members each making $20 an hour, daily meetings over a year can cost you $26,000 a year. That meeting is a crutch, so it makes more sense to invest in the production software.”

4. Create an organizational structure everyone must follow.

As you clean and organize your shop, dedicate spaces for your inventory, inks, screens, squeegees, cleaning supplies and so on. Within each area, create a system to keep things in order, such as organizing inks by number or screens categorized by job number and screen type. When your staff receives new blanks or inks, they should immediately put them away in a space that follows your system.

“We also have a system so our team knows when to order repeat supplies, so we never run out,” Jessen says. “When you open the next box or bucket, there should always be another one behind it.
Our team makes weekly supply lists for batch orders. This saves time by combining as many supplies as possible to save on freight and helps prevent running out of supplies that you might need for an order, especially a rush order.”
Brayden Jessen, owner at Zome Design

Train your team to clean up after every job, and at the end of every shift. “I recommend that printers clean as they go,” Atkinson says. “When you finish one job, put away the inks and screens. Wipe up that ink spill now, not next Tuesday.”

5. Schedule routine cleanups and machine maintenance.

Create a schedule for your team to comb through your supplies and weed out what’s old or expired, like inks and chemicals, or damaged squeegees and worn screens.  Plus, you can invest in air purifiers to help eliminate dust and lint daily in the shop. 

Also, try developing a schedule and creating a log book to help keep your machines cleaned and maintained. 

“If you don’t clean and do preventive maintenance, your machines will schedule it for you when they break down. Have your staffers attend manufacturer training to learn their recommendations for cleaning and maintaining your equipment. Don’t rely on YouTube videos.”
Marshall Atkinson, business consultant at Atkinson Consulting and Shirt Lab Tribe

6. Hire help when you need more hands.

Miller says that so many times during her 19 years in business, she has questioned whether she really needed to hire help or if she could afford it. 

“The reality is that each new hire has lifted weight from our shoulders. You never want to work your employees so much that they feel stressed, overwhelmed, or just don't want to be there.  Evenly distributing the workload is something you owe your employees, and yourselves.”
Jessica Miller, CEO of Prestige Apparel

Create a Culture of Cleanliness 

Keeping your shop organized takes an enormous team effort. It’s on you to take the lead and train your employees to adhere to your organization system, clean up after their jobs and shift, and follow your processes for keeping things organized. 

“As the shop owner, just be more observant and watch people work,” Atkinson says. “Why aren’t we printing? Why isn’t that machine working right now? Are you measuring how long things take to do? Do you have enough people? Do we need to automate anything? Do we have the right people doing the right things correctly? Remember, it’s all about the accumulation of making tiny little changes that will add up to saving lots of time and money.”

Mar 12, 2023